Responsible Tourism as defined in Cape Town in 2002 at the World Summit for Sustainable Development is: “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.” Responsible Tourism requires that operators, hoteliers, governments, local people and tourists take responsibility, take action to make tourism more sustainable”
At Let’s Go Travel we are passionate about Responsible Tourism and actively practice it by working with social enterprises whose goals are to helping people who don’t have the same opportunities as us. By working within tourism zones this enables the local people who are part of the social enterprise to also benefit from tourism.
We are also keenly aware that we must do our part to protect the environment in which we operate is a key aspect of Responsible Tourism, to that effect we have engaged Travelife who are the leading sustainability certification body and in the process of becoming certified.
The lack of a vested interest in conservation by the local people living around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park makes it very difficult to implement schemes that benefit the people, wildlife and nature within the area. The new process looked to create key linkages between international tour operators, local destination management companies and local service providers to enable goods and services to consumed by tourists, where the financial and social benefits were felt directly by the local people providing them and thus changing their perception of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and tourism as a whole to a more positive one.
Below are some of the products are services that are now available in Bwindi as a consequence of the initiative being completed.
Basket Weaving and Nature Walks
Ride 4 a Woman - Buhoma
Ride 4 a Woman is a social enterprise set up to help women living in the Buhoma sector of Bwindi. The programme originally started by renting bicycles to tourists but nearly a decade later they have diversified to sewing, accommodation and were selected to be a part of the responsible tourism weaving initiative! The enterprise is run by Evelyn Habassa and her Husband Dennis
Change A Life Bwindi was set up to help people around the Ruhija sector Bwindi to raise themselves out of poverty and engender social mobility within the region. The numerous projects empower the community to build a secure and sustainable future for themselves and for Bwindi National park. They were also chosen to be part of the responsible tourism weaving initiative and is headed up by Tina.
1 – A Survey was done of households in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, specifically within the Buhoma, Ruhija and Rushaga sectors to find out what are the current benefits from tourism as well as the appetite to be part of a process that would enable them to benefit directly from Tourism in Bwindi.
4 – As there were already established weavers and guides in both the northern and southern sectors of Bwindi, a select group of them were chosen to undertake the training. Sanna Gateja a world-renowned Ugandan artist took charge of the weaving training and Johnnie Kamugisha, the President of the Uganda Birds Club and a Deputy Leader of the Uganda Guiding Association trained the selected guides and created new cultural and nature trails. The Bee Keeping training was carried out by Brian Mugisha who is the Managing Director of Golden Bees Honey.
2 – There was an overwhelming consensus that the people who lived around Bwindi wanted to get more involved in Tourism. However, they felt that their existing products or services were not up to scratch and they needed assistance in getting access to tourists if those two keys concerns were addressed they believed they could benefit from Tourism.
5 – The aim of this process is to enable international tour operators to include the new products and services within their itineraries which would enable tourists to stay one more night in Bwindi and enjoy the area for more than just the mountain gorillas. A “Gorilla Friendly” tag was created to be displayed on all products or services that have been through this training process so that they can be visible to all consumers.
3 – The following products and services were identified as the ones the process should focus on, Weaving, Wood Carving, Cultural / Nature walks, Bee Keeping and Market Gardens as there was already a generic skill set for these which could be elevated through upskilling. Work began to identify people with the right skill set that would be able to train local men and women living in the Bwindi area who wanted to take part in this process.
6 – With the basket weaving, 3 new trails underway and a honey shop all now operational, the focus has shifted to creating market gardens within specific areas in Bwindi that will grow fruit and vegetables that lodges are able to purchase and wood carving which tries to draw on the local heritage of the area.
Other Responsible Tourism Activities
Responsible tourism gives the indigenous peoples that live within or close to conservation areas in Uganda an opportunity to benefit from tourism, while also educating them on the need for conservation. Many of these communities are poor, marginalised and in much need of many basics like clean water and healthcare. These programs support a range of skills training and income generating activities that preserve the environment and provide supplementary incomes.
For visitors, these initiatives are an intimate cultural experience that reveals the true heart of Uganda and the resourcefulness of her peoples. They are also an opportunity for visitors to volunteer, whatever their skill, and leave and change a Ugandan community forever.