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Daahuk: Stepping Foot Forward In Sustainable Business with Reza Shaown

1. What was the vision behind this unique project that began its journey in Sunamganj, Tanguar Haor?

In 2016, I came back from Netherlands and started working in the Kuakata region. Bangladesh is the biggest delta in the world, and I knew that there is ample scope to improve the livelihood of these communities living on the river banks or water bodies using an integrated approach.

We worked there for 6 months and found that the canals in those areas dry up in winter, and the project would become seasonal. By the end of 2016, we relocated our project in Sunamganj.

 

2. How did the name ‘Daahuk’ come into the picture?

Daahuk is a bird that likes to spend time around rivers and canals. They also love to live in a calm and quiet environment. So, you’d find them in the calmest locations near water bodies. They make their nests deep inside thick bushes and are found mostly alone. Our goal was to give people the feeling of a floating nest in Tanguar Haor. A bird-nest is not supposed to be a 5-star hotel. There is nothing fancy about it, but it’s the natural vibe that you’ll get to appreciate.

 

3. What is Daahuk’s philosophy?

We believe that the people we are working with are our biggest asset. Our goal is to empower them in the best way possible to make our business sustainable.

 

4. There is no doubt when it comes to the scenic beauty of Tanguar Haor. However, there are still some crucial problems which require urgent solutions as addressed by many tourists. What is your take on this? According to you, what would be the possible sustainable solutions?

Tanguar Haor can be considered a very new location in the tourism landscape. It hasn’t been explored yet. It’s only been 5-6 years that people are coming here, and we need to work in a manner that doesn’t get in the way of preserving it.

In Bangladesh, people tend to litter a lot causing pollution, and that is the case in Tanguar Haor as well. If we can build awareness among the local people and tourists about it, a pristine Tanguar Haor will be there to enjoy all the time. I don’t think we’ll need big campaigns, seminars, or events for it. We just need to make people understand the value of the environment so that they can take necessary action to help in whichever way they can.

Also, tourists should acknowledge the cultural harmony of the place they’re visiting to act responsibly.

 

5. How did the local people respond to the project?

They were amazing! Sunamganj is a land of art and music. You’ll see boatmen singing or listening to local folk songs all day! Also, there is no other place in the world that has such beautifully crafted boats.

When we shared our vision, it took them around 6-7 months to understand what we were trying to bring to them. When they finally got the idea, they were very cooperative. To this day, they have been nothing but supportive.

 

6. Many people are still unaware of Tanguar Haor. Do you feel it deserves to be counted as one of the best tourist spots in our country?

Tanguar Haor is so beautiful that it has the potential to represent Bangladesh internationally. Here in Sunamganj, we have boats, we have clouds, the rain sings on the amazing expanse of the water body that beautifully merges with the horizon! These are authentic tourism elements that represent Bangladesh. It can be our source of strength if we want to attract tourists from all over the world.

Bangladesh is a country full of rivers and water bodies. These are the features that make this country special and should be worked on and highlighted to the whole world. And I believe Tanguar Haor is one of those features that can bring global exposure to our motherland.

As of today, 40% of our guests are from abroad, and that happened without any extensive promotion. So, you can imagine how well Tanguar Haor would do with proper branding.

 

7. What is your Business Model?

We are the service resellers. It’s the local people that provide services to our guests. First, we prepare the local people to become our stakeholders. Then we conduct a few capacity-building workshops to make them competent, and finally, we begin to work together. Technically we don’t have any employees; we just have partners! We are not anyone’s master. Rather we all just work together. We always provide feedback to our stakeholders as well as get them what they need.

 

8. How many boats do you have right now?

We are currently working with 17 boatmen/ stakeholders, and the good thing is that the number is gradually increasing! These boats are the signature element of this area. So, a holistic approach is needed to adopt an environment-friendly and sustainable boat making and related business operation culture here. We aim to bring a systematic change here.

 

9. Shed some light on the quality of your food and proper maintenance of hygiene?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone wearing gloves while serving foods in rural areas. But yes, our service base often does that! When we trained them, we taught them the importance of hygiene, and they maintain it to the best of their capabilities.

The food is always fresh which we get from neighboring villages like Joypur, Borodol, and Golabari, and the environment is always clean. To date, nobody has fallen sick because of our food.

Meals are prepared in the houses and not on the boats. There are small areas in front of the houses where people can cook, but sometimes they need support to ensure hygienic food. So, we provide them with essentials in exchange for food.

I think the best part is once they establish a business, we are not the only ones who are taking their services. We help them set up and then they provide food to various customers and have a good source of income.

 

10. Please let us know about safety and security. How safe it is to stay for the whole night?

We get many guests from abroad, including female tourists. Since we are very closely connected to the local people, they know our project by heart. They provide information and guidance to the tourists with the utmost hospitality.

It is safe because the boatmen themselves guard their boats including everyone and everything on it. It is their duty as they consider themselves a vital player in the project, and they know that avoiding any mishap is their responsibility.

Also, we ensure that the guests don’t disturb the local people unnecessarily. Yes, they would be kind and patient with our guests, but we still make sure that the tourists are respectful.

 

11. When is the best time to visit Tanguar Haor? Among the 3, which experience frame of Daahuk has the maximum demand?

You can visit Tanguar Haor at any time of the year and experience different types of beauty. So, it depends on which weather people enjoy. I would suggest them to visit it during their favorite season.

We don’t divide the service into packages but into experiences, and one day-one night is the most popular one so far. Our guests depart from Dhaka at night and reach Tahirpur, Sunamganj the next morning. They take the voyage, spend the entire day, enjoy the night stay in the boats, eat freshly served meals, and check out the next day after breakfast. The boat drops them back to Tahirpur again.

 

12. According to you, which type of tourists use Daahuk the most?

Most of our guests are in the age range of 20-40. I think this is because transportation in Sunamganj isn’t well-developed and suited for elderly people or the younger generation to come so much.

 

13. Have you ever faced any sort of emergency? How did you deal with it?  

We haven’t faced anything of that sort, but we know that people might fall sick. So, we’re always in contact with the respective boatmen to stay updated. The coordination is amazing as the local people respond swiftly to our urgencies.

 

14. What was your biggest achievement while working for Daahuk for the last 4 years?

I believe it would be gaining the trust of the local people we are working with.

 

15. How do you differentiate your service and why Daahuk is special?

Daahuk gives you privacy and it is more personal, more customized, and entirely operated by the local people. I believe ‘Service’ and ‘Security’ are the two things that make Daahuk different from others. Another unique feature could be the food we provide is mostly naturally grown and free from pesticides. Either we grow it or collect it from the local villages.

 

16. How did the pandemic affect Daahuk?

Operations are cancelled as there won’t be any tourists for the next 3 months. But we are doing our best to keep people empowered. We are helping them improvise their income generation as they won’t be able to row boats for a living for a while.

We are helping them with small scale poultry farming for which we initially provided 20 ducks/chickens to 50 households. It isn’t possible to carry out large-scale farming projects since there isn’t enough space for it. Maybe we didn’t provide them much, but once they see that it has the potential to solve their financial problems, they’d take initiatives themselves to make it work more efficiently.

During monsoon, the water level rises so high that people get stuck around their houses. So, to utilize that time at home, we started working on crafts with them. Again, we are not the only vendors who use their service. We just get them what they need to get started, and then they go on to have a sustainable source of income on their own.

 

17. What message would Daahuk like to deliver to its followers?

We are working in Sunamganj to build a better system, not only for us but for everyone. We are working on sustainable energy gateways for the villages and food preservation system. There isn’t electricity everywhere and we can’t just let food go to waste. We are reviving the age-old natural methods or practices that people used to carry out to preserve food decades ago. Anyone passionate or hardworking can join us. Input of any sort is welcome.

 

18. How should people contact you?

You can reach us via our Facebook page. You’ll find our contact number as well as the email address there.

 

 

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