As a general rule, it is usually the smaller (and more expensive) lodges and camps that do more for the local communities in the way of employment, training, and the setting up of income generating projects. Such properties also find it easier (and cheaper) to replace their woodburning stoves with solar and wind power, and to employ more responsible sewage and waste disposal methods. As areas such as the Maasai Mara come under increasing environmental pressure, many camps are banning the use of firewood outright, while others have installed their own constructed wetlands for recycling their wastewater naturally.
Many hotels and lodges, away from the cities, are now investing in alternative energy sources. Solar power, in particular, is the preferred alternative, and most responsible properties today use some kind of solar system for their electricity and water heating. Wind power is not yet as big, but several local suppliers are fuelling a growing interest. One area in which Kenya has made impressive gains is in the recycling of organic waste to provide an alternative source of fuel for water heating and cooking. With the growing bans on fuelwood – particularly in the national parks – fuel briquettes are being made from an increasing variety of waste materials. Nairobi briquette machine producer, the Millennium Fuel Project (P.O. Box 15010-00509, Nairobi), is encouraging womens groups to produce their own briquettes and to sell the surplus to safari camps and lodges in the Mara. Such practices will help to save the remaining forests in the countrys main reserve, which have been ravaged by tree-felling and charcoal burning.
Hotels and lodges generate large volumes of solid and liquid waste and, because many of them are in remote areas where local council services are not available, they have to find ways of preventing their sewage from contaminating the environment. Initiatives to manage solid waste range from responsible purchasing to waste separation and recycling. As well as composting green waste and using it in their vegetable gardens, most lodges and camps are now returning their non-degradable waste – tin, glass, paper, batteries – to Nairobi, where it is recycled by larger manufacturers. The management of liquid waste is more challenging in remote areas, although interest is growing quickly in the use of constructed wetlands for recycling wastewater for return to the environment. Peer pressure – and increasing pressure from discerning guests – is also forcing many camps and lodges to use biodegradable green detergents to improve the quality of their gray water.
Water is a very scarce commodity in many of Kenyas semi-arid environments – and a source of growing conflict between people and wildlife. Lodges are crucial conduits of water conservation awareness and practice, particularly in remote rural areas. As well as simple initiatives – such as encouraging guests to reuse towels and minimise their water use – many lodges are introducing serious water conservation measures, by restricting water pumping to certain times of the day, installing low-pressure showers, and promoting the use of recycled water and rainwater. Although these measures do not always make for optimum comfort, we would urge guests to appreciate how such measures help lodges to coexist with water-starved communities, livestock and wildlife. Many lodges and camps are also growing trees and encouraging local communities to plant woodlots, both as a sustainable source of firewood and for the protection of catchment areas. Please find out from your lodge whether they have any water-saving initiatives and support them during your visit.
Human-wildlife conflict resolution
A lot of effort is being dedicated to minimising levels of human-wildlife conflict in areas outside Kenyas parks and reserves. Interventions range from fencing off protected areas to encouraging community tourism enterprises and providing compensation to pastoralists whose livestock are killed and farmers whose crops are damaged by wild animals. These interventions are initiated by different stakeholders, including private investors, local NGOs, and foreign conservation organisations. There are also a growing number of local events held to raise money for such initiatives, including the famous Rhino Charge four-wheel-drive challenge and the Lewa Safari Marathon (see www.magicalkenya.com for more details). Please find out from your lodge what initiatives it is supporting to minimise human-wildlife conflicts in the area – and lend your support to those that are making a difference.