Tourism and poverty are not necessarily words one would pair together. But in Kenya, alleviating poverty is the incentive behind the Tourism Trust Fund, a four-year-old institution, sponsored by the Kenyan government and the European Union.
Dan Kagagi is the chief executive of the Nairobi-based organization and he told Voice of America reporter Cole Mallard that reducing poverty through tourism means making local communities aware of the sector’s financial and cultural benefit to them: “We mustn’t forget that local communities at the end of the day, are custodians of the resources, the wildlife, the vegetation, the forests and so on, so clearly there is a need for local communities to see tourism not as a nuisance, so that wild animals are seen as a resource – forests are seen as a part of the crucial landscape, and not just something to be chopped for fuel wood.”
Kagagi says communities -- rather than being exploited -- must be brought into the mainstream of tourism as stakeholders. He says tourism is unique; it has a multiplying effect on other economic sectors as well, for example, the produce industry serves local communities as well as large hotel chains. Kagagi says this kind of growth can create a vibrant industry away from traditional tourism – meaning Kenya’s coastal areas, and the Masai region.
The undeveloped part of the industry includes tourism in western and northern Kenya. He says in the north, local communities could benefit from ranching, or pastoral tourism.
Kagagi also says effective tourism means diversification of resources. For example he says livestock overgrazing from expanded cattle herds can be avoided by using some grazing land for wildlife conservation on a “group ranch” built by investors in the conservation area. That, he says, produces a new source of tourist related revenue. He says this enterprise is very popular in the Masai Mara region.
Kagagi also says that a tourism impact study – six months in the making -- is planned for publication in March, and that the media will be notified.