Community-based ecotourism as a sustainable development option in the Taita Hills, Kenya (2006)

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This study aims at identifying the existing and potential resources, as well as recognizing the hindrances, for community-based ecotourism development in the Taita Hills in south-eastern Kenya. The indigenous mountain rain forests on the hills are rich in biodiversity, but severely degraded because of encroachment caused by the dynamics of increased population, socio-politics and economics. The research problems are based on the hypothesis that there is no tourism in the Taita Hills generating income for the local economy and high population density combined with poverty creates a need for alternative employment opportunities as well as for sustainable ways of forest resource management. The data for this study was gathered during two field trips in Kenya, in January-February 2004 and 2005, as a part of the Taita Project within the Department of Geography at the University of Helsinki. The qualitative methods used consist of RRA and PRA techniques, in-depth interviews, a structured questionnaire and literature analysis as well as attendance on excursions and a workshop with conservation experts and officials. Four case areas in the Taita Hills are studied. The study concludes that alternative livelihoods are needed among the Taita HillsĀ“ rural population and community-based ecotourism is seen as a way of bringing financial benefits for households as well as reviving the fading cultural traditions and indigenous knowledge about forest use. The governmental policies, district level development plans and some NGOs support ecotourism development. The Forest Act 2005 forms base for local participation in forest management. The unique natural features, the welcoming Taita-culture and the location in the coastal tourism circle favour Taita Hills. However, this kind of development has its risks, such as too rapid change of forest usage level and the exposure of communities to an ?ecotourism treadmill? ? process. The costbenefit ration of marketing for hard ecotourists is generally low and the tourism infrastructure needs upgrading in the Taita Hills. More tight collaboration is important between the different level stakeholders working for conservation and development. Community-based ecotourism in Taita Hills, when carefully planned and managed, could be one opportunity for Kenya to diversify its tourism product supply and for forest-adjacent communities to gain tangible benefits on a sustainable basis from forests.
Year: 2006
Language: English