Kenya: A Paradigm For Sustainable Development

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Kenya: A Paradigm for Sustainable Development Introduction: The purpose of this paper is to analyze the historical development of Kenya’s nature based tourist industry in order to develop a better understanding of the concepts relating to sustainable tourism in the developing world. I will show how past resource management practices has affected tourism’s carrying capacity. Because of the complicatedness of this paper I will break it down into five sections. In the first section I will define sustainable development. In the second I will briefly describe the history and current state of nature based tourism in Kenya. In the third section I will give examples of elements that threaten to saturate the carrying capacity of nature based tourism in Kenya. In the fourth and final section I will give a brief historical account of ecotourism’s presence in Kenya and give ways in which it can be a possible source of sustainable development in the future. Part 1: What does sustainable development really mean? The most common definition of sustainable development is: “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987).” In essence, for sustainable development to occur there must be some sort of trade-off between the aspirations of the present and those of the future. Successful management of resources is the cornerstone of sustainable development. Creating sustainable development is especially important to nature based tourism because it completely relies on an ecological resource that is usually non-renewable and irreplaceable. Once the environmental resource has developed past the point where it is no longer attractive to perspective tourist the entire economy of the dependent host community will collapse. The maximum amount of positive development that can occur is determined by the carrying capacity. The carrying capacity is the saturation point where anymore development will result in the degeneration of future resources. All nature-based tourism locations have limited ecological, aesthetic, and social carrying capacities. The ecological carrying capacity is reached when the number of visitors starts to have a negative impact on the wildlife and environment (Whelan, p. 11.). The aesthetic carrying capacity is reached when tourists encounter so many other tourists that the intrinsic value of the beauty of the environment is marred (Whelan, p. 11). The social carrying capacity is reached when the number of tourist in relation to the host population increases to the point where there is increasing unfriendliness, and hostility directed towards the tourist (Jackson, p. 90). When a tourist destination reaches the saturation point of any of the three carrying capacities a decrease in the revenue generated by tourism will result.. The most important point in devising an optimal tourism development policy is not to let tourism grow to the extent or in the form that it brings about its own demise. It is essential to determine and monitor the carrying capacity of a tourist location. Unfortunately very few areas in the developing worlds have identified the carrying capacity, or determined how to avoid exceeding the carrying capacity. This is especially true for fragile ecosystems where the carrying capacity can dramatically change from season to season and year to year (Whelan, p. 31). Obtaining sustainable development is difficult, especially for developing countries. Widespread poverty and a general lack of financial resources make it difficult for poor countries to voluntarily curb growth. This is because often times sacrificing economic growth results in starvation and/or rampant suffering. Also, a community’s lack of financial resources can limit its ability to determine its economic direction. Also because the business in developing country’s are often owned by outside sources the locals have little or no input in business decisions. Furthermore developing countries often are plagued with political instability and governmental corruption that makes it difficult to enact ordinances controlling economic growth. Also, it is highly likely that by the time that a developing country realizes that their economic growth is unhealthy it is too late to turn back because of over-dependence on the tourism industry. According to the Tourism Development Magic Pentagon-Pyramid, created by Hansruedi Müller, there are five variables that must be balanced to ensure sustainability. The five variables are: economic health, subjective wellbeing of the locals, unspoiled nature, protection of resources, healthy culture, and optimum satisfaction of guest. Each of the variables are equal in value. According to Muller for sustainable tourism to occur there must be absolute harmony among the variables. This would mean maximizing the positive relationships between all the factors while keeping the negative repercussions to a minimum (France, p. 30). Part 2. A brief history of nature based tourism in Kenya. Kenya, commonly known as the ‘old man of nature tourism’, is the foremost ecotourism destination in the world (France, p. 90). Since 1987 nature based tourism has become Kenya’s largest foreign currency earner (Weaver, p. 114). In 1997 750,000 foreign tourist visited Kenya creating $502 million in revenue (Honey, p. 296).The strength of Kenya’s nature tourism can be attributed to Kenya’s vast park system and extensive wildlife population. Twenty-six parks, twenty-eight reserves, and one sanctuary span 17,000 square miles, or roughly 12 percent of Kenya’s territory (Honey, p. 294). Kenya boasts the largest concentration of wildlife anywhere in Africa as well as accommodating the greatest land migration of animals in the world (Honey, p. 293). The national parks are built upon the colonial era of big game hunting. Big game hunting was a symbol of Western superiority, not only over nature but racial and class domination. At the turn of the twentieth century Kenya was covered by healthy populations of a wide variety of wildlife. The animals were allowed to roam freely across the land, living in harmony with the native Africans. Soon after the colononization of Kenya in the late nineteenth century the “great white hunters” Made fortunes by selling ivory. The colonial powers encouraged the white setles to kill at will so that they could use the land for agricultural purposes. Hundreds of thousands of elephantst were decimated (Whelan, p. 24). The National Parks Ordinance of 1945 was teh first peace of hunting legislation which was designed to protect the wildlife from the native people.. Gradually it created what is now Kenya’s National Park System. When the national parks were created hundreds of thousands of rural people were forced to relocate outside of the parks boundaries (Honey, article). Even after Kenya’s independence in 1963 Colonialism and Western dominance could still be seen and understood in the way in which the Parks were managed. During the 1950’s Kenya only attracted about 1000 foreign tourist a year, most of whom were white elitist (Weaver, p. 120). After independence Kenya’s government made growth in the tourism sector a top priority. In 1965, a special department of tourism was created to develop a strategy to popularize Kenya as an attractive tourist destination (France, p. 91). Fueled by government incentives to foreign investors and major airlines the tourism industry grew at the astonishing rate of more than 300 percent between 1960 and 1972 (Honey p. 295). A significant proportion of the tourism being generated was Big game hunting by Europeans and Americans. By the 1970’s over hunting was threatening the survival of the big game species such as elephants, rhinos, and leopards. In 1977 the Kenyan government responded by declaring a complete ban on hunting (Whelan, p. 25). Despite the ban on hunting poaching still continued. Park management incompetence, corruption and the worldwide demand on ivory and other game products proliferated poaching. Between 1975 and 1990, Kenya’s elephant population dropped by 85 percent, and its rhinoceros population fell by 97 percent (Honey, p. 299). Following the ban wildlife viewing safaris replaced hunting, and within five years of the ban on hunting, nature tourism was a booming business (Whelan, p. 25). In 1987 the Hollywood film Out of Africa promoted Kenya’s natural beauty, breathtaking scenery, and wildlife which served to boost nature based tourism even more. In 1989 650,000 ecotourists, nearly twice the number as a decade before, visited Kenya (Whelan, p. 26). During the 1990’s Kenya’s tourism has been tumultuous. The Persian Gulf war caused tourism arrivals to drop and between 1990-91 Kenya’s share of the African market shrank 2% (Honey, p. 297). Between 1997 and mid-1998 election unrest, politically instigated ethnic clashes and killings along the coast, a crime wave, and unusually heavy rains caused 30 percent of the tourism sector workforce to be laid off (Honey, p. 297). In August 1998 the explosion of a terrorist bomb in the U.S. Embassy in downtown Nairobi caused the State Department to issue a travel warning, advising Americans against traveling to Kenya (Honey, p. 297). This event caused many Americans to cancel travel arrangements and Kenya’s tourist industry suffered even more. Over the past year the industry has recovered some. Hotels which were operating at 40 percent in 1998 are now operating at between 80-100 percent (Foottit, p. 32). Tourism in Kenya has had a turbulent history. There are many problems that face Kenya’s tourism industry. Decimation of wildlife populations, park overcrowding, financial ineptitude, and political instability are threatening the sustainable development of Kenya’s tourism resources. Changes in governmental attitudes and regulations are necessary for the preservation of Kenya’s natural resources. Part 3: Threats to the carrying capacity There are a number of factors that will determine the maximum revenue point that nature tourism will be able to obtain. Once the growth limitation has been exceeded the tourism industry will decline unless it is rejuvenated by resourceful ideas (Weaver, p. 14). The following is a brief list of the factors that threaten to overwhelm the three controlling capacities: social, ecological, and aesthetic:  Social: As the tourism density increases certain sections of the Kenyan population will become increasingly hostile to the presence of foreign tourists. A study of the Caribbean Islands showed that is a positive correlation between tourist density and “unfriendliness” towards tourists (Jackson, p.90). In theory, eventually there will be a saturation point where the number of tourists will have a negative impact on the desirability of Kenya as a destination for foreign tourist. Thus, decreasing arrivals and also tourism revenue. It is possible that the recent terrorism attacks against the U.S. Embassy could mirror the anti-foreign tourist sentiments of some Kenyans. If this is true Kenya has reached the saturation point of the social carrying capacity of tourism. The largest threat to the social carrying capacity is the treatment of the local people by the government. They have been removed from their land, told they couldn’t hunt, and instructed to allow wild game living in the parks to range freely over private lands. And until recently they have received little or no compensation. These disgruntled natives may be motivated to poach animals as means of, what they feel, is just compensation for their losses (Whelan, p. 32).  Ecological: The physical limitation of Kenya’s game parks poses the largest threat to Kenya’s nature tourism. This is because damage to the parks can be permanent or require a long time to reverse. Increasing development of tourism infrastructure along with increasing numbers of Land Rovers and zebra-striped vans are detrimental to the natural environment (Jackson, p. 90). Kenya has lost 43% of its total wildlife since 1977 (Butler, p. 1). Past practices of the ‘insularization’ of Kenya’s parks have been detrimental to wildlife breeding patterns and migration routes (Honey, p. 307). Also the continuing poaching, which may or may not be related to tourism, is threatening to decimate animal populations even further. Recently the worldwide ban on ivory trade has been lifted (Honey, p. 306). This will create a legitimate market for ivory, which may result in increases in poaching. Human damage to the ecological resources of nature tourism is increasingly becoming irreversible. Without severe measures to stop the degradation of the environment Kenya’s nature tourism industry will reach a saturation point. At this point tourist revenue will decline and maybe more importantly the intrinsically valuable wild life, and their natural surroundings, will be lost forever.  Aesthetic: As the density of tourist inside the game parks continues to rise the attractiveness of Kenya as a tourist destination declines. The crowded atmosphere that is being created takes away from the aesthetic beauty of a pristine environment. As a result of the loss to the aesthetic beauty of the parks Kenya will not be able to command as high a price as before (Jackson, p. 92). Typically when a nature based tourist attraction becomes overdeveloped the prices decline sharply as the numbers of tourists remain about the same (Jackson, p. 92). Part 4. History and future implications for Ecotourism. A. Definition: Ecotourism has been defined in many ways. Martha Honey defines ecotourism as: “travel to fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas that strives to be low impact and (usually) small scale. It helps educate the traveler; provides funds for conservation; directly benefits the economic development and political empowerment of local communities; and fosters respect for different cultures and for human rights (Honey, p. 6).” The concept of ecotourism relates to that of sustainable development. Both stress the importance of conserving the resources that are necessary for the survival of future generations. In protected natural areas such as Kenya’s national parks ecotourism ensures not only the preservation of the local economy but also the preservation of the local people and their inherent values and culture. For developing countries ecotourism represents a alternative solution to generating much needed foreign currency instead of more traditional destructive alternatives such as natural resource extraction. B. History of ecotourism in Kenya: Kenya has been a pioneer in ecotourism. It was the first country to adopt ecotourism principles and practices in its national park system. Initially ecotourism was used to give the local people surrounding the parks a stake in the preservation of the natural resources. The Kenyan government hoped that by allowing locals to profit from the parks existence they would be less motivated to poach the wild game in the park. C. Assessment of Kenya’s attempts to create sustainable ecotourism, and suggestions for improvement. A synopsis of the success of ecotourism in Kenya using the Honey’s seven characteristics of real ecotourism (Honey p. 22) as a measure:  Involves travel to natural destinations. Kenya is Africa’s most popular wildlife tourism destination.  Minimizes impact. Kenya has not been successful at minimizing impact. Overcrowding, conflicts between humans and wildlife, and the production of large amounts of waste by lodges has caused protected areas to suffer.  Possible solutions: educating tourists about acceptable behavior, and the encouragement of domestic tourism. Kenyan parks could increase the visitor carrying capacities by developing zoning strategies that would help to more equally disperse visitors throughout the parks (Weaver, p. 123). This would cause a more balanced use of the parks and prevent one part of a park from being overused.  Builds environmental awareness. Kenya has been moderately successful at implementing this characteristic. Typically the guides are very experienced in the environmental issues of the local area. The main complaint by Western tourists is that the guides often have poor interpretive skills Honey, p. 333).  Possible solutions: better training of employees.  Provides direct financial benefits for conservation. Kenya has been moderately successful at implementing this characteristic. However, among the individual parks there are some large discrepancies. Parks such as the Amboseli Narional Park, and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve have allowed the local communities to take a percentage of the revenue for community development. The rest of the income generated went directly back into the park, instead of to

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