As we become more conscious of how we travel, we tend to choose experiences that not only feel good but also benefit the locals all while minimising negative environmental impacts. From Africa to Thailand, Avani Hotels have been encouraging eco-minded tourists to explore game-changing community projects helping to make sustainable travel mainstream.
Arrack, a traditional spirit made from the fermented sap of coconut flowers or sugarcane, is pure Sri Lankan tropical vibes distilled in a bottle. Admittedly an acquired taste, some describe it as a cross between bourbon and rum but with a lot more kick. Rockland Distilleries (www.rockland.lk), a heritage distillery dating back to 1924, is on a mission to bring arrack to the world. Their upmarket product, a barrel-aged blend called Ceylon Arrack, appeals to mainstream taste and is eco-friendly to boot.
The waste minimal Rockland Distillery has implemented a system where biogas, a by-product of the distillation process, is captured in purpose-built tanks and re-used as a substitute fuel to fire the boilers. The distillery has also planted Halmilla trees on a plot of barren land. Once mature, they will be harvested to manufacture vats to age Ceylon Arrack in. Using wood from purposefully grown trees helps prevent the logging of natural forests for this rare wood.
And as part of their water-recycling project, Rockland Distillery has just completed construction of an open-air water recycling tank with a system to cool and recycle hot water, thereby saving as much as 30,000 litres of water a day.
Churning Peanut Butter with Avani Victoria Falls Resort, Zambia
A few jars of peanut butter bought from a supermarket typically do not make much of a difference to a large manufacturer, but for the Libuyu Women’s Peanut Butter Project in Zambia, every jar counts. Empowering HIV-positive women and their children, the project provides the equipment needed to produce delicious artisanal peanut butter.
The project also teaches the women how to package and market their products to maximise profits through sales to local hotels, retailers and the surrounding community. Avani Victoria Falls Resort not only funds this inspirational initiative but also purchases jars of peanut butter directly from the project, benefiting both the women and the guests who can enjoy delicious ethically-sourced products.
In addition, the resort funded a complete renovation of the house the women use as a factory to ensure that the production process meets health and safety standards in the region. The hotel also designed and supplied uniforms to further instil pride amongst the women.
Harvesting Sea Caviar with Avani Ao Nang Cliff Krabi Resort, Thailand
Krabi’s reputation as a tourist hotspot on the Andaman coast needs no introduction. Lesser known is the area’s famed aquatic export – sea grapes. To learn more about the nutritious seaweed, guests are invited to visit the Laemsak community, a spread of unique floating farms designed to grow the ocean’s caviar.
Also known as sea pearls, they are eaten raw, with a salad dressing or as a snack between meals. Fresh with a crisp kick and a slightly briny taste, sea pearls have the consistency of fish roe and explode in your mouth when you bite into them. They are also packed with vitamins and minerals, being a good source of vitamins A and C, calcium, zinc and iron. Thanks to a high vegetable protein count per calorie and a good amount of Omega-3 fatty acids, the natural snack is also known to improve wellbeing.
As part of the farm experience, guests learn how to grow sea grapes before making traditional Thai dishes with the freshly harvested produce back at Avani Ao Nang Cliff Krabi Resort.
Milking Buffalos and Growing Sticky Rice with Avani+ Luang Prabang Hotel, Laos
A countryside gem in the outskirts of Luang Prabang, many tourists passby the Laos Buffalo Dairy (www.laosbuffalodairy.com) an unassuming spot en route to the Kuang Si Waterfall, arguably one of Laos’ most famous attractions.
Founded by Susie, an Australian who left her high-powered corporate job for pastures new in Laos, the farm is a passion project that has blossomed into a social enterprise. Inspired by Sri Lankan dairy farms, Susie started Laos Buffalo Dairy to improve local agriculture alongside a newly launched nutrional programme. Hitherto unknown to Laotians, fresh milk was seen as an exotic product. Even today some locals believe the popular flavoured milk sold in cartons comes from fruit.
In the beginning, the start-up was as much about trying to corral buffalos on lease from a local farmer as it was about perfecting the recipes of the delicious buffalo mozzarella, feta, ricotta, blue cheese, yoghurt and ice cream now available at the farm’s coffee shop. The company also exports its products to Thailand and Japan with part of the proceeds going into the local village welfare programmes.
On the Living Land Farm (www.livinglandlao.org), deep into Laotian countryside, travellers are encouraged to roll up the sleeves and get muddy, all in the name of learning how to grow rice varieties used in national dishes. Employing local farmers, the enterprise also provides free education for the children, runs English classes and invests in healthcare.
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