Read the report of the six person delegation of pastoral community activists and one radio reporter who travelled to Basecamp Maasai Mara in southern Kenya to exchange experiences of sustainable tourism practices, using green energy and practicing water conservation, developing microenterprises, addressing HIV/AIDS and achieving gender equality. “It was very enlightening and beneficial to the participants,” writes Daniel Salau of SIMOO. “We hope this will be the beginning of long-term partnership.”
The full report (included below) offers details of what this peer-to-peer learning visit entailed, and what sustainable development looks like on the ground.
Simba Maasai Outreach Organization (SIMOO)/Indigenous Information Network (IIN) Training Visit to Basecamp Maasai Mara Eco-Lodge
Report Prepared by John K. Parsitau, SIMOO
A team of five participants, three from Simba Maasai Outreach Organization (SIMOO) and two from the Indigenous Information Network (IIN), participated in a three days training program on Ecotourism in Practice at Basecamp Maasai Mara, Kenya facilitated by Basecamp Foundation. During the training the participants were offered training on topics covering: eco design, eco friendly camp operations, ecotourism product and marketing, community partnership programs and capacity building by the Base camp staff members.
During the three days visit, the participants were taken through the concepts of responsible tourism. The participants learnt a lot from the community members, as they were able to interact freely in and outside the camp. The team also got an opportunity to conduct interviews with the locals related to renewable energy and conservation that will be aired in the Kenya Broadcasting Cooperation (KBC) (Maasai Radio Program). One of the participants, Tabitha Sitatian, is an employee of KBC and does Kimaasai radio programs production. This will enable many people benefit from the five people trip. The radio station attracts thousands of Kenya and Tanzania Maasai listeners.
Basecamp (Dream camp) became operational in 1998 after different people with diverse ideas came together. The camp is bordering the Maasai Mara National reserve along the Talek River. The camp is run by a pure solar power system that is used for lighting and the hot water system. Water used at Basecamp is pumped from a borehole near the Talek River. The brown (used) water goes through a sand filtering cleaning system. Water use is minimized as much as possible and is recycled; all the used water from the shower and sink is collected and re-used to water planted indigenous trees.
Basecamp is an example of an eco-lodge that has successfully dealt with ideals of ecotourism. This was as a result of realization of the value of available resources at Talek in Maasai Mara.
The eco-lodge was founded on the principles of responsible tourism based on People, Planet and Profit. The endeavour of Basecamp Maasai Mara is to minimize the negative impact on the local environment. This was also prompted by the ecotourism concept, which, from the fact that the local ecosystems outside the officially protected area contain a higher number of both animals and plant biodiversity, encourages active participation by the communities in natural resource related income generating activities in their habitat or adjacent to protected areas.
At Basecamp, we found the following components co-existing harmoniously; local people, environment, wildlife and the guests. The guests’ activities at Basecamp include;
– Guided game drives by Basecamp experienced guides at the expansive savannah Mara reserve where you are able to interact with lions, elephants, buffaloes, cheetahs, and wildebeests among other wildlife in the Mara reserve.
– Walking safaris in the morning conducted with local guides, where one interacts freely with nature, wildlife and learn more about medicinal plants and general Maasai culture.
– Planting of trees – A project of the Green warriors’ movement advocating for a clean environment. It is involved in reforestation and over thirty thousand (30000) trees have been planted in the camp.
– Visit to Basecamp community supported projects
Basecamp, under their slogan “Leave a positive footprint,” is involved in a number of community based-activities related to its big five objectives, namely:
i. Educational support through working with the local Talek primary school by linking it with tourists who want to affiliate themselves with education and schools programs. One tourist was able to support new class rooms and a dormitory for girls in the local school through the traveler’s philanthropy program. This program is about involving guests in contributing and supporting local communities in sustainable projects.
ii. Education for loyalty, to benefit Basecamp staff or siblings.
iii. Girls scholarships. Currently 27 girls are in a primary boarding school and three in high school under scholarship from Basecamp.
iv. Koyiaki guiding school. The school was started in 2005 with the objective of training the local youth to acquire skills to be absorbed in the tourism industry and act as ambassadors of conservation in the Mara region.
The local community contributed a piece of land where the school is built. For reasons of sustainability, the wilderness camp was built and opened to bidding, which Basecamp won and was franchised to run on behalf of the school. Through the existing arrangement, 50% of the revenue currently collected is given to the school and the rest is used for community projects and camp operations. Over 100 local students have gone through the school.
Basecamp believes in promoting good health in order to develop communities with economic empowerment and nature conservation skills and with a proud cultural expression. Through community outreach programs and by use of trained staff, Basecamp is able to train the local community on the dangers of HIV/AIDS. They are also partnering with the local Talek Health Centre on all health issues.
3. Conservation and Protection
Basecamp is involved in conservation efforts for both animals and plant biodiversity. They do this in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service to save animals, like cheetahs, that are facing extinction. Tree planting is done to improve forest cover to curb soil erosion and improve water quality.
4. Creativity and Culture
Basecamp, through a local women’s group in Talek, comprised of 113 women, created The Maasai Brand (TMB), which is investing in creativity and culture. The group was started in 2003 with the objective of improving the livelihoods of the local women and to maintain and improve skills and designs of the local arts. The women operate at the Basecamp art and craft centre. The women earn 75% of the price of sales of the products and 25% is used for cost of materials and marketing.
5. Climate Change
With the objective of turning carbon zero traveling to the Basecamp destination, indigenous trees are planted to counter climate change. Basecamp practices the Reduce, Re-use & Recycle concept in order to promote the best available technologies and environmental practices, including the use of power solar. Solar heated water, solar panels and eco-toilets are among the sustainable aspects of these technological strategies in use. Under this objective, such efforts are expected to mitigate climate change through environmental conservation efforts like planting of trees to act as carbon sinks, bring rains, clean air, and reduce desertification, restoration of water catchments areas and restoration of rains patterns.
This would also diversify sources of livelihoods by guaranteeing income from sustainable land use, i.e. leasing, irrigation by use of boreholes in a sustainable way and re-investing in sustainable business.
It was notable to the participants that a number of achievements have been made towards impacting the lives of the local community. They include
– The construction of an eco-lodge
– Establishment of a source of income for the community, such as conservation area fees
– Training and employment of local Maasai at the lodge.
– Beadwork activities for women
– Re-use of dead logs as timber
– Provision of bursaries (scholarships)
– Construction of permanent shelters by the local Maasai from observations made by use of renewable energy and local materials.
Basecamp, in partnership with the local community, is planning to create a conservation area (Naboisho) merging Olkinyei and Koyiaki Group ranches.
Base camp has received a number of awards influenced by the positive ecological activities in practice after assessments and evaluation for ecotourism development and eco-rating. They include:
1. 2005- Bronze by Ecotourism Society of Kenya
2. 2007- Gold by Ecotourism Kenya for Leadership and Commitment in best practices in ecotourism.
3. 2008- Award for being one of the best eco-lodges in the world.
Delegation: lessons learned
– Climate is a key resource for tourism
– Communities, tourism destinations and environments (people and planet) are vulnerable to climate change
– Forest/trees act as carbon sinks
– Sustainable ecotourism can improve the well being of local communities living within and around tourism destination globally
– Tourism moves people more than any other industry in the world to visit some of the world’s remotest areas, thus giving travelers’ philanthropy a big potential to change people’s welfare
– Climate change is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing mankind in the 21st century.
– Lack of local capacity in developing and managing both natural and cultural resources found within local communities.
– Sustainable energy, water and waste management system in Basecamp Maasai Mara should be emulated.
– Basecamp Maasai Mara has created an integrated system where nature, people and wildlife co-exist harmoniously.
Ways forward/possible areas of partnership
• Sharing experiences, knowledge in areas of solar energy exploitation.
• Entrepreneurship development, especially women’s handicrafts and eco-tourism, among others, and establishing the market for the same.
• More exchange visits between the two communities to consolidate partnership in pertinent areas such as food insecurity, cultural exploitation, climate change and intellectual property rights, among others.
• Localizing human rights issues, e.g. education of girls, anti-FGM (female genital mutilation) campaigns, wildlife/tourism benefits and indigenous peoples’ rights in general.