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Untold Story

Tanzania: Kilimanjaro - Untold Story of Africa's Highest Peak

TOGETHER with Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater, Mount Kilimanjaro was named among Africa's new 'Seven Natural Wonders' in February, this year.

Apart from being known worldwide as Africa's highest peak and the World's tallest free-standing mountain, Kilimanjaro which pumps into the national coffers revenues amounting to nearly 80 bil/- is not usually given its deserved credit of supporting people from poor communities directly and transforming lives of nearly 30,000 Tanzanians annually.

Mount Kilimanjaro apparently boasts more than its legendary astounding height, three gigantic cones and battalion of trekkers who set out every year to conquer its highest elevation at Kibo; Kili is reported to be pumping more than 20bil/- cash into local residents' pockets annually.

Local communities around Mount Kilimanjaro, according to recent studies earn in excess of 1.7 bil/- per month from activities taking place around this giant natural wonder. The money which keeps counting upwards as the number of tourists continue to flow at its base, goes straight into ordinary citizens' pockets.

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI), which is Britain's leading Independent 'Think tank,' studied the activities around Kilimanjaro and documented that local residents earn nearly 30 per cent of the total revenue raised at Mount Kilimanjaro from tourists and other foreign visitors.
Funded by the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV), the ODI study concluded that it was the world's highest and most successful transfer of resources from international tourists directly into poor communities in the locality.

"This is the most successful transfer of resources from foreign visitors to poor people living around the mountain," reads part of the ODI study report. This form of direct earning by peasants from any tourism feature has never been documented anywhere in the world be it Europe, Africa or Asia.
And of all the tourists' destinations in Tanzania, including some of the most popular, it is only Mount Kilimanjaro which channels the largest share of its earnings (over 28 per cent) straight into local residents' pockets, thus enriching the local community like no other tourist feature anywhere in the world.

The study titled 'making success work for the poor: Package tourism in Northern Tanzania!' was conducted around Mt Kilimanjaro in Moshi and Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) in Arusha, by Jonathan Mitchell, Jodie Keane and Jenny Laidlaw, who interviewed ordinary people, tour operators and other key players in the industry.

Mount Kilimanjaro which is Africa's highest peak attracts more than 60,000 climbers to either its peak or somewhere in between with the earnings from the incountry tourists destined there being averaged at around US$ 50 million (more than 80 bil/- ) per year.

According to the SNVODI study, the around 80 bil/- generated by Mt Kilimanjaro per year, is also a significant economic input in a rural context. The study found that 28 percent of the tourism earnings from Mt Kilimanjaro which is equivalent to over US$ 13 million or 20.8 bil/- is considered pro-poor expenditure, on that it goes straight into the pockets of local people there.

This should be something for the locals to take into consideration bearing in mind that of late there have been cases of people invading the mountain forest reserves, harvesting logs or setting trees on fire. School leavers living around Kili are never the ones to worry about employment because there is always vacancy for porters, cooks, guides and other service providers needed to assist climbers.
The basis for this estimate of pro-poor expenditure, according to the ODI includes all the wages and tips received by climbing staff that are termed to be 100 per cent pro-poor. All guides and porters interviewed at Kilimanjaro were all from poor backgrounds.

Also 90 per cent of food and beverage expenditure by tourists at Kili was found to be both pro-poor and locallysourced, because almost all food consumed on Mount Kilimanjaro is bought from the local market in Moshi, and the suppliers to this market are overwhelmingly local small-holder farmers.
The study indicates that 50 per cent of expenditure on cultural goods and services was pro-poor on that craft shop, retail outlets and curio stalls suggest that poor producers receive approximately 50 per cent of the retail price - a typical retail mark-up for the craft sector.

Around 16 per cent of all accommodation costs were found to be paid in non-managerial wages and are therefore also considered pro-poor. "We estimate that 5 per cent of National Park fees expenditure is pro-poor because although the Tanzania National Parks staff is well-paid, TANAPA still employs local casual labourers for cleaning operations through which significant funds are also distributed," commented the researchers.

Kilimanjaro National Park fees include a US$60 daily entrance fee, a US$ 40 daily camping fee (or US$ 50 daily hut accommodation fee if ascending via the Marangu route) and a US$ 20 rescue fee. The Mount Kilimanjaro climbing value chain has the highest proportions of propoor expenditure as a percentage of total in-country tourist expenditure of any tourist destination studied to date by ODI.
More than 500 guides, 10,000 porters and 500 cooks get permanent employment in the climbing expeditions at Kilimanjaro and these benefits from 60 per cent of the pro-poor earnings. There are also around 30,000 people who benefit indirectly from handicraft business and sales of other tourist targeting artifacts not to mention thousands of local farmers, peasants and traders who supply food and services to visitors.

The total pro-poor impact of Kilimanjaro (US$13 million) is, however, a drop in the sea when reflected in the total tourism earnings from the annual number of tourists (about 700,000) who visit the Northern Tanzania Circuit and who reportedly spend a total of US$ 103 million (165 billion/-) per year, touring mostly Mt Kilimanjaro, Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater.
Other Northern Zone attractions contribute just 18 per cent to the local communities surrounding them. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority contributes US$ 1.2 Million every year to the local Pastoral Community.

"The implications of this are that, if the aim is to use tourism to help lift people out of poverty at scale, then mainstream tourism should be the primary target for propoor interventions," stated the SNV official. Travel experts have also concluded that small, incremental change in the distribution of benefits in a large tourist flow can have a larger pro-poor impact than a large change in a niche tourist product.

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