Some of you may know, the whole reason I went to Tanzania was for an Ecotourism class with my school, the University of Maine at Farmington. Eco-Tourism, also known as Responsible Tourism or Sustainable, is tourism that brings sustainability to the community. This can be done in a variety of ways, and many ecotourism companies hit most of these "qualifications": employing local people and paying them a fair wage, preserving land, taking care of the wildlife, and also giving back to the community.
During our trip, we met with multiple ecotourism groups. While all of them were fantastic to meet with, I had a hard time making the connection to disabilities in Tanzania. While we didn't meet with any groups that benefited people with disabilities directly (Shanga isn't an ecotourism group), there were still many groups that benefited the community as far as education and children goes.
On one of our first days, we visited a local coffee cooperative, through an ecotourism group called Honey Badger. While we didn't stay at Honey Badger, we did have an opportunity to visit, talk to one of the owners Joseph, and eat dinner there. While talking to Joseph, we learned that they greatly support the school that is next door to the lodge, due to Joseph's mother working there. One of the ways that they benefit the school is by selling souvenir items (jewelry, clothing, etc.) to the guests at the lodge, and giving all of the proceeds directly to the school. Needless to say, I bought a few items there!
Obviously, if you read my last post, Rhotia Valley Lodge and Children's Home is also a clear example of an ecotourism group that benefits children. Not only do they have teachers on site for the younger children, but they also send their older children to secondary school and pay for their fees. Also, if the student takes full advantage of what the home is offering and does well in school, they will also pay for them to attend university. Although Mary isn't yet receiving schooling, due to the lack of teachers with experience working with children with disabilities, they are looking into programs that might still benefit her.
According to, "Tanzania: Whose Eden is it?" by Martha Honey, tourism in Tanzania "has become the country's most important foreign exchange earner ... [and] is now viewed as one of Tanzania's best hope for development" (Honey 249). However, too many tourist industries are based in North American or European countries where very little benefit is actually given to the visited country. Through ecotourism, tourists are still able to get the great experience of visiting another country, while also being assured that the company they are going through is sustainable to the community.
Before going on this trip, I never gave much thought to the exploitation of workers or damage to the environment many companies allow. Now, I am sure to only go through ecotourism certified companies. I know that they will be taking care of their workers, while also taking care of the environment and the community. That, is something I think more people should care about, and I hope that I can take what I've learned and educate others.
Honey, Martha. 2008. “Tanzania: Whose Eden is it?” and Sustainable Development. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 215-255.
Link to Honey Badger's Website: http://www.honeybadgerlodge.com/activities
Link to Rhotia Valley's Website: http://www.rhotiavalley.com/