ESOK fails to see domestic tourism as an indirect positive tourism impact upon local communities, whereas Towett demonstrated that the KWS recognizes this benefit. Kathiw’a’s claim that local communities do not need to visit other regions’ protected areas of Kenya shows ESOK’s ignorance of the benefits of domestic tourism that the KWS understands. ESOK has limited the definition of local community benefit to just economic benefits. However, people have a right to visit their public lands and understand the wildlife and landscape’s roles in Kenya’s cultural heritage, as Towett explains. This socio-cultural benefit is just as important for communities as economic benefit is. Kathiw’a’s concern of the direct impact of political corruption shows that ESOK’s non-affiliation with the government gives the organization more of a realistic idea of the problems related to ecotourism and local community benefits than the KWS’s analysis of the situation. Kathiw’a openly mentions the county councils’ reputation for stealing funds, whereas the KWS washes over the political issues of county councils by simply saying it wants to avoid political confrontations.
Analysis of Moi University Department of Wildlife Management Expert Opinion
Professor Mwinzi’s expert analysis of ecotourism and local communities in Kenya includes all of the indirect impacts listed in the Literature Review: domestic tourism, economic leakage, international tourism marketing, and political unrest and terrorism. Mwinzi refers to domestic tourism as a right for local communities; therefore, he laments the expensive travel and admission fees that limit indigenous peoples’ access to protected areas as they watch international tourists spend large amounts of money while traveling to and enjoying the parks. Mwinzi mentions this money could go to the indigenous people, which would allow them to travel easily; however, the money is lost on foreign operators. Because of this economic leakage, the people are unable to exercise their right to enjoy their cultural heritage within the protected areas and also their right to receive compensation for the use of their lands. In their place, foreign travelers benefit from visiting the parks and foreign operators profit off of these travelers. As ESOK also suggests, Mwinzi looks to the government to place controls on economic leakage. Mwinzi also criticizes the government’s meager compensation of benefit sharing for human-wildlife conflicts.
The selling of crafts is a commonly stated economic benefit of ecotourism for local communities, which Mwinzi acknowledges, but he also brings to our attention the setbacks of middlemen in the market as well as the crafts’ cheap prices allowing little buying power. He finds this limited economic benefit and benefit sharing as insufficient rewards for the negative impacts of tourism upon local communities. Mwinzi’s call for group-owned indigenous ecotourism projects operates as a solution to some of the listed problems. If the people own these projects themselves, then they will have the power to eliminate economic leakage as much as possible and also the power to control their curio economic market. This unlimited access to profits from tourism will allow the people to tour domestically and revitalize their cultural identity and heritage, creating a positive socio-cultural impact for themselves.
Mwinzi’s analysis of terrorism’s threat to tourism is slightly short sighted. He feels that the political stability demonstrated in the latest general elections will overcome fears of terrorist violence; however, he underestimates the effects of September 11th, 2001 had upon Americans’ feelings of safety. The Literature Review explains, in October 2003, five months after my meeting with Dr. Mwinzi, President Kibaki pleaded with President Bush to lift the travel advisory indicating its damaging effects upon tourism numbers to Kenya.
Analysis of Personal Observation of Kenyan Ecotourism and Local Communities
My personal observation of the Maasai boma serves as an example of a direct impact of ecotourism: a local community ecotourism project and socio-cultural changes for this community. The Maasai were able to show us some of their distinct traditions such as their pastoralist livelihood, fire-building, and medicinal techniques.
However, there was one indication that one of their explanations to us about their way of life was not true. Inside of the hut, Wilson showed us two rooms and explained that the husband and wife sleep in one room, and the children of the parents sleep in the other room. Through personal communication with Dr. Rose Jepkorir Chepyator-Thomson (May 22, 2003), co-director of UGA KSAP and Keiyo tribeswoman, she informed me that in her culture, men can have multiple wives. Each wife sleeps in her own house and the man sleeps in another house. She says she has previously asked the guide if the Maasai are different than the Keiyo in this particular sense. The guide replied that the tribe alters the explanation for the tourists to reflect a Judeo-Christian tradition in order to avoid being considered primitive. This inauthentic teaching demonstrates the commodification of culture outlined in the Literature Review. This observation shows a blurred line between authentic teachings and telling the tourists what they want to hear in order to receive their money. The tourists then have the ability to control what sort of culture they would like to see, without a basis in reality. This commodification threatens the ecotourism principle of respecting local culture and preserving local culture. The problem is a negative socio-cultural impact of ecotourism on local community benefits.
Analysis of Kerio Valley Ecotourism
The three perspectives (public, private, and expert) of the case study of the Kerio Valley region also demonstrate different concerns about the direct and indirect impacts that ecotourism has on local communities. Their varying degrees of concern for these impacts affect these organizations’ ability to benefit local communities.
Analysis of KWS Management of a National Reserve
The KWS Warden Joseph Nyongesa demonstrates that the KWS’s way of governing at the regional level is the same as the KWS headquarters’s mindset of governance. As Towett also explains, Nyongesa says that the Warden and the KWS have no tie to the local people because that is the responsibility of the County Council and also because their priority is conservation. Nyongesa’s interview, however, allows us to see the actual relationship that the KWS Warden does have with the people, although he does not call this contact a relationship. The Warden demonstrates that because the KWS enforces conservation, it must have contact with the people in order to enforce these laws, and this enforcement constitutes as the basis of the relationship between the KWS and the people. This link between conservation and enforcement means that the management of wildlife and the management of people are inseparable. Because the management of wildlife and management of people are intertwined, it is impossible for one administration (KWS) to claim that it only manages the wildlife, while another administration (County Council) only governs the people. This ignorance that the management of protected areas is a human issue directly decreases the possible benefits that local communities can derive from these protected areas.
Nyongesa’s description of his duty of enforcement shows that the majority of the contact the KWS has with the people is the act of arresting. The KWS desires that people conserve, but the only way it teaches them conservation is by arresting them when they violate conservation laws. This way of teaching based upon fear is counteractive to the people’s understanding of the importance of conservation. Arrests will only lead to resentment of the KWS and also of the animals. Resentment of the animals is also evident in Nyongesa’s statement that the people sometimes kill wildlife due to the competition of resources. He says this human-wildlife conflict is the fault of the humans. However, this competition is the fault of the government for poorly allocating the resources of the area. The Warden’s ignorance of the human-wildlife conflict intensifies this direct negative impact of protected areas.
When expressing the KWS’s interests in bringing tourism to the valley,
Nyongesa shows that the public organization is unconcerned of the economic and
cultural well being of the people. He says that only outside investors will
make tourism development to the area possible, but he does not lament the economic
leakages normally associated with such investments. He assumes that with some
lessons on conservation and knowledge of other local communities’ involvement
in ecotourism activities, the people will embrace ecotourism and prepare traditional
dances and jewelry for the entertainment of the visitors. However, as Mwinzi
states, the selling of these items amounts to little buying power for the people
and a small incentive for getting involved in tourism and conservation. Also,
this sudden interest in local culture as soon as tourism arrives yet non-interest
in conservation education or cultural practices indicate that the KWS is only
concerned with its own benefits gained from the exploitation of the people’s
way of life. This point is made further by the fact that the people of the valley
are not included in the meetings about the potential for tourism to the area.
This involvement in the decision-making process of developing tourism is necessary
for local community benefits from tourism, which will lead to the people’s
vital understanding and appreciation of conservation.
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