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Groundwater: The Precious Invisible Resource

The saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” However, this does not mean the subject of discussion is completely absent. Every year since 1993, 22nd March marks World Water Day when the world celebrates water and raises awareness of the numerous people living without access to safe water. Commemoration of World Water Day is about taking action to tackle water crisis the globally. This year’s theme is aimed to appreciate how precious groundwater is and make visible the invisible benefits it has.

Water has both direct and indirect uses. Direct uses include activities such as drinking, bathing, and cooking, while indirect uses of water include wood processing for purposes of making paper and steel production for automobiles. Largely, the use of water in the world is for agriculture, industry, and electricity. Water also has a close relationship with tourism as a sector that influences the development of tourism and its related activities. Cruise tours depend on water as a means of transport, water parks, and water-related excursions such as water rafting among others. Water attractions such as lakes, rivers, and oceans are sources of numerous aquatic attractions that tourists travel to view and experience. Additionally, when tourists visit they consume a lot of water either in drinking, while bathing, for swimming, and other recreational activities among others.

Groundwater is defined as freshwater underneath the surface of the earth found in spaces between rocks, soil, and sand. Groundwater comes from precipitation; melt ice/snow, surface water, runoff, etc. Groundwater is used in agricultural activities, ecosystem support, energy resources, urban and rural water supplies among others. Although unseen and assumed to always be there, groundwater’s availability and quality are threatened by a number of factors including, climate change, overexploitation, pollution by natural and human elements, land degradation, etc. Among other factors that encourage climate change, tourism is a big contributor. With the increased degrees of heat due to carbon dioxide emissions, evaporation of groundwater is imminent. This prevents groundwater from getting replenished. With little to no groundwater, industries including tourism will have a hard time operating. Tourism is not only competing with other industries to use groundwater but also contributing to its depletion. Groundwater conservation is therefore important as it will ensure its availability and good quality is sustained.

Factors affecting availability and quality of groundwater

Groundwater makes up approximately 30.1% of the world’s freshwater. The use of groundwater by various industries causes stress on the resource. Some of the ways groundwater is used in the tourism industry include; growing food for guests and local communities, as a source to water basins such as lakes, wetlands, acting as a support to ecosystems that host wildlife; a tourism resource, supporting livelihoods, etc.

Here are some actions that improve groundwater conservation:

  1. Establishment of suitable policies and regulations to direct proper management and handling of groundwater.
  2. Proper enforcement of the groundwater management laws to instill the discipline of sustainable practice of groundwater procedures.
  3. Construction of effectively functioning drainage systems should be to direct waste and water to their appropriate management sites. This will minimize flooding, pollution of groundwater and improve its quality.
  4. Wetlands, flood meadows, and two-stage ditches should be created to reduce surface water runoff.
  5. More water treatment facilities should be developed. This will improve the sanitation level of the water that is released back to the environment.
  6. More research and monitoring of groundwater should be done. This will provide up-to-date data which is important in informing the right decisions.
  7. Sustainable water management plans should be developed and put to use in tourism facilities. The Ecotourism Kenya’s Eco-Rating Certification program includes an integrative plan that puts into practice responsible water management. Read here:

https://ecotourismkenya.org/blog/water-management-and-conservation-for-tourism-facilities/

  1. Any action that works on mitigating climate change, in the long run, works in the best interest of groundwater conservation.
  2. Increasing surface water supply reduces the demand for groundwater. This downs the drilling of more boreholes.

 

Good groundwater management is needed to achieve SDG target 6.6 to protect and restore water-related ecosystems, and SDG target 15.1 on the conservation of freshwater ecosystems and their services.

How else can we conserve groundwater? Let us know in the comments below.

International Mother Language Day 2022

Language and tourism have an essential interconnection following the movement of tourists to destinations across borders. This interconnection is yielded by the remarkable encounters amongst people who speak different languages. The world takes an honorable moment to commemorate The International Mother Language day 2022, on 21st February on the theme “Using technology for multilingual learning; challenges and opportunities”. Such commemorations as this present an opportunity to appreciate the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity for sustainable societies.  One of the 10 principles highlighted in the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism focuses on tourism’s contribution to mutual understanding and respect between people and societies. This mandate presents a feature of responsible tourism considered to work towards preserving the differences in cultures and languages that foster peace, tolerance, and respect for others.

Over the years, various platforms and avenues have come up for learning different languages. They include but are not limited to Ablo, Rosetta Stone, Duolingo, FluentU, Tandem among others. They offer opportunities to learn some of the widely spoken languages. These exist as websites, mobile applications, and video platforms. Offered in different price packages, they use varying degrees of interactivity to keep the learner engaged. Language learning through technology can also be spotted in the entertainment industry through music, film and digital shows. The availability of captions in these media helps consumers get the information being passed while remaining in contact with the original sounds and nuances of the foreign language. There are over 6000 recorded languages in the world. Some of them are on the verge of being forgotten while others are changing dynamically. There is an opportunity for people to share more about the lesser-known languages.

Multilingual and multicultural societies exist through their languages which transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way. Any mother language forms a substantial part of an ethnic group’s culture. Carried within them are attitudes, values, perspectives and so much more. Mother tongues are a part of creating the attractive ambiance of a destination. While staff in the hospitality and tourism industry learn and use foreign languages to connect with the guests and make them comfortable, it is also important that they hold on to their mother language. They can enrich the guests’ experience by teaching them a few words and phrases in the local dialect to influence ease of interaction with host communities.

Institutions of higher learning providing Hospitality and Tourism courses offer and encourage foreign language units. This gives the students a competitive edge by being multilingual. Multilingualism and tourism go hand in hand. This is because tourism activities imply encounters with different people from different cultures. The more languages are spoken by the staff, say in a destination, the more they can make their guests unique and organic experiences. Often left out is the language of the minority catering to the blind and deaf. With technology, learning languages such as the International Sign Language has become much easier and more flexible. Destinations should take advantage of this and give training to their staff in order to better cater for the needs of the special clients.

Breaking the Green Washing Chain

The travel and tourism industry is multi-faceted and involves different stakeholders. For the industry to run successfully or achieve sustainable tourism development, a sound communication strategy is vital. Marketing and communication of responsible tourism products, services, and practices help tour operators stand out as responsible tourism enterprises. This heightens the tour operators’ chances of attracting conscious travelers as their clients.

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Sustainable tourism development for Kenyan Destinations

Before the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, over-tourism was common in popular Kenyan tourism destinations. The affected destinations experience overcrowding which in turn leads to littering and a lack of observance of the park and reserve rules put in place e.g. using designated walk paths. In many cases, there is little involvement of the local communities. Whether it’s in the supply of materials to be used in the destinations or employment positions, the communities miss out or are left out of the benefits enjoyed by the destinations. As a result of the usual all-inclusive packages in the destination, there’s is the limited purchase of local food offered by the local communities. Respect for the culture of the locals in the destination is sometimes ignored. For instance, some cultures in Kenya value modest dress codes for women. However, some tourists dress in a manner that upsets the community. Habits such as these are picked up by the younger generation who often end up looking down on their culture’s values on clothing, as an example. This is where the appropriation of culture comes in. There is the pressure of maximizing positives obtained from tourism and minimizing the negatives but we would need to do things differently.

In order to do things differently; to have the tourism we engage in to respect the environment, the local community, and to be economically viable, we need to adopt sustainable tourism. Sustainable tourism is an approach that looks into developing the environmental, socio-cultural, and economical aspects of tourism. Ecotourism Kenya has put in efforts to lead and encourage practitioners of tourism in Kenya to learn and pick up sustainable tourism practices. We have achieved this through the eco-rating scheme we run for accommodation facilities mainly hotels, camps and lodges. We are also part of the key implementation partners of the GreenTour Kenya project that aims to replicate tourism industry sustainability best practices into the Kenyan and wider African tourism supply chain through an integrated business-led approach. Through the project, we support sustainability training, coaching and certification of tour operators on the Travelife online platform. We have also offered sustainability coaching sessions to tour and driver guides.

Introducing Green Destinations Pilot Program in Kenya

We would like to get as many stakeholders of tourism as possible to better understand sustainability and eventually practice it. We have collaborated with the Green Destinations to further advance this goal with different destinations. The Green Destinations pilot program offers an opportunity for destinations managers to join in and have a seat at the table.
The program, currently active in 60 countries, uses recognized principles and the re-known Sustainable Development Goals to support destinations in implementing suitable solutions and in delivering sustainable and responsible tourism, while actively involving their local community and business sector. It assists different destinations in sustainable tourism development in the following ways.

The different sectors include;

● Destination management, monitoring, training, and support; uses 30 criteria guidelines
● Green Destinations Awards; uses 85 criteria and four advance levels; Bronze, Silver. Gold & Platinum Awards. Top 100 Competition, GSTC certification
● On-site training; get assistance from coaches
● Involving your tourism businesses; using the Good Travel Guide to increase visibility and make business more responsible.

List of the benefits of joining the Green Destinations pilot program

Who can participate in the program?
Municipalities, cities, counties, protected areas such as parks, conservancies, and private destinations. Local tourism communities can also participate.

For inquiries please contact Mercy Onyango on
programs@ecotourismkenya.org or Call 0726366080

Ecotourism Kenya welcomes you to join the Green Destinations Pilot Program

 

Promoting carbon neutrality for a better future.

Quoting United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on emphasizing carbon neutrality by 2050 via Le Monde:

‘…Second, we need to align global finance with the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, the world’s blueprint for a better future. It is time to put a price on carbon; end fossil fuel subsidies and finance; stop building new coal power plants; shift the tax burden from income to carbon, from taxpayers to polluters; make climate-related financial risk disclosures mandatory, and integrate the goal of carbon neutrality into all economic and fiscal decision-making.  Banks must align their lending with the net-zero objective, and asset owners and managers must decarbonize their portfolios…’

CARBON NEUTRALITY

Carbon neutrality is the balance of carbon emissions into the environment and their absorption by carbon sinks.  It is a state where there’s a net carbon footprint of zero. Carbon footprint, on the other hand, is the amount of carbon dioxide released into the environment by human actions. For example, the manufacturing of plastics, its remaking/redesigning, disposal, incineration, and transportation all emit large amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. As there are limited carbon pits (places that absorb the released carbon like forests), there is the carbon that is left in the atmosphere. This in turn causes global warming. The negative domino effect continues to worsen climate, low food production, etc.

The road to carbon neutrality leads to a safer future for all of us than the one we have now. Less pollution of any kind, better waste management, protected animal and plant species, increase in employment, better living standards, improved weather, and climate among other benefits. That is what all the fuss is about. Sustainable tourism, no single-use plastics initiatives, circular economy and environmental protection among other concepts and techniques are striving to build a future that takes care of the environment and us.

As tourism slowly re-opens, should we do things differently this time?

Important decisions and policies such as linking global finances with Sustainable Development Goals as Mr. Guterres suggests, need to be made in order to prioritize and actualize achieving carbon neutrality. That can be slotted to an international and national level. Finding crucial factors that can prompt us to start making more sustainable options such as finances will be a strong foundation to building a better future. This endeavor will come to fruition when all the stakeholders come together and work at it side by side. More than the Corporate Social Responsibility activities tourism enterprises take part in such as tree planting exercises, we need to re-evaluate further in our businesses to adopt greener and more responsible actions. This will go a long way in encouraging others to take part in sustainable tourism.   Tourism is one of the sectors that earn Kenya a significant foreign exchange contributing to approximately 8.1 billion US Dollars to the Gross Domestic Product in 2019. It’s a pivotal avenue to adopt and grow a sustainable economy.

The circular economy is offering an opportunity to greatly reduce carbon emissions that are produced when materials are being manufactured. This is achieved by the several options that are provided by the circular economy; reusing, redesign, recycling, etc. For instance, instead of thinking to acquire a new item to fulfill a task, we are encouraged to use what we already have that can accomplish the task we want. This reduces the demand for primary extraction of resources which contributes to carbon neutrality. A good example is the city of Turku in Finland. Although they are doing great in adopting a green economy by using renewable energy, having low carbon transport and decarbonizing district heating, the carbon footprint for an individual is quite high; 4tCO2e per capita per year. This is according to the 1,5 Degrees Lifestyles Report by Sitra and IGES. Hence, they are already working into investing in a circular economy to challenge consumption-based emissions. At the local level, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and Sustainable Inclusive Business move forward in starting to implement the circular economy.

Make your positive contributions by joining the two movements below for a better future:

  • Launch of the Kenya Plastics Pact

https://youtu.be/fp8ino9Gzgw

  • The Kenya Plastic Action Plan

https://kam.co.ke/kam/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/KPAP_Document-pages.pdf

 

 

 

WORLD TOURISM DAY CELEBRATIONS

To mark World Tourism Day and month, GreenTour Kenya has had exciting events. This year’s theme; Tourism for Inclusive Growth, looks at initiating and progressing development in different areas through tourism. GreenTour has touched on the community aspect as well as the mental well-being aspect lightly. There has been engagement from CBTOs and a hopeful online campaign. Let’s take a look at the activities.

Happy World Tourism Day

“HOPE TREES” AT NGARE NDARE FOREST & TWALA TENEBO WOMEN CULTURAL CENTER

GreenTour Kenya project encouraged its participating community-based tourism organizations to put together tree planting activities to commemorate World Tourism Day.

NGARE NDARE

As the day brings different tourism entities in the entire world to focus on Tourism for Inclusive Growth, staff of this forest trust took time planting trees to symbolize hope. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic having drastic effects on the tourism sector, they are more hopeful and optimistic that the world will open up and that the future is bright. These trees of hope serve as a reminder of their resilience and how they have survived during the hard pandemic times.

Ngare Ndare tree planting exercise

TWALA TENEBO WOMEN CULTURAL CENTER

Women from the cultural center got together and spent the day planting 100 trees on their aloe farm. The women have been working together on many tourism-related activities at the cultural center. Celebrating this year’s World Tourism Day together was an additional expression of their cooperation and commitment to managing their tourism enterprise.

Tree planting activity at Twala Tenebo

TELL US YOUR STORY CAMPAIGN

Tell Us Your Story

Passing on the energy of resilience through storytelling was the objective of the online campaign. In addition, it was also a venue to share positivity and encourage one another to keep holding on to the hope of the situation getting better.

Ecotourism Kenya through the GreenTour Kenya project managed to compile a collection of eight stories from within the tourism industry in Kenya. The ranges of submissions were from individuals to tour operators and hotels. The campaign was run on our social media channels from 15th-24th of September 2021.

All the stories can be accessed on the YouTube channel of Ecotourism Kenya: @ecotourismkenya through the following link:

https://t.co/OH1FG2JrVT?amp=1