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Sustainable tourism links conservation to livelihood improvement

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Sustainable Tourism

Gallery
  • Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge AWF
  • Satao Elerai Lodge Philip Muruthi
  • Conservation Tourism  Stephen Ham
Overview

Sustainable tourism enterprises link livelihoods and conservation.

Many African economies depend on tourists flocking to iconic national parks and reserves to see the planet’s most stunning wildlife in its natural habitat. Safeguarding these irreplaceable living attractions — like elephants and rhinos threatened by poaching — has been a priority for many governments across the continent.

In turn, wildlife-based tourism generates millions in revenues that fund the authorities managing protected areas. At the local level, African Wildlife Foundation develops partnerships with tourism enterprises like lodges and tour companies that employ people living near, or in, these wildlife-rich zones, allowing the people who live closest to wildlife to reap the benefits.

Challenges

Many people view wildlife as a threat, rather than an asset to their livelihoods.

Rising temperatures and shifting rainfall seasons are changing habitat conditions, pushing wildlife into human settlements in search of food and water.

Making communities realize the benefits of conserving wildlife is one of our biggest challenges. Large mammals like elephants and lions present a significant danger when they venture into homesteads or farms, some of which encroach on wildlife habitat. Many people are then pushed to kill wildlife to protect their land, while others hunt for bush meat or turn to poaching and wildlife trafficking to earn an income.

Solutions

AWF incentivizes communities to conserve wildlife via sustainable tourism opportunities.

  • Improving economic returns from ecolodges on communal land.

    In exchange for a commitment from communities to adopt sustainable land-use practices, AWF assists land rich, cash poor communities in developing economically lucrative, wildlife-friendly enterprises, such as ecolodges.

    In safari hotspots like Kenya’s Amboseli ecosystem, AWF establishes conservancies that are now home to two lodges, Satao Elerai and Tawi. Rather than subdivide and develop their plots of land neighboring the Amboseli National Park, landowners agree to consolidate these acres, effectively expanding the area under conservation. In addition to lease fees, members of the conservancies also get a percentage of revenues from the lodge as well as tourist fees.

  • Sustainable tourism partnerships bring revenue and social services to communities.

    As a consequence of intensive conservation efforts, mountain gorilla numbers in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park are now at their highest.

    Tourists pay hefty permit fees to track the endangered great ape in these dense forests. At the base of Mount Sabyinyo bordering the park, AWF developed Rwanda’s first luxury tourism facility owned wholly by the community — Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. In partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development, we established the Sabyinyo Community Livelihoods Association and brokered a partnership with Governor’s Camp, an experienced private operator. Since it opened, the lodge has generated more than US$ 3 million for the community, which invests the revenue to support social services, infrastructure, and education in the area.

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