This analysis of Nyongesa’s interview reveals that the KWS has destructive policies when local community benefits from protected areas and ecotourism are concerned. The public organization’s reasoning for these policies are to absolve the KWS of any blame associated with: the unhappiness and conflict caused by the people’s competition with wildlife over resources, the lack of government policies to regulate economic leakage associated with foreign investments in tourism development, the lack of concern for the economic and cultural well being of local communities with the arrival of tourism, and the lack of initiative taken towards joining the County Council in managing wildlife and people together in order to compensate for the governments’ mistakes of separating the two realms of governance. The damaging results of these policies are: the domination of local communities facilitated by fears of arrest, the allowance of economic leakage, the exploitation and commodification of the culture of the local people without comparable rewards, and the disempowerment of the local people.
Analysis of Private Operator of Kerio View
Williams shares some of the KWS’s views that create negative impacts upon local people when speaking of the possibility of tourism to Kerio Valley. Williams and his business partner Jean Paul represent the foreign investment and ownership of a tourism operation in Kenya that leads to economic leakage. However, due to the small scale of Kerio View, Williams and Paul do not make enormous profits that would be taken out of the area on a debilitating scale. Williams’s conscious effort to involve the local communities in the employment of the hotel shows his concern for their economic well being.
However, Williams’s expressed desire for tourism development funding to come from Europe demonstrates that the local leaders of the valley will try their best to ensure maximum profits for the investors in order to get their business. This situation is the root of economic leakage because the maximization of profits of investors means the minimization of returns to the local community. Since not many people from the valley are included in these decision-making meetings that solicit the European investors, the potential indigenous losses from tourism are not considered. Nyongesa and Williams probably share the same goals in this sense because they both attend the meetings that discuss foreign investment’s role in tourism development. Williams’s knowledge of the people’s tradition shows that he has more of a positive contact with people from the area, which is probably derived from his relationship to his employees. In contrast, Nyongesa’s law enforcement-based contact with the people causes him to more easily criticize their way of life and not show a great understanding for their traditional culture. Williams’s understanding of the culture of the people puts him in a better position to ensure positive benefits from ecotourism than Nyongesa’s lack of understanding. However, Williams’s attitudes towards foreign investment and exclusion of the people from decision-making meetings sets the stage for negative impacts upon local communities with the arrival of ecotourism to the area.
Analysis of Scholarly Opinion and Personal Observation of the Area
Colagiovanni’s assessment of tourism’s impact on the local communities of Kerio Valley is strikingly different than Nyongesa’s and Williams’s analyses because she has lived with people in the valley. She notes the direct impact of socio-cultural changes that communities undergo when they market themselves for tourism in her comparison between the profit-seeking locals of Maasai Mara and the Kerio Valley’s legitimate concern for the well being of outsiders. Colagiovanni finds this difference to be negative; however, if the economic benefits are high enough, then this socio-cultural change will be a minor cost. If this is the case, then over time the people can gain enough economic benefit to insulate the negative socio-cultural impacts on their culture. They can limit the time they spend gaining profits from tourists and spend more time revitalizing their traditions that they may have lost during the socio-cultural transition from a primarily subsistence-based economy to a commodity-based economy. Colagiovanni finds fault with the both the KWS and the County Council for the human-wildlife conflict and lack of compensation for the taking of indigenous lands.
My personal observation of the visit to the Kaptubei Primary School demonstrates the authentic, non-commodified culture of the people of the valley. The students performed their traditional dance and song without the incentive of money and therefore had no reason to alter the authenticity of their performances for our viewing. This performance contrasts with the local community ecotourism projects’ cultural performances and explanations that may be altered in order to please tourists’ expectations.
Comparison of Kenyan and Australian Ecotourism Benefits of Local Communities
Australia’s ecotourism industry creates several benefits for the local indigenous communities of Australia that are not as easily realized in Kenya. The indigenous communities of Australia are able to choose among a variety of ecotourism economic benefits, to maintain their cultural heritage, and to empower themselves with the opportunity to make decisions about tourism development. These benefits are made possible with the governmental policies toward ecotourism in Australia and demonstrate the potential benefits that Kenya’s indigenous communities could enjoy from ecotourism.
Australia’s governmental ecotourism policies that included local community benefits, The National Ecotourism Program and the National Ecotourism Accreditation Program, set the stage for a political demand for local community benefits that is linked to the demand for a conservation of resources. The Kenya Wildlife Service and County Councils’ decision to keep the two realms separate causes harm for both areas. The local communities do not feel as important as the resources and also do not feel a need to conserve them at the government’s request. Joseph Kathiw’a of ESOK, Dr. Muusya Mwinzi from Moi University’s Department of Wildlife Management, and Tricia Colagiovanni, a scholar on local communities in protected areas, all state the government’s management problems with tourism and protected areas are the major reason for a lack of maximum local community benefits from the areas. If the government of Kenya linked local community benefit with conservation, then the local cultures of Kenya would be able to achieve the wide range of benefits that indigenous Australians enjoy. Aborigines and Kenyans alike enjoy the economic benefit of employment from tourism. However, what the Kenyans lack is the Aborigines’ opportunity to invest in the tourism infrastructure and also the power to run their own tour operations. The Aborigines insulate themselves against negative impacts by limiting visitation and photography of sacred sites. Due to insufficient contact with local communities, such as the Maasai boma, I do not know if the people of local ecotourism projects make a point not to take people to sacred areas or limit tourists’ traditional knowledge.
The Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime Tours company illustrates an empowered society of indigenous people who have the resources to market their tours on an international level. They are in charge of decisions made about tourism and can also provide tourists with an explanation of their spiritual relationship to the resources, which allows the tourists to respect and appreciate the essence of their culture. The resentment that Kenyans feel towards their resources due to the disempowerment they feel from being left out of decisions, the human-wildlife conflict they face, and the difficulty of domestic tourism due to expensive travel costs prevent them from easily conveying this authentic and enriching cultural experience for tourists.
Chapter 6 – Conclusion
A comparison between Kenyan ecotourism and Australian ecotourism allows for
an assessment of the possible benefits that the local communities of Kenya can
derive from ecotourism. This assessment can be made due to the strong ecotourism
industry and political support for Australian local community benefits from
ecotourism that are absent in Kenya’s industry. Kenya’s government
has no ecotourism policy because it does not realize that the management of
people and the management of protected areas are intertwined. Without policies
concerning local community benefit, efforts to promote ecotourism are diminished.
However, with the evidence from Australia, Kenya can learn how to benefit communities
more and achieve conservation goals.
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