Tourism in Kenya is the third largest contributor of income revenue after agriculture and manufacturing sectors. Despite Kenya being a high-end tourism destination, most areas with tourism attraction sites have their residents languishing in poverty. Most communities barely benefit from tourism activities in the areas. Unsustainable tourism has a lot of effects on the people and the country in general
At the Kenyan coast, tourism activities have resulted in the promotion of prostitution where young girls take part in prostitution as a way of earning money to make an income. Some use drugs and go to the extent of dropping out of school. Diseases caused by sexually related activities are on the rise as well. Community-based tourism sees the community benefit from activities related to tourism.
The concept of Community based tourism has been successfully implemented in African countries such as Namibia and South Africa. It seeks to reconcile economic, social and environmental impacts of tourism development. Through community based tourism these countries see a wide spectrum of natural resources in the hands of the marginalized local community.
Isiolo County, once rendered backward and uncivilized sees most of its inhabitants depend on pastoralism as a means of livelihood. However, the effects of climatic change and unsustainability in pastoral related activities pose a challenge to the residents. Most game reserves in the area are owned by the county government. Buffalo Springs and Shaba game reserves are an example of tourism destinations. Shaba game reserves serve as a home to the big five and rare species such as the Somali ostrich.
A threat is posed to the wildlife ecosystem as a result of the lack of cohesion between the county government and the local community. This threat is majorly posed by human-generated problems. These problems include illegal hunting, human settlement in the wildlife corridors majorly as a result of overpopulation and agricultural practices in areas deemed as wildlife habitats.
Community-based tourism has been recently welcomed in Kenya through the promotion of eco-tourism and conservation efforts driven by the community. It enables local residents of an area to partake in tourism-related activities and shape tourism in their area.
The efforts of community-based tourism target and enable the local residents to have a position in handling tourism resources while at the same time promoting sustainability. Sustainable community-based tourism seeks to identify practices in tourism that benefit the community sector as well.
Community-based tourism has a great impact on the local residents and the general community. If communication is enhanced, it brings an understanding. A community allowed to partake in decisions that affect growth in an area sees the area grow. Strong relationship ties are fostered and better decisions made that will see growth and progress in the area.
Poaching in Kenya is an everyday problem. Involving the community will not only help protect wildlife but wildlife ecosystems will also be protected. There are a lot of endangered species in the country that are a major tourist attraction site such as the elephants. Most of the inhabitants in a community partake in wildlife threatening activities such as poaching for sale of the ivory as a result of poverty.
Poverty in Kenya is still present especially in arid and semi-arid regions. Involvement of the community will see poverty eradication by the creation of job opportunities. The government policy indicated that seventy percent of jobs should be given to area locals but the tourism sector fails to execute this policy. The Kimana community wildlife sanctuary did not offer a lot of jobs for the Maasai community. They were offered meager jobs and high-end tourism jobs offered to skilled laborers outside the community.
A relationship is fostered between nature, environment and the community. Most people have recently ventured into the timber business. Some have licenses and others do not. They get their timber from the homes of a majority of wildlife homes. Most of the trees offer food and shelter to some of the animals. Climatic change as a result of deforestation also affects animal shelter. If community-based tourism is exercised not only will wildlife homes be protected but cohesion between nature and community will be exercised.
Despite the advantages, sustainable community-based tourism continues to face numerous challenges in Kenya. This sees the country pay a great price. Most members in communities with tourism resources still languish in poverty as the case of Isiolo. Lack of funding by the government, for example, renders the sector ungoverned thus limiting its engagement with the stakeholders.
There is also evidence of a lack of representation and accountability. This has made many of the community-based programs collapse. Private investors do not have an interest in development for the benefit of the people.
Economic empowerment is not felt at the community level as most of the tourist sites are owned by counties and non-governmental organizations or outsiders like in the case of El-karama ranch. Ol-jogi and Angama mard. This develops an attitude in the local community as they do not partake in activities that do not benefit them economically.
This calls for a shift in our thinking and actions. The country has already adapted efforts to ensure community-based tourism has set off. Ranches have been established in different areas. Southern Kenya, for example, through Mbirikani and Merueshi group ranches serves as a wildlife reserve. This has seen the community around it benefit from the social amenities that come around as a result of the ranch. This includes other sources of income apart from the practice of pastoralism.
Malka Bisanadi serves as an example of community-based tourism. The campsite built in 2004. It took off after a piece of land was given to local women groups by the county council. The groups are supported by non-governmental organizations and the government as well. In Laikipia County, two ranches have been established as a result of community-based tourism; Lekirruki and Ngwesi group ranches. The two were previously used exclusively for pastoral related activities.
Adaptation of community-based tourism will see sustainability in the utilization of resources and at the same time benefit the community rendering both economic and social sustainability to residents and at the end foster a country’s growth.