Tourism is arguably considered the world’s largest industry. Tourism employs more people than any other sector according to data from UN World Tourism Organization and World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Selling under the realm of “Pearl of Africa”, the tourism sector in Uganda is growing at a fast rate than its neighbors – Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania according to a report from the Ministry of Tourism. This makes tourism one of the major contributors to foreign exchange earnings. According to recent statistics from WTTC, the share of GDP derived from tourism stood at 8.4% in 2013. This shows how, with continued investment in the sector, tourism has potential benefits to the country.
Ironically, the tourism sector still falls short in positioning itself as an important avenue for uplifting local communities out of poverty. This is the case especially in communities living at the periphery of major tourist destinations such as Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a gorilla hub in southwestern Uganda. At the same time, communities such as those close to Bwindi are important stakeholders in conserving the park. The government and private sector should work together to forge ways for communities to benefit from tourism. A good example is gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park where a small amount of the gorilla levy fee of $600 is meant to support local initiatives. Without winning support of the local communities, proponents of conservation will continue to deal with rising cases of human-wildlife conflict in protected areas in Uganda and beyond.
There are few ideas that government agencies and private tourism operators can do to ensure that tourism plays a meaningful role in improving livelihoods of rural communities in major tourist destinations.
Firstly, investment in community based tourism projects should be taken as a step forward. This involves connecting local enterprises such as community lodges and artisan groups to the tourism value chain. Tourists can be encouraged to stay at community lodges as way to indirectly support community driven businesses. Revenues generated by local communities from such enterprises can help meet other household necessities.
Secondly, creating linkages between the tourism industry and other sectors like agriculture can be a step forward in creating opportunities for the local people. For instance lodges and guest houses should come up with mechanisms to outsource food and other possible supplies from the local markets.
Bamboo Ecotours is is taking this approach of investing proceeds from safaris and tours into community based enterprises and social services such as health care, education and provision of safe drinking water.
The south western Uganda is naturally gifted with a number of freshwater lakes that provide a good avenue for relaxation to the tourists coming to the region especially for mountain gorilla trekking in Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla national parks. The lakes include Lake Bunyonyi in Kabale district, Lake Mutanda and Chahafi in Kisoro district.
Eco-tourism activities around the lakes is also growing where by visitors can have different accommodation options, learn about the local cultures and meeting the local people. At Bamboo Ecotours, we do our best to include different activities that can be done around the lakes into our travel itineraries. Our suggested activities always include canoeing, swimming, snake safaris and nature walks around the lakes. In the future, we plan to include spot fishing as another adventure activity. We hope that you will also take part and enjoy the breathtaking experiences that these lakes have to offer and the south western region in general.
In the bid to promote the tourism potential in Kisoro district, Bamboo Ecotours has launched a travel guide namely - www.visitkisoro.com. The website features Kisoro's tourism activities which include mountain gorilla tracking, the Batwa Trail and canoeing at Lake Mutanda. The website is unique as it is the first travel guide to be established focusing solely on promoting Kisoro as the best tourism destination in Uganda. We are currently looking for photos taken in Kisoro to be featured on the website. If you would like to share any photos, please send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Check the website for details: www.visitkisoro.com
Sunset view at Lake Mutanda
As part of the drive to reach more people interested in visiting Uganda, I have designed a new page on a site called squidoo. I recommend every one to check this page as I will be posting different travel insights and experiences in Uganda. This week's post is highlighting the best tourism attractions that every adventurous traveler won't miss checking out. The attractions listed include gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park, canoeing at Lake Mutanda in Kisoro district and volunteer opportunities with community projects.
To check the squidoo page, click here
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Thanks for choosing Bamboo Ecotours,
Edison Ndayambaje, Managing Director
Are you passionate about making a long lasting change in rural communities in Uganda? Then Bamboo Ecotours is happy to find you a volunteer placement that meets your personal interests! Our volunteers come from different countries and backgrounds. In the past, we have had volunteers from the US, UK, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain among others.
We offer diverse volunteer opportunities listed below. Go through the list and please let us know which project you would like to support and will let you know how much it costs.
Emails us at: email@example.com
We are looking for volunteers to support the following community projects in Kisoro, Uganda:
There are two community lodges that need your management, hospitality training, website design and social media marketing expertise. These are: Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp located at the main gate of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Mutanda Eco Community Centre located just 6 kilometers away from Kisoro town. Both lodges are community owned and they provide accommodation, food and camping services to visitors of Kisoro.
2. Teaching at a community kindergarten
You will be teaching English, basic counting, sports, and games to young children between 4 and 7 years old at Mgahinga Community Nursery School. The school was founded by a local association and the current enrollment is 80 children.
3. Handicraft group
If you enjoy working with income generating activities, then come and support a group of local men and women who make handicrafts as a source of income. The group has a shop at Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp and they meet weekly to make the handicrafts. The volunteers can help with proposing marketing strategies, improving product design and training.
4. Public health and conservation
In collaboration with different partners, Bamboo Ecotours supports a veterinary project in villages adjacent to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The project focuses mainly on vaccinating dogs against rabies and deworming livestock to prevent spread of disease from community livestock to the wildlife in the national park. If you are a vet, biologist or interested in conservation, this project is a good fit.
5. Health care
If you are interested in working on health care issues, apply for this volunteer opportunity to work at the front-line of health care delivery in Kisoro. You can work at Gisozi Health Center near Mgahinga Gorilla National Park or Chihe Health Center near Lake Mutanda. If you are interested in working at a much larger hospital, there is a possibility of working at Kisoro Hospital. This opportunity is also open to non-medical professionals. In this case, you can provide support to the nurses when delivering care to the patients.
There are opportunities to train and couch local football clubs. There are two football clubs we work closely with. These are "The Primates Group" and “Nyarusiza Football Club”.
7. Computer training
Bamboo Ecotours collaborates with Kisoro Vision High School to offer computer training to students. As a volunteer, you would teach computer basic skills like MS Word, Excel and Internet browsing to secondary school students.
8. Vocational training
This entails teaching vocational skills like driving, knitting and tailoring at Kisoro International Vocational Institute.
Here you will have an opportunity to work with local farmers who grow Irish Potatoes. You will learn how the farmers prepare the land, plant the seed and even how they harvest. You will also have an opportunity to work at a coffee farm. Coffee is Uganda's leading export earner and Kisoro produces the best coffee in the country.
10. Project monitoring and operations support
There are opportunities to support office operations of our local partner NGO - Mgahinga Community Development Organization. The office work includes working as a monitoring and evaluation officer and finance and accounting officer. This would be a great opportunity to experience how small NGOs operate in rural Uganda.
"Travel with Bamboo Ecotours and make a difference in rural communities in Uganda"