Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Tourist Industry Profits, the People Don't

Despite the billions of shillings earned from tourism annually, communities around the world-famous Masai Mara Game Reserve still wallow in poverty. The poverty index is high and it is only a few people, hoteliers and tour proprietors who are reaping maximum benefits from the vibrant tourism industry.

"We are still waiting for the day when we will reap benefits from tourism. The situation is bad and it calls for urgent intervention," says Ben Kipeno, a community leader at Sekenani area of the reserve. Kipeno says it is only the Narok and Transmara County Council officials, hoteliers and tour companies’ proprietors who are pocketing millions of shillings, leaving behind too little to uplift the living standards of the locals who bear the brunt of human-wildlife conflict. "The locals who have conserved the ecosystem are spectators who just watch as the money is swindled," he says.

Sammy Nkoitoi, the chairman of Siana Wildlife Conservation Trust explains
"There is nothing to show of the billions of shilling accrued from tourism. There are no visible infrastructural developments like schools and health facilities that go along to ameliorate the hardships locals face...The annual migration of wildebeest from Serengeti in Tanzania to Mara has been named the seventh wonder of the world but the event which led to the increased tourist arrivals has not changed the living standards of the locals." He says people in the area die of treatable ailments because there are no health facilities and children have no access to education because there are few schools."Malaria, pneumonia and typhoid are claiming lives and there are a few and ill equipped schools in the place. To what benefit is this resource to the locals?" he wonders. Nkoitoi faults owners of lodges and camps in the reserve for not giving back to the communities yet they post millions of shillings in profits annually from tourism proceeds.

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