Political Corruption

The history of Kenya’s governance outlined above has shown Kenya’s past administrators neglected the well being of local communities in order to benefit their own interests. This trend of political immorality remains in Kenya and has created direct negative impacts on local community benefits of ecotourism. The Lake Kamnarock National Reserve is situated in the eastern half of the Kerio Valley, on the side of the Baringo District in the Rift Valley Province, Kenya. This reserve stands as a good example of a politically corrupt government managing a protected area and its communities. The Baringo District County Council runs the reserve and has since its creation in 1983. The politicians in the area created the reserve without the consent or even the knowledge of the local community, the Tugen tribe (Colagiovanni, 2002). The people still live on the land and use its resources, but illegally according to Kenyan law, even though they were never compensated for their loss of property. The allowance of subsistence activities is due only to the lack of government resources for law enforcement (Colagiovanni, 2002). The government’s priorities are to develop the area for tourism and to increase enforcement capacity, even though local people have torn down some of the tourism facilities that contractors have attempted to build. However, the Council assumes that the local people will want tourism, and they will see the benefits quickly (Colagiovanni, 2002). Colagiovanni (2002) admits, “while this may very well be the case, the point is that, in the past eighteen years, nobody has asked them” (p. 106). This neglect has led to resentment, frustration, and disempowerment of the people, which is undoubtedly a negative influence on the community.

Colagiovanni (2002) has asked the people about the reserve, and “almost none of the people actually living in Kerio Valley feel that this situation is desirable” (p. 102). The reserve has been in place for eighteen years, restricting the livelihoods of the people, and the tourism developments and therefore benefits (community development projects) have not arrived (Colagiovanni 2002). At the same time, they have to deal with a human-wildlife conflict because of the reserve. The local communities feel that “the animals are more important than the people” (Colagiovanni, 2002, p. 95). Until these major damages to the lives and minds of the people in Bogoria stop, sustainability to the area will become impossible.

Indirect Impacts

As stated earlier, the indirect impacts of ecotourism on local communities mostly affect tourism revenues and tourism to Kenya. In general, these impacts are less poignant for the local people because they do not deal with these large-scale trends every day of their lives. Economic leakage, domestic tourism, international tourism marketing, and political unrest and terrorism, however, all affect local community benefits in Kenyan tourism.

Economic leakage occurs in a country when a business is run by a foreign operator, and the money that goes into the business leaves the host country. When economic leakage occurs, the indigenous people of the host country do not see many of the benefits of that business (Lindberg, 2001). Kenya’s tourism industry is notorious for its past and present economic leakage. Sindiga (1999) states, “the international distribution of Kenya’s tourism benefits is skewed to the advantage of multinational corporations. Kenya’s tourism leakages are very high” (p. 117). From Sindiga’s (1999) perspective, economic leakage is a negative impact that should be mitigated so that locals can enjoy more benefits from tourism.

Domestic tourism indirectly impacts and potentially benefits the local communities of Kenya for several reasons. During the low season, from April to August, many tourism workers must be laid off (Sindiga, 1999). With domestic tourism, however, the seasonality of tourist expenditure would become less defined and workers could keep their jobs year round. The domestic tourists benefit by experiencing the diversity of all of the regions of Kenya and other peoples’ cultures and different types of protected areas that have various conservation issues. This understanding will empower the people of Kenya and equip them for future national or regional decisions. Domestic tourism also benefits Kenya’s profits because any variation in tourist arrivals greatly impacts the country’s economy since tourism occupies such a high percentage of Kenya’s GDP, usually around ten percent (Dieke, 2001). Currently, most tourists come from the United States and Western Europe, and any economic recession in these countries would diminish Kenya’s tourism revenue (Sindiga, 1999). With high domestic tourism, an occurrence such as this would not result in dramatically negative economic impacts.

Due to the extremely high percentage of international tourists to Kenya, tourism marketing around the world is vital to Kenya’s economy. Kenya ranks as number six in tourism earnings behind South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritius, and Tanzania (Dieke, 2001). These other countries have better marketing strategies which makes Kenya’s tourism earnings inferior compared to those of South Africa and Tanzania. The government has created the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) in 1996 to increase tourism promotion for the country overseas. Strategies focusing on oversea promotion point Kenya in the right direction of increasing tourism revenues, which indirectly benefit local communities.

Kenya’s political stability and amount of terrorist threat are huge factors that affect international arrivals to Kenya. The events during the 1990’s harmed Kenya’s image as a safe place to visit. Political unrest in Kenya during this time involved problems among the multitude of the nation’s ethnic groups. Sindiga (1999) describes this indirect impact on tourism: “in a sense, the ethnic clashes are a sign of the failure of the country’s political institutions to hold the country together. Although there were no direct attacks on tourists, the general feeling of insecurity created a poor environment for conducting the tourism business” (p. 45). In August of 1998, terrorists simultaneously bombed the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing hundreds of people, mostly Africans. Osama Bin Laden, leader of the Al-Qaida network, stands as the alleged perpetrator of the embassy attacks. The US government suspects that the Al-Qaida network plotted the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. So in May 2003 when a report was issued that an alleged Al-Qaida terrorist, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, was planning another Kenya attack, the United States, Britain, and several other nations issued an advisory warning. During the 2003 season, Kenya lost its narrow market of North American and Western European tourists. President Kibaki met with US President Bush in October 2003, and said that the advisory “had severely affected tourism which was Kenya’s main economic pillar” (Kelley, Bosire, & Kithi, 2003, paragraph 2). At the time of this writing, however, the US government has not lifted the warning. As mentioned earlier, a vital part of the Kenyan economy is derived from tourism revenues. The loss of Western tourists to Kenya harms the people economically, which is a negative impact on all local communities involved with ecotourism. Ironically, the terrorists target Westerners; however, their activity in Kenya has harmed Africans far more than the people they aim to hurt.

Conclusion

This literature review demonstrates the complexity of local community benefits and costs involved in ecotourism in Kenya. Kenya’s imperial past left a legacy of political corruption and deceit of the local people. This problem contributed to the human-wildlife conflict and continues to limit local community benefits today. The local people have sought tourism benefits by creating their own cultural projects to gain revenue. However, their commodification brings to question their authenticity, which conflicts with the ecotourism ideals of respecting and preserving local culture. Finally, their dependency on tourism from a very narrow market base creates an economy that is threatened by political unrest and terrorism.


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