Case study: Ecotourism in the Maasai Mara, Kenya

Photograph of a lion in Kenya

Tourism brings income to Kenya and gives tourists a greater understanding of the area's animals and plants.

The Maasai Mara is especially popular for safari holidays, offering tourists the chance to observe the annual migration of the wildebeest and zebra.

Tourism can also have negative impacts on the area. These need to be managed carefully to ensure that the natural environment isn't damaged for future generations.

The Kenyan government has set up very strict rules about how hotel chains can ensure they balance the needs of the tourist and the needs of the local community.

Ecotourism Kenya runs a standards scheme where 86 facilities have received 23 Gold, 43 Silver and 20 Bronze standard eco-rating certificates.

Ecotourism can play a large part in helping to ensure that there are many social and economic positives coming from ecotourism.

These include:

  • Providing well-paid, stable jobs for the locals - these jobs include a wide range of services for tourists.
  • High quality education and staff training - many employees and their families will be supported through their education and will be encouraged to continue to learn through their career development.
  • ‘Community Development Projects’ - many of local hotels and safari lodges and camps have set up their own ‘Community Development Projects’ where they will support the local community by helping to build homes and infrastructure, wells and water supplies, telecommunications and electricity. Many are also involved in helping improve the healthcare of local communities and will work closely with doctors and health organisations to improve the health of local people.
  • Education - some organisations will also support local schools and make sure that they are provided with all the provisions that will encourage children to go to school.

However, perhaps the largest impact that ecotourism can make is in how it can help to impact the environment. These include:

  • Supporting local conservation efforts – the money that tourists pay will help to pay for local guides and rangers who will be tasked with helping to protect the land and the wildlife in a particular area. This might also enable scientific research that might help to sustain animal numbers. Training will be given to local guides so that they do not disturb the animals. Jeep and minibus numbers will be kept to a minimum to ensure that new tracks are not created which can cause soil erosion.
  • Sustainable buildings – any new building for a hotel or safari lodge needs to be planned carefully so that it integrates into the environment easily. Local products should be used so that they do not need to be transported long distances.
  • Water – water management systems should be developed to ensure that new building will not take too much water away from the local ecosystem. Grey water (from washing) and black water (from toilets and sewage) needs to be filtered and reused.
  • Electricity – should be generated from a sustainable source such as solar panels.
  • Waste – should be recycled as much as possible so that there is very little that needs to be incinerated. Strategies for managing waste and for encouraging recycling should be emphasised within every resort.

As a result, any new tourism development in the area should not have any negative environmental impact on the local environment and if anything, should have a positive impact.

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