On the last week of February, ten CBTOs gathered at Twala Tenebo Cultural Village, in Laikipia County, for a Learning and Networking Exchange Workshop. These ten CBTOs are part of the trained MSMEs of Switch Africa Green Programme implemented by three partner organizations. The CBTOs have been in a process of business training and mentorship for the past two and a half years. Have you ever imagined how much tourism potential your community holds? The ten CBTOs that were in Twala can tell it all.
‘Twala’, a Maasai word for bell, was a perfect venue for the forum. The bell is surely ringing to all communities, telling them to treasure their tourism attractions and use it sustainably to improve their livelihoods. The undiscovered treasure of one community is the blossoming fortune of another. Tourism is said to be a leading sector in the economy of Kenya. It lives with us, through our culture and heritage, the biodiversity of our plants and animals and much more. All we need is creativity to sustainably explore this underutilized sector in our communities.
During the project’s duration, the CBTOs were accorded professional mentorship and training on how to improve their already existing products as well as innovating new ones. Availability of a story that adds value to the products primarily gives a tourist adequate information on the product and increases the quest to have the experience. Listening to the different experiences of the CBTOs concerning how training on Product Innovation enhanced the activities of their organizations was so amazing. Most of the CBTOs were able to diversify their products. This resulted into offering a wide range of activities to the tourists.
A visit to Bungoma County’s Jatonet CBTO would exhibit the diverse uses of bamboo. Jatonet is making beautiful handicraft from bamboo stems. Previously, the group had difficulties to find a sustainable use for the bamboo they had planted but after the training they have developed many products with the bamboo. Resourceful itineraries that enable tourists to plan adequately for their visits were also an outcome of the trainings. Most of our CBTOs established homestays to enhance their accommodation facilities alongside the commonly practiced camping activities. Other CBTOs that have innovated new products include Gem Sauri that makes valuables from waste egg shells, papers and plastics, Makueni and Twala among others.
Birds, a common creature to one’s eyes, a precious feature to tourism. Kakapel cultural center, learnt that birdwatching is a product they could well invest on. Other CBTOs like Otenyo cultural center began visitor reception song and dance sessions which they didn’t practice before. Product innovation remains a pivotal point for community based tourism. Uniqueness is the desire of all communities.
All these success stories are results of SUS-TOUR Project; a successful 30 months journey by SWITCH Africa Green programme. It was funded by the European Commission and implemented in Kenya by three Visionary partners. The partners include Collaborating Center for Sustainable Consumption and Production (CCSCP), Federation of Community Based Tourism Organizations (FECTO) and Ecotourism Kenya. The overall objective of SUS-TOUR Project was to contribute to sustainable development of tourism in Kenya, through promoting customer-oriented innovation and marketing of Community Based Tourism (CBT) to foster improvement in rural livelihoods and conservation of culture and natural environment. It’s indisputably evident that this has been achieved.
Let’s all stand firm to support and promote community based tourism. It improves our communities’ sustainability, it alleviates poverty!