Tag: ecotourism

Nature’s Touch – the irreplaceable value

Lake Kanyaboli
Lake Kanyaboli

One of the greatest gifts of life is to be able to dream. When I was younger, I wanted to be a bus driver. I dreamed of being able to sit behind the mighty behemoth and pacing around like I own the world! My dream was ever strung around reversing the truck with multiple trailers. Let me say that this dream were short-lived as LIFE gradually replaced it! The realities of process as well as cause and effect! That said, the brighter side is that these dreams were replaced by even grandeur ones; traversing the world, being UNEP boss – ha!  but was quickly limited by numerous challenges and fraught with dangers, that I equally dreamed of. Nowadays, I change the world a word at a time!

Recently I visited Lake Kanyaboli, a satellite lake on Lake Victoria in Siaya County. The scenery was beautiful, the nature pleasant, fresh air intoxicating and I just imagined myself sitting by the side of the lake with a book, taking stock of the changing moments, the rising of the sun, the innumerable bird species, the glistening waters, unadulterated environment, the fish, the people as they scramble to collect water amidst the livestock and the distant hills across the lake that constantly casts its shadow over the waters.

I met a man, Charles, who works with his hands! He is a craftsman, designing crafts out of papyrus which is abundant around the lakeside, as my eyes would say. His story is one of resilience, belief and hard work. He learnt the craft by tagging on to a man he met selling woven chairs off his bicycles on the dusty rugged roads of his village. He persuaded him to teach him the craft and for more than six months he would be an apprentice under him, stirring early in the morning everyday to  harvest papyrus, a task which initially left his hands bloody and his back sore. Not to give up, he would quickly and efficiently accomplish this duty to ensure that he had time to observe and learn the actual art of weaving. To cut short the long story, he now has his own business that provides him with a means of putting food on the table and taking care of his family, running for more than 10 years now. He enjoins the services of two women who help him meet his demand.

For Charles, it has been well over the years but now he feels threatened by expansion of Agriculture and increased destruction of the swamp areas around lake Kanyaboli. His only hope is that he will continue to have the opportunity to run and expand his business. I also hope that he teaches the craft as an inheritance to his children.

Papyrus at Lake Kanyaboli
Papyrus at Lake Kanyaboli

For me something slightly different ticked off! As I watched him twisting together the tapestry of his product, I could almost see a radiance on his face and a twinkle in his eye. He enjoyed what he was doing. There was a subtle state of comfort that prevailed making his work seem so effortless yet also a constant exertion stemming from the effort put leaving him with beads of sweat streaming down his cheeks. He seemed very in touch with the papyrus reeds that they almost seemed to know how to respond when he touched them. The swinging of hands, poking of holes and pulling of reeds almost produced a rhythmic cadence to a silent song that will never be sung.

For more than ten minutes I sat there in silence watching him and wondering what value he places on this papyrus. If the whole swamp is destroyed, it seems obvious what he would loose. In the same step, I reflect on the serene beauty that surrounds me just outside the door of Charles’ workshop. I look around at those living here going on with their daily chores, quite oblivious of my ways and thoughts. I smile and dream. What would this place would look like many years from now. A complete environmental disaster? Or a renewed Gem? It is only the many who live in these surrounding that will determine its future.

As it is for them, so it is for you and me. We can only reach where our dreams go! We can only dream of what we see, what we hear and what we know. Our lives are inextricably linked to nature, we come from it and we go back to it when we die. The dash in between our nascence and obliteration what we can dream of. I am dreaming of a better world, a better people and an even better next generation.

As I settle back into the car, I dream that if I would come back as a man (again) in my next life, then I will be a cobbler! Take care of people’s feet and let their feet take care of them.

Immersing in Nature: That’s the Culture

7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; 8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. 9 Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? 10 In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10: NIV Bible

2009
Me enjoying a mini splash in some stream along Nakuru – Sacho Road

 

One fine morning in Schloss Klaus, Austria, my friends and I took a rope course just for fun. An ordinary day it was in this beautiful forested construct overlooking a stunning lake. All it was going to take at least as the Germans would put it is, “kinder spielen”(child’s play). Well, as you can imagine, a rope course embodies intricately thought out ways of making you SUFFER! Easy to start but, “why I am here again?” comes in quite quickly. Walking across swinging ropes, moving bases and all those contraptions that make your muscles ache and cry is not all-in-a-days-work for non-macho people and at 75+Kg, shifting weight is not an easy thing. On one section, I gave up more than 100 times, only to inch forward with a little rest. Of course out only a few of us made it to the very end. At the end of that day, with quaking limbs and aching muscle, I finally understood the GRIT I am made of!

This course is like a mirror on my life. What was two hours of a gruesome voluntary process, revealed to me how I handle issues of life. For one, I never give up easily. I change tact and do what it takes to get the job done! On the contrary, I am inadvertently averse to risk. I like solid ground. Most importantly, I derive loads of inspiration from my immersion in nature, and take courage from those who have been there before.

Recently, I enjoined myself as an audience to a most hilarious conversation. My friends were discussing issues of nature and conservation in a most tickling and ignorant manner, devoid of fact and knowledge! For instance, the assertion that the wildebeeste of Mara – Serengeti never coming to an end is acceptable because as you would say, tyranny of numbers but seeing a rattle snake is Kenya should be most absurd, no matter how dangerous it is! We watched a video of the meer cat hunting a hare. It would first do a ritualistic dance to get the hare entertained then without warning take it by the neck! Who eats their audience really? The tragedy of a python ripped on like a sleeping bag after swallowing a crocodile whole should be a good bedtime story for our kids with regards to greed.

Well in all, I was remained quite entertained with a smile on my face. I was satisfied by the fact that friends could indulge in a nature conversation independent of my prompting. Of course my nature experience would have it that I laud it over the rest on “specialist” matters but I am only so happy they acknowledge the existence of the wild. Geography and statistics can be dealt with at the PhD level when they get a chance.

Nature and culture shape the way we think. Our experiences are a sum total of who we are. That is to say, the richer your experience in nature and culture, the richer your appreciation for creation. There is always something amazing about being walking through the park, watching birds in your garden, watching a herd of elephants, pride of lions, antelopes, topis, the green that splashes the horizon in the wet season, the intense smell of earth at the start of the rains and all else in natures cycle. There is truly nothing more coveted that brushing through a stack of bushes and getting some blackjacks stuck on your trousers, and little compares to the blooming of a flower in the desert, once in every two years. To be there is heaven, a moment of exhilaration, a moment to savor. I must admit that there times that I cruise unfocused through nature that I fail to experience the here and now.

Nature has a lot to tell us about who we are and who God, the creator is. Nature keeps a record of the goods, as well as the ails and pains. So imprinted are the marks that we can tell what happened before our generation and so will the generations coming evidence our attitudes to nature.  Careful studies have revealed intricate dependencies between the earth and man. Getting ourselves closer to nature is getting to understand who we are and why we are.

So just to get the facts straight. Rattle snakes are a preserve of North America’s deserts. Wildebeeste populations have been gradually declining over the years due to immense pressure on land resources, erection of fences along their migration routes and other ecological factors.

Whether you turn on your TV to discovery channel, take a walk in your garden, or plan a trip to Tsavo National Park, don’t miss the opportunity to remove your shoes and feel the soil. IMMERSE!

Tourism – Investing in energy and resource efficiency

Synthesis of the Green Economy Report (UNEP 2011)

The green economy is one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. (UNEP 2010) This report in its entirety presents case scenarios of how economic development and environmental deterioration can be decoupled in the main production sector.

Tourism in the green economy cites activities that can be sustained on the long-term within their social, cultural and environmental context. Is there a difference between the “green economy” “ecotourism” and “sustainable tourism”? Ecotourism focuses mainly on sustainability within the normative principles that include minimize negative environmental impacts and maximize benefits to local communities alongside providing quality experience and generating profits (Hetzer, 1965; Ceballos-Lascurain, 1987; Ross, 1999). Sustainable tourism on the other hand is not a form of tourism but rather a longevity principle that all tourism businesses can strive toward.

Despite generating 5% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), tourism attracts major challenges within its provisioning systems for energy, water and waste, leading to negative impacts on biodiversity, cultures and communities. Nonetheless, opportunities exist in sizing the growth of the industry (providing limits to expansion), changing consumer patterns (increasing the demand environmentally friendly tourism) and maximizing tourism’s potential for addressing local development and poverty reduction.

Sustainable tourism can create stronger linkages with the local economy by providing opportunities for biodiversity conservation through direct and indirect support. Due to its labour intensive nature, tourism provides support for micro enterprises providing employment for women and disadvantaged groups. Tourism products are a combination of activities and therefore support different industries including agriculture, handicrafts, transport, water, waste, etc. and involve local suppliers, allowing the local economy to benefit. The local economy also benefits indirectly from tourism infrastructure including roads, water supply, etc. which enhance their quality of life. Finally, tourism employs more young people and women than most other sectors, providing benefits and independence to women in supporting child development and alleviating poverty.

So is there a case for investing in green tourism? Travel and tourism investment in 2009 reached US$ 1, 398 billion, approximately 9.4% of global investment, providing significance to the case. Tourism directly and indirectly employs about 230 million people around the world and an added investment would provide increased employment in relative sectors. Tourism spending filters down to varying degrees depending on the structure of tourism thus increased investment would lead to a multiplier effect as long as leakages can be limited and interventions crafted to enhance the participation of local communities. Environmental conservation will be enhanced as businesses invest more in the protection of biodiversity and avoid the destruction of pristine (or near pristine) ecosystems. Culture including life, history, archaeology and religion is transitive and therefore as much as investing in sustainable tourism enhances culture, its preservation presents emergent challenges that communities have to address.

So, how would investments in green economy between 2011 and 2050 present as a trade-off to business as usual (BAU) in a simulated scenario? Tourism will be growing at a slower rate by 2.5% in comparison to BAU scenario and the GDP will exceed the BAU scenario by 7%. In short, despite increased tourism arrivals, there will be a considerable improvement in operational efficiency within the sector on key resources including water consumption, energy supply and demand, Carbon dioxide emissions and waste management.

What are some of the barriers and how can they be surpassed? Greening in the tourism sector is as complex as the endogenous heterogeneity and therefore requires the multi-stakeholder approach for its success. The private sector needs to provide sustainability incentives for tourism accommodations, tour operations and transport by linking tourism products with market positions. Governments and international development institutes can contribute by shaping policies that integrate sustainability into tourism development. Destination planning should advance green goals that are reinforced by laws and regulations and based on sound scientific methods and tools encompassing economic, environmental and social approaches. Fiscal policies including tax breaks, concessions and pricing can give clear signals to investors on the government’s intentions in the sector and provide drive. “Green financing” needs to be made accessible for investments in tourism in order to stimulate sustainable development within the industry. Barriers to financial access should be softened by engaging banks and financiers on green tourism investment as well as providing regional funds through international partners. Local investment can be strengthened by strengthening the tourism value chain back to SME investment, enhancing bank access to small businesses and individuals.

Works Cited

Ceballos-Lascurain, H. (1987). The future of ‘ecotourism’. Mexico Journal, 13–14.

Hetzer, W. (1965). Environment, tourism and culture.

Ross, S. &. (1999). Evaluating ecotourism: The case of North Sulawesi, Indonesia. ¹ourism Management.

United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). (2011). Towards a Green Economy: Pathway to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication. Nairobi: http://www.unep.org/greeneconomy.