Tanzania is planning to build a cable car service on Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest peak and a world heritage site. The country wants to boost tourist numbers but a quarter million porters and mountain guides worry the quick ride up the mountain will threaten their livelihoods.
Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, keeps the town of Moshi, Tanzania, alive with trade and tourism.
The mountain is a source of income for many people here, including porters like 37-year-old Sintia Mwita.
A mother of three, Mwita says the job helps her a lot. "I am the one who pays for their school fees and daily expenses in my family.” Mwita says.
While authorities say the cable car will cater to the physically disabled, the elderly and children, it will also help tourists get up the mountain faster.
Jennifer Francis, a deputy chairman for Kili Meru Mountain Guides Society, says the government has not been as transparent as it could be regarding the project.
“They only tell us the advantages but we don’t know its negative effects on the current generation and the next generation. This confuses us," Francis said.
Around 50,000 tourists climb Kilimanjaro annually, bringing tens of millions of dollars to the region.
Tanzanian authorities say running cable cars will increase tourist numbers by as much as 50 percent by providing easier access to the mountain.
The deputy minister for natural resources and tourism, Constantine Kanyasu, believes the project will be a big plus for the tourism industry in Tanzania but concedes change is not easy.
“We expect more camping on top of the mountain than this year, and that should not worry our people that they are going to lose their jobs. Of course, changes come with some effects, we should not expect Tanzania to be the same in one hundred years to come, and we should not have a nation that is prepared to be porters for lifetime. We need to have changes.” Kanyasu said.
Tanzania is carrying out a social and environmental impact assessment before construction on the Kilimanjaro cable car system begins.
“If our jobs will be assured, and these clients in the cable cars will have no negative effects on us, I think there will be no tension between porters and the government,” said Edson Matauna,the deputy chairman for Mount Kilimanjaro Porters Society.