TOURISM, AVIATION AND CONSERVATION NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
A weekly roundup of reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
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Third edition June 2011
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East Africa News
CURRENCIES TAKE MORE HITS ACROSS THE REGION
The currencies of Eastern African countries, in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, fell to record lows in recent days as speculation against the respective Shilling currencies continued and locally influenced by strong demand for Dollars and Euros for loan payments and dividend transfers.
While tourists may celebrate the windfall more woes are in store for the locals here in East Africa and imports of petroleum products will inevitably raise the cost of petrol and diesel yet more, affecting in the process the cost of transportation of food stuffs while all other imports of goods and services will cost yet again more while these record levels persist.
Central Banks in the region are said to be in close contact discussing market interventions to halt the slide and in particular Prof. Tumusime Mutebile of the Bank of Uganda warned speculators on the local market to stop their artificial moves against the Uganda Shilling or else would the Bank react with regulatory measures to calm the market down.
LUNAR ECLIPSE EXCITED ONLOOKERS
Last night will brought about the longest and darkest lunar eclipse witnessed since 40 years ago, according to records provided to this correspondents by local news sources, when the full moon rose at dusk before being progressively darkened by the earth’s moving in between the sun and the moon.
Across East Africa were people going outside or watched the spectacle from their windows, as the earth’s shade progressively moved across the face of the moon, eventually turning it into dark red orange colour during the night hours between just after 9 p.m. and just after 1 a.m.
The extraordinary night sky spectacle, witnessed by this correspondent from the Kigali Serena Hotel in Rwanda while on assignment, also had tourists staying there assembly around the outside gardens and pool terrace, staring into the night sky in awe as the moon’s illumination and colours began to change.
The Eastern African countries offered a ‘prime seat’ to watch this lunar eclipse and initial reports in from game parks across the region, where the absence of much light emission made the night sky even clearer, talked of safari guides and lodge personnel alerting guests who then enjoyed the rare spectacle as an added bonus to their safaris. Only in East Africa, only in East Africa!
UWA TO PAY ITS ‘TORMENTORS’ – ONLY IN UGANDA
News emerged over the weekend that the Commission of Enquiry, instituted by the immediate past – and thanks for that a million many stakeholders say – Tourism Minister Kahinda Otafire has to be funded by UWA, the very body they are to investigate over allegations for misuse of donor funds. Sources within the ministry, now headed by respected Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, claim they are not allowed to speak to the press over this and in fact any issues related to the UWA enquiry, though were willing off the record to say there was no money for the commission’s work in the ministry budget and that the former minister made a mess out of things when dealing with UWA and other sectoral matters like the question of the national museum.
Sources located in UWA and former staff however pointed out to this correspondent that UWA could not legally fund such expenditure under its own terms and regulations, a statement which might need further investigation to ascertain the facts here, but the sources were adamant that it was the ministry to provide the funding as it was the minister who instituted the commission as well as prior ‘kangaroo courts’ as several of them, in addition to previous stakeholder sentiment, put it. Yet it was also confirmed that UWA had in the past yielded to political pressures from its oversight ministry and had funded various elements of expenditure for ministry officials like travel and transportation, to which – needless to say – no comments were received, itself a deafening statement. In closing it is understood also that the new Minister Prof. Kamuntu is trying to repair the damage done by his predecessor and steer UWA into calmer waters, while also attempting to obtain additional funding for the Uganda Tourist Board, which in comparison with regional promotional efforts by Rwanda and Kenya is lagging severely behind in activities due to lack of money, which caused outraged stakeholder to start complaining to several levels in government in order to find a short, medium and long term solution to the chronically financial starvation the sector’s primary marketing body has suffered.
ETHIOPIA FLIGHTS CANCELLED BUT DUE TO RESUME SOON
As the ashcloud is very slowly moving across the Eritrean and Ethiopian airspaces have airlines in Entebbe announced the temporary suspension of flights to and via Addis Ababa as a safety measure, while awaiting the cloud to gradually lose its intensity and eventually disappear.
Emirates, operating daily flights between Dubai and Entebbe via Addis Ababa, have for the time being taken the Addis Ababa stop off the schedule, while Ethiopian Airlines too have suspended their Entebbe – Addis services, which on most days used to operate double daily.
Kenya Airways has also announced that their flights from Entebbe via Nairobi to Entebbe are suspended until such time that the volcanic ash cloud has cleared and flights are no longer having safety risks to consider. Most European airlines flying to Eastern Africa are currently using a different flight path avoiding the Ethiopian airspace and airspaces into which the ash cloud might have drifted and have reported no interruption to their services. Watch this space for coming updates when the all clear is announced in a few days.
EBOLA SCARE OVER
The 41 day time window for the discovery of new Ebola cases, after the outbreak of 12th May, is expiring today in Uganda allowing the Ministry of Health to declare the country once again Ebola free. As reported here there was one single case of the outbreak recorded when a young girl died of the ‘Sudan strain’ of the virus but Uganda’s immediate reaction and extensive isolation of potential other victims or affected individuals paid handsomely as, entirely unusual in such a case, only one victim was recorded while others in touch with here showed no signs of infection while in hospital isolation wings.
Uganda has with this almost written new history, as the spread of the disease was immediately contained and further casualties by this highly contagious virus avoided.
Well done to the teams of the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation and of the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta.
SCRAP VISA FEES AIRLINES TELL GOVERNMENT
Airline representatives associated under the Board of Airline Representatives in Uganda have earlier in the week spoken out on how they think tourism to the country can be stimulated and promoted, highlighting amongst other measures the dropping of Visa charges for foreign nationals visiting the country.
For several years in the past this in fact was done, setting off a trend to annual double digit increases of visitors, which however started to level out at lower increase levels when Visa fees were re-introduced and other factors like the constant underfunding of the tourist board and the non-implementation of the country’s tourism policy came into play.
Airlines have in recent years added extra flights, started to use bigger aircraft on the routes flown and new airlines like Turkish have entered the Ugandan market, overall offering more seats and yet the increases in passenger numbers were generally below their expectations leaving seats empty, especially since the riots caused by political opposition rabble rousers who almost welcome the negative economic fallout in a clear display of lack of patriotism.
Airline chiefs have as a result offered special deals, like Brussels Airlines giving a rebate for tourists coming to Uganda who have a prepaid gorilla tracking permit in their possession in order to stimulate demand for holidays in Uganda through lower fares, no matter how difficult that is at present considering the constantly high aviation jet fuel prices.
In the airline meeting demands were also made to bring down the cost of aircraft and passenger handling at the Entebbe International Airport with some airlines like Air Uganda continuing to demand permission from the Civil Aviation Authority for ‘self handling’, citing nearly double the cost of handling in Entebbe compared to for instance Nairobi, where competition in the sector has brought charges down to considerably lower levels.
The airlines at the same meeting also criticized the ministry of finance for poorly facilitating tourism marketing and while appreciating the launch of a separate tourism ministry decried the lack of seriousness by government to give it enough money to be able to carry out their mandate.
Watch this space as the blame game has started over below potential sectoral performance.
NFA FOLLOWS UWA INTO CHAOS
The arrest yesterday of three top managers at the National Forest Authority and of several members of the NFA board has set the stage for the forest authority to follow their colleagues at the Uganda Wildlife Authority into similar chaos as was caused there by the appointment of an unqualified board and subsequent wrangles over that board’s demands for more allowances and benefits, before subsequent managements were suspended and sacked – all matters now before court.
The NFA managers are accused of having illegally sold land in a national forest reserve and the arrest of board members would indicate that they are suspected to have either participated or illegally sanctioned such an alleged sale, but the implications for NFA are much wider.
Across the country are encroachments on national parks and game reserves evident since the troubles at UWA became public knowledge, and in the case of the NFA too, their internal problems now is bound to have a renewed onslaught set in with illegal logging and forest encroachments across the country, now that the attention of the NFA is looking inside instead of defending their forests.
Across the region is deforestation a major problem as it often affects crucial ‘water towers’ and no government, other than the Rwandan government, has shown the necessary determination to protect this quintessential resource from further illegal logging in the way it should be done. In Uganda some years ago government wanted to give away almost a quarter of the Mabira rain forest to create sugar cane plantation space, an attempt with was thankfully defeated through determined protests and intense lobbying, while in Kenya the Mau forest saga continues to create controversy while the envisaged evictions have been half hearted and as often alleged discriminatory and selective.
Watch this space as another public body tasked with protecting our natural resources goes into rapid decline.
PHONE USERS OUTRAGED OVER ‘THEFT’
The Uganda Communications Commission has caused a storm of outrage over their directive earlier in the week, prohibiting mobile phone companies to use tariffs of less than 2 Uganda Shillings a second. This throws the entire industry into turmoil, as in particular smaller operators have successfully made headway in carving out market share at the expense of the market leader MTN, which – you guessed it – makes their subscribers pay the very same 2 Shillings tariff per second.
The UCC was promptly accused by wide sections of phone users of bias and called upon to reverse their arbitrary decision, while a range of contributors in radio call in shows all but accused the UCC of ‘stealing our money by making us pay double now’. UCC with their move also lends arguments to the opposition which was prompt to exploit this faux pas by a government regulatory authority for making life for Ugandans more expensive than the market had in fact decided, while the anger of the affected phone companies against in particular MTN, which they accuse under cover of anonymity for being behind the UCC directive, of desperately trying to protect their market share at the expense of consumers.
Compared to tariffs in Kenya, Ugandans still pay a lot more in comparison, but there too has the market leader Safaricom, aka Suffericom by disgusted users, has managed to have the Kenya Communications Commission ruled that no network to network calls can cost less than 70 percent of the mandated interconnection charges, again intervening in market mechanisms of tariffs reflecting demand and supply as if the two regulators had taken recent lessons in either socialist ideology or else, and more sinister, have succumbed to the pressure of market leaders wishing the monopoly days back.
Be it as it may, both regulators will be in for a rough patch ahead of them as parliamentarians known to this correspondent have vowed to raise the matter in the house to have UCC answer why they intervened in the market for little evident cause and as alleged in league with the big boy on the block … bullying taken to a regulatory level certainly is not smart in this day and age.
KENYA AIRWAYS SIGNS UP FOR 10 MORE EMBRAERS AND 10 MORE OPTIONS
In a breaking news story it was confirmed that East Africa’s leading airline, Kenya Airways, has just signed a 10 aircraft deal – vis a vis a letter of intent – with Brazilian manufacturer Embraer for 10 more of their jets, with an added option for a further E190 or the E170 series, with specific purchases to be confirmed at a later date.
This latest acquisition plan for new aircraft will set the stage for an intense battle unfolding over the African skies between ‘The Pride of Africa’ and their nearest competitors Ethiopian and South African, the latter reportedly now also committed to finally roll out a comprehensive Africa network in coming years, a shade late though to catch KQ and ET who now have a near equal coverage of the African continent via their Nairobi and Addis Ababa hubs. Kenya Airways offers flights from Nairobi to 43 African destinations and a further 10 international destinations in Europe, the Gulf area, India and the Far East.
Kenya Airways has already announced during the recent presentation of their annual financial year results that they will by 2013 fly to every African capital city or commercial hub, and the new aircraft will help them, especially with the ‘Advanced Range’ models of Embraer, to fly to new destinations with initially less traffic density where their fleet of B737NG’s may initially be too large to yield early profits.
The 20 new jets, should the ten options be exercised as is expected, will boost KQ’s Embraer fleet to be the largest on the African continent and will come in addition to the 5 E170’s and 2 E190’s already operating under the KQ livery, with the final 3 deliveries of E190’s still due between now and early 2012. All aircraft will be outfitted in a dual class configuration of business and economy, offering this service on each and every route and offer the passengers of not just Kenya Airways but of their Sky Team alliance partners Air France / KLM the superior service levels expected by their faithful travelers.
It is understood that the new order just signed between Kenya Airways and Embraer will begin deliveries by mid 2012 to allow for the projected traffic growth on existing routes without impairing the network rollout recently confirmed.
When asked a regular source in Nairobi, while preferring anonymity, also confirmed that the airline’s ties with Boeing remained strong and that in particular more B 737 NG will in coming years join the fleet too, to have the right sized aircraft available for all the domestic, regional and continental routes where the narrow body 737’s of -700 and -800 types are deployed or to be deployed.
KQ’s CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni was reported to have said after the signing ceremony in Paris: ‘The E190 jet fits well with our expansion strategy, giving us an opportunity to expand our network and increase our frequencies beyond the current offering while cementing our mandate of connecting Africa to the World and World to Africa through our hub at JKIA’.
With this breaking news story Kenya Airways will retain their claim to leadership over the African skies and to be indeed, for Africans from all corners of the continent ‘The Pride of Africa’.
DR. PAULA KAHUMBA EARNS GLOBAL ACCLAIM FOR HER CONSERVATION WORK
When talking of work done by women in Africa and especially the accomplishments of women in Africa that list may be long, yet the recognition by society is often slow in coming and more often even only grudgingly given at home. Not so in the international arena where Dr. Paula Kahumba, Executive Director at the Kenya Land Conservation Trust Fund and of Wildlife Direct just received one of National Geographic’s highest accolades, being awarded the National Geographic Annual Award.
Paula, an ardent Blogger and use of Twitter in her fight for the rights of wildlife – and to constantly promote the Nairobi National Park, richly deserves this recognition, as she has proved instrumental to bring the need for conservation and to maintain biodiversity to the forefront. Besides her daily work-schedule she is also actively involved in FoNNaP, Friends of Nairobi National Park, from where she sends her daily tweets enroute to her office about wildlife sightings and often ‘special moments’ when encountering lions or rhinos blocking her way in traffic jams of a different kind.
Paula has also become an ardent critic of the use of Furadan, a pesticide banned in many countries including the US where it is manufactured and now exported to countries with weak legislation, poisoning wildlife in an almost serial manner. She has demanded, while in Washington to receive her award, that the US ban the manufacturing and export of Furadan immediately. More notably however she is having a fight at hand back home in Kenya where she is galvanizing the conservation fraternity into opposing the ‘hemming in’ of the Nairobi National Park, where the ancient migration routes from across the Athi Plains and beyond are increasingly cut off for wildlife and where a new recently discovered highway project appears to turn the park area into a glorified open air – and admittedly very large – wildlife park a la Europe.
Said another source when discussing this issue and Paula’s accomplishment: ‘We don’t want a little Disney Animal Kingdom in front of our doors in Nairobi, we want to maintain the park and keep at least some migration routes open and Paula’s award will help our cause a lot because now, when she talks about it, people will sit up and listen. This should not become another Serengeti Highway problem for us conservationists and our national road authority has to learn to leave wildlife areas alone, which also includes their plans for a highway across a section of Nakuru National Park’.
Congratulations to Paula from this correspondent on her outstanding achievement, as the struggle for conservation and the protection of our environment continues.
NAIROBI’S RANKING AS CONFERENCE DESTINATION MOVES UP
The International Congress and Convention Association has raised Kenya to the third place in Africa for meeting and convention business, up a place compared to the previous year, while Nairobi came second after Cape Town with a record of 27 international conferences and meetings qualifying under ICCA standards applied for the listing process.
The construction of a new international conference centre in Mombasa, on land acquired for the purpose from Bamburi Cement and located near the world famous Bamburi Haller Park, will further add to the attractions of Kenya as a preferred destination for global MICE events, bringing more of the hugely profitable and high profile events into the country.
Much of this development is attributed to the harmonious relationship and working hand in hand between the Kenya Tourist Board, the Kenyatta International Conference Centre and the private sector in the tourism industry, which saw East Africa’s biggest economy register record arrivals and earnings last year for the sector, and again being headed for a new all time record comparing the first 5 months of 2011 with the previous year, which is reportedly over 15 percent up already. Well done Kenya!
ERITREAN VOLCANIC ERUPTION BRINGS ASH CLOUD SCENARIO HOME
The recent eruption of a volcano in Eritrea and the subsequent ash cloud drifting across the continent is bringing home the Icelandic ash cloud scenario from last year to East Africa.
According to airline sources flights are being delayed or even cancelled already as the ash cloud drifts into the air-lanes leading across the continent, causing airlines to fly extensive detours while others have reportedly cancelled flights to Djibouti, Asmara and even Addis Ababa.
The eruption was registered on Sunday night and initially thought to be a local event, but soon it became evident that ash clouds were rising as high as 45.000 feet and began to drift across those parts of Eastern Africa frequented by aircraft flying at various altitudes between 37.000 and 41.000 feet enroute to and from Europe.
Located near the border with Ethiopia the Nabro eruption was preceded by several earthquakes, about which no damage reports are available from Eritrea, a country almost notorious for its secrecy about all and sundry and current weather forecasts are also not conclusive if the ash cloud, should eruptions continue, could eventually drift across the Red Sea and reach the Arabian peninsula, where intense air-traffic would be equally disrupted. Watch this space.
MORE BAD NEWS FOR JKIA AS WATER HEATER EXPLODES
Only days after a failure of electricity supply and of all backup systems brought East Africa’s busiest international airport to a complete and utter halt for several hours, leading to flight delays galore, has the explosion of a water heater in the government VIP section of the airport caused more consternation amongst passengers and air operators. The water heater, probably – and this is speculation as of right now in the absence of hard technical evidence – may have been damaged by power fluctuations and the often experienced low voltage periods, and when the thermostat failed the water overheated and eventually cause the tank to explode due to overpressure.
One regular source was immediately available for comment and had this to say: ‘it is lucky for everyone that there were no casualties. It goes to show that KAA – the Kenya Airport Authority – has huge problems in maintaining our most important airport in the region and unless they pull up their socks we may find more such accident happening for lack of good preventive maintenance. They charge us airlines a lot of money, the airport expansion and rehabilitation is slow in progressing, the power backup failed last week again and caused all airlines losses through delays and now this. Maybe the time is right to bring professional airport management to Nairobi now and send the civil servants home’.
Harsh words but understandably so, considering the endless petitions and requests made to the KAA by operators and most of the time to no avail. Watch this space.
AKUNAAY STEPS DOWN AS TATO CHIEF
Following his election as a member of parliament last year, and for the opposition CHADEMA party no less, has the long serving Secretary General of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators, Hon. Mustapha Akunaay, stepped down from his TATO position. He led the association from a small lobby group formed in the early 1980’s to a force to reckon with, representing over 200 members from all over Tanzania engaged in safari and tour operations.
TATO, itself part of the Tourism Confederation of Tanzania, has on many occasions successfully changed government policies and decisions and effectively interacted with TANAPA and other bodies to bring on board private sector input and avoid costly shortsighted decisions about tariffs and other rules and regulations, but also acted as a standards and ethics body to self govern the sector.
Akunaay has over the past 19 years, since he rose to the position of Secretary General, commanded the respect of his peers and made a change in the development of tourism in Tanzania.
He is now in his new role in parliament the foremost advocate for the tourism private sector and will as an opposition member undoubtedly keep the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism on its toes, knowing all the comings and goings and intimate details of the sector. TATO has now commenced the search for a suitable successor, after the announcement was made at the recently concluded KARIBU Tourism Trade Fair in Arusha, an annual key regional tourism exhibition organized by TATO. Well done Bwana Akunaay, take a bow for your achievements and all the best in your new role as the parliamentary eyes and ears of the tourism industry.
KWITA IZINA ‘GORILLA NAMING’ SETS STAGE FOR MORE CONSERVATION EFFORTS
(Thousands of Musanze and Cyaniga residents came to witness the event and crammed the festival grounds)
The Prime Minister of Rwanda, the Rt. Hon. Bernard Makuza, was the guest of honour at this year’s 7th gorilla naming festival ‘Kwita Izina’ held on Saturday at Kinigi / Musanze and named in fact the first of 22 gorilla babies himself, before Ms. Rica Rwigamba, head of Tourism and Conservation at RDB ‘MC’d’ the function through the programme, naming interspersed with performances of songs, music and traditional dances by some of Rwanda’s finest cultural troops.
Drummers performed their ‘staccatos’ before each major programme item and had many of the spectators in the VIP tent clapping along the tunes and tapping their feet in the same rhythm.
The ‘namers’ this year again came from across the world, with greater emphasis though on ‘local namers’ from Uganda and the wider region, aimed to create more ownership in Rwanda and Eastern Africa of the gorillas and using the often very prominent name givers as ambassadors for conservation in their professional and social circles, but also increase the fundraising potential in the region, where large corporate companies can now ‘name their gorilla’ in exchange for contributions towards Rwanda’s conservation efforts, a fair deal considering the enormous cost of maintaining the park and looking after the nearly 500 mountain gorillas now found in the ‘Volcanoes National Park’.
Each and every one of the ‘namers’ was dressed in a traditional Rwandan outfit, put on them in the nearby ‘cultural village’ which shows visitors to the site the homesteads as they were once common sight before making way for brick and mortar houses with mabati roofs, in a way a sign of progress but also a sadly felt loss of cultural identity, now however vigorously revived by the National Institute of Museums of Rwanda which is adding the ‘culture component’ to the local tourism circuits, as recently reported here.
The large local crowd, estimated to be as many as 7.000+ strong, took particular pleasure in the cultural performances which were accompanied with traditional songs and often the local spectators became the background choir for the on stage performance, testimony how much they enjoyed the day and were part and parcel of the celebrations and how far Kwita Izina has come since 2005 when the first edition was staged and President Paul Kagame named the first gorilla baby during that function.
The Prime Minister in his formal address emphasized Rwanda’s commitment to conservation as a matter of high priority and in fact mentioned and reiterated government’s plans to replant wider tracts of land with trees, so as to link the various forests from Nyungwe to the shores of Lake Kivu and create migration corridors for game while enhancing the water towers of the nation.
Kwita Izina has become the ‘pride of the nation’ as one RDB staffer put it and it is indeed often a point of equal admiration as well as a little envy by other East African countries, that ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’ has managed to capture the world’s attention year after year by celebrating conservation and their unique gorilla tourism products, and have in the process managed to create ownership through participation and reward programmes from tourism incomes with and for the local communities, which often elsewhere go ‘empty handed’ and struggle to embrace wildlife based tourism which in their own context gives them little of nothing. Revenue share schemes, mandated by law in Uganda and now trialed elsewhere are beginning to make an impact though, often inspired by Rwanda’s example and the success story of its tourism industry which rose over the past decade to the top of the country’s economic performance list and has governments’ fullest support. This report concludes the ‘live reporting’ from Kinigi’s Kwita Izina festival ground and until June 2012 for the 8th edition, dates for which will be reported here as soon as the announcements are made.
‘IGITARAMO’ FESTIVAL DEFIES RAINSTORM
The annual community festival ahead of the naming of the new born gorillas, held at Kinigi – a community living near the national park – rang in the final countdown to the last day of an otherwise activity filled week. Hundreds of local people defied a torrential downpour which suddenly moved in across the volcanoes from the Congo DR and lashed the festival ground, but that could not quell the enthusiasm of the participants, all of whom scrambled into the tents where ‘VIP’s happily made space for them sharing the only dry place in sight until the truly biblical rainstorm eventually ended.
No sooner had the rain stopped, inspite of the festival ground still ankle deep under water – it later on drained away – were exhibits returned into the open, chairs wiped down and the fun began in earnest.
Rwanda is known for its moving traditional songs and the graceful dances and community group after community group performed in front of a swelling crowd with ever more thronging into the festival site.
Few seemed to feel the onset of the early evening cold as the crowd often burst into applause and on occasion even formed the background choir for the performers, when popular songs were offered, while the dance groups were regularly ‘stormed’ by both spectators and those from the VIP tents, performing moves of their own to the delight of the crowd. Traditional games, locally called ‘Urushingo’ were also performed, including a mock fight by ‘warriors’ which left them rather soaked as they raced across the pools of water on the festival ground but by no means less enthusiastic.
Most moving were the presentation though from school children who told – duly translated into English by my neighbour in the media section – heartwarming stories of the better life they now enjoy because of the mountain gorillas bringing dozens of visitors to the area every day, giving their parents work and regular income and them new classrooms, new textbooks and therefore a future, while on Ben Bosco Asifiwe, a class 4 pupil, recited a self composed poem ‘Cry of a Gorilla Baby’ to the absolute delight of everyone present.
The Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation share revenues with the communities living around the country’s present three national parks and the country’s most visited park ‘Volcanoes’ has as a result of growing global interest and demand risen to a new level of visibility and recognition around the world. Conservation efforts by government and gorilla conservation groups have resulted in a gorilla population growth of over 26 percent in the last ten years, now numbering to almost 500 in the Rwandan part of the Virunga mountain range. There are presently 17 known mountain gorilla groups accounted for in Rwanda. Neighbouring communities now receive 5 percent of the revenue, which at 500 US Dollars per tracking permit, and considering the demand for those, amounts to very substantial direct financial contributions from tourism into the villages along the park boundary.
Meanwhile is the main naming festival going underway this Saturday and updates and reports will be filed in due course.
RWANDA DEVELOPMENT BOARD LAUNCHES KWITA IZINA WATER PROJECTS
RDB – Tourism and Conservation today launched their annual Kwita Izina related projects in the presence of local, regional and international media representatives and witnessed by local government leaders, conservation partners and most important large numbers of beneficiaries from the local communities living around the Volcanoes National Park.
52 household based water tanks were installed to ‘harvest’ rain water for domestic use, garden irrigation and watering livestock while a further 4 community based water tanks with capacities up to 80.000 litres were also handed over to the local people, including, as shown in the picture above water dispensation units easily accessible by families living nearby.
Ms. Clare Akamanzi, Deputy CEO of RDB and the head of tourism and conservation Ms. Rica Rwigamba were at hand to ‘cut the tapes’ and formally commission the tanks at various locations, highlighting in their various addresses of how important good relations with the locals are and how much better the livelihood of the various villages now are that funds from tourism income and specific donations made are channeled back into the grassroot levels.
On Saturday will the annual naming of 22 new born gorillas take place and this correspondent will report live from the event in Kinigi / Musanze District.
KWITA IZINA CONSERVATION CONFERENCE SENDS RECOMMENDATIONS TO GOVERNMENT
At the conclusion of the annual Kwita Izina Conservation Conference yesterday evening at the Kigali Serena Conference Centre did participants and stakeholders from Rwanda, other East African Community member states but also from as far as Israel and South Africa agree on a series of recommendations which were approved by the forum and have been sent to the Rwandan government for inclusion in their already impressive fight against deforestation and degradation.
Discussion papers were submitted at the meeting by Dr. Tamar Ron, who introduced the success story of her work at the Maiombe Forest in Cabinda / Angola while Dr. Juan Carlos Bonilla highlighted the challenges of successful forest management options incorporating local communities as both beneficiaries as well as guardians of forests. Prof. Jean Nduwamungu of the National University of Rwanda, the first presenter in the morning, spoke in detail about the role of communities and their ‘stewardship’ in sustainable forest conservation and forest management, with the audience broadly agreeing that all forests should contribute to neighbouring communities and the country at large but in a sustainable format benefitting in particular traditional forest dwellers and those living near forests.
The following catalogue of findings from three working groups constituted during the conference interactive sessions, was submitted to government through the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources, the Hon. Stanislas Kamanzi, who had earlier in the day opened the conference:
- Promote agroforestry technology throughout the country
- To assign true economic value of tree resources
- Increase public awareness on the benefit raised from revenue sharing from adjacent forest or national parks
- Having alternative o similar conservation events as the Kwita izina ceremony in other protected areas
- Encouraging local community in tree planting and tree conservation
- Having buffer zone around all protected areas and assisting communities around these areas to plant trees
- Define forest in the context of Rwanda (0.03ha)
- Classify forest according to steward/ownship from community
- Tenure jurisdiction of the buffer Zone and purpose clarify, rights for local communities
- Regulation to harvest what in which manner (buffer zone of NNP) so that it responds for the need of both ( harmonize the needs)
- Triangular management of the buffer zone : conservation-Nationa forest and community
- Good understanding of local community for non-timber forest product
- Categorization of stakeholder: local communities, local authorities, religious leaders, schools, private sector, donors, security organs, foresters, land owners
- Sustainable forest management: use of non-timber forest resources, Control of commercial users, Alternative energy sources (biogas, saving stoves), Income generating project, engagement of local communities in decision making for management of forest resources, Alternative protein sources, Transboundary cooperation, Improved methods of farming (mechanization
- Benefits sharing: payment for environmental services, revenue sharing from tourism or forest, access to local and regional market, ownership over the resources and rights over the resources use, bi-product of tourism, bi-product and additional benefits from alternative energy sources, employment.
- Impact for conservation through benefit sharing for stakeholder for sustainable forest management
- Interlinking conservation and education system
Participants, especially those who came to attend from other EAC member countries expressed their satisfaction with the outcome of the conference and were making arrangements to submit the conference recommendations to their own governments in Nairobi, Kampala, Dar es Salaam and Bujumbura with several of them also proposing to send a comprehensive report to the East African Community headquarters in Arusha to implement findings on a region wide basis.
Kwita Izina week now ‘moves’ upcountry to launch community based projects financed by tourism receipts before culminating on Friday and Saturday with a traditional community celebration festival in Musanze and the actual naming of the newly born mountain gorilla babies on Saturday at the headquarters of the Volcano National Park. Watch this space.
ANNUAL CONSERVATION CONFERENCE KICKS OFF IN KIGALI TODAY
The main theme of presentations, contributions and discussions during today’s annual Kwita Izina conservation conference, held at the Kigali Serena Conference Centre, will focus on the UN’s Year of the Forests and is themed: Forest Stewardship by Community – Contributions, Benefits and Prospects, offering the Rwanda Development Board an opportunity to yet further disseminate information to Rwandans about the importance of conservation in the development of the people and for the communities living near forests and national parks. Internationally recognized experts are expected to deliver papers for discussion amongst the several hundred expected participants to find viable solutions and talk about projected benefits of forest conservation for future generations of Rwandans.
The Rwanda government has in fact embarked in the recent past on an ambitious programme of re-forestation linking the remaining patches of a once great uninterrupted rainforest from the Nyungwe area near the border to Burundi to Lake Kivu, ancient forests which are then extending from the other side of the lake into the vast rainforests and jungles of the Congo. This groundbreaking initiative, unique in East Africa and in fact the entire continent may serve other countries as a guide of how to go about forest protection, sustainable use of forest resources by neighbouring communities and the restoration of forest cover when it has been encroached in the past or subjected to illegal logging.
A related article by this correspondent is also published in Rwanda’s leading hospitality, tourism and entertainment guide ‘The Eye Rwanda’ under this link: http://www.theeye.co.rw/conservation.php while a second article in the previous edition talking about Rwanda turning their forests into tourism assets can be found via: http://www.theeye.co.rw/forest_tourism.php
FORMER KING’S PALACE AT THE CENTRE OF NEW CULTURE TOURISM DRIVE
As reported here before, today is the launch of Rwanda’s new ‘Cultural Tourism’ product, when the rehabilitated and refurbished former palace and residence of the late King Mutara III Rudahingwa is being formally launched as a centre pin of this new drive.
The place includes the display of what used to be ‘king’s cattle’ a special breed reserved in the days of the ancient monarchy for the king alone and tended to by his herdsmen.
Traditional dancers will at the opening ceremony perform the classic Rwandan dances and other performers will sing the ancient songs telling lore and the wisdom of the elders.
There is excitement within the tourism fraternity about the new options for tourist itineraries but also amongst the local community from where guides and caretakers were recruited, bringing a steady income from tourism into the grass root levels of Rwandan society.
The activity was spearheaded by the Institute of National Museums in Rwanda and is supported by other government agencies like the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation. Well done!
SEYCHELLES AND TANZANIA AGREE ON JOINT ANTI PIRACY MEASURES
The visit by Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete to the Seychelles a few days ago has brought two allies together, both affected by ocean terrorists and both losing tourism business from the absence of cruiseships and suffering from increased cost of imports due to the insurance surcharges levied on cargos headed for the East African seaboard and the Indian Ocean island states.
Both countries’ navies and coast guard have in the past been involved in shootouts with the ocean terrorists, when freeing hostages and taking hijacked ocean vessels back from captivity, and in Tanzania several ocean terrorists were arrested on shore when the brazenly decided to make landfall to ‘procure’ water, fuel and food, at gunpoint more likely but spotted early enough to lay an ambush for them and arrest them.
A recent ‘tell it all’ interview with the Seychellois Minister for Home Affairs, Environment, Energy and Transport the Hon. Joel Morgan revealed clearly how determined the Seychelles are to put an end to the menace, when in hard hitting statements, fully supported by this correspondent, he warned the Somali pirates of deadly consequences when threatening security, trade and open sealanes in Seychellois waters, a tenor now repeated when Presidents Michel and Kikwete met at State House in Victoria. Besides agreeing in joint measures to combat the ‘problem from hell’ in terms of surveillance and exchange of intelligence data, the two presidents also discussed further cooperation between the two countries’ tourism and aviation sectors, trade and other matters of mutual interest. President Kikwete was also present at the Seychelles National Day celebrations in Victoria, underscoring the importance Seychelles attaches to her relations with mainland Africa and in particular her East African neighbours across the Indian Ocean.
A new alliance of the determined and the willing, and warmly welcomed by all concerned, well not all, as the ocean terrorists will surely not be amused.
AIR MAURITIUS RETURNS TO PROFITS
The financial year 2010/11 has seen the Mauritius national airline return to profit territory after posting a loss of over 280 million Rupees last year, when the company announced a profit of about 380 million Rupees, equivalent to over 9 million Euros.
Part of the reasons cited by airline executives announcing the annual financial results was a passenger growth of over 14 percent, revenue ‘optimisation’ and cost cutting measures, allowing the airline to resume dividend payments to its shareholders next month with the Government of Mauritius continuing to hold a 51 percent majority stake in the airline.
Air Mauritius operates an all Airbus jet fleet comprising 6 A340’s, 2 A330’s and 2 A319’s while shorter routes are operated with 2 ATR 72-500’s from their hub at Port Louis’ Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport.
ORANGE TAILED SKINKS SENT TO UK TO ENSURE SURVIVAL
A rare and extremely threatened species of skinks have been collected from their habitat in Mauritius recently and were sent with all due precautions to ensure their safe arrival in Britain where they will be undergoing a captive breeding programme in Jersey.
Already extinct on their original home ‘Flat Island’ the little crawlies are now under the care of the Durell Wildlife Conservation Trust, from where they will eventually return ‘home’ when enough breeding stock has been created in safe and conducive conditions and when back home on Mauritius an equally safe environment for their survival has been created. The relocation was a combined effort by the UK based organization in conjunction with the Mauritius Wildlife Trust and the Mauritius Minister of Agro-Industry, which proved particularly helpful to accomplish the task with minimum time lost in order to save this species from going the way of the legendary ‘Dodo’.
The skinks were for long able to enjoy their habitat without predators until shrews arrived as ‘blind passengers’ on cargo vessels from the Indian subcontinent and then feasted on the skinks to the point of nearly exterminating them. Watch this space when the story of the orange coloured skinks’ return breaks.
And in closing today some of the ‘stuff from further down South’, courtesy of Gill Staden who produces ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ every week and direct mail requests of the ‘whole nine yards’ can be obtained via this email contact: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Gill produces a whole lot more interesting material which cannot all be featured here though.
As I have driven down the Kazungula Road, I have noticed the signs indicating the Sekute Conservation Area. I wasn’t sure what it was about, but …
African Wildlife Foundation are assisting the people of the area to let wildlife into their lives; wildlife which had been exterminated many years ago. This land is a beautiful area with rolling hills and ancient trees. If the people can work together with AWF they can not only assist in the protection of the environment but they can earn money through tourism too.
Here is a bit from AWF website:
SEKUTE CONSERVATION AREA
In partnership with the Sekute Chiefdom, a regional sub-district of some 20,000 people, AWF has established the Sekute Conservation Area, which covers more than 160,000 acres. Located at the point where Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe meet, the Sekute Conservation Area includes 25 miles of Zambezi River frontage in AWF’s.
Supporting Wildlife and People
Wildlife historically moved freely through this area, but population growth, agriculture and tourism-related construction have increasingly threatened the wildlife dispersal corridors. Having identified wildlife crossing points on the Zambezi River in danger of becoming blocked, AWF has designed measures to protect these routes and enable large wildlife populations in Botswana and Namibia to move north into available habitat in Zambia.
AWF has identified two elephant corridors and has worked with local communities to designate a 50,000-acre section of the Chiefdom as the Silingombe Conservancy. It has helped households form a community trust in which they can hold their valuable riverfront land.
AWF has also launched an Easements for Education Program that helps families who conserve land send their children to school, and is building a school, Lupani Primary School, that will serve the families living near the conservation area.
Besides protecting the corridors, the establishment of the Sekute Conservation Area is providing community-private sector investment opportunities for its ecotourism and auxiliary enterprises.
U.S. firm to put $250m into Zambia farming, tourism
U.S. firm Advanced Africa Solutions plans to invest $250 million in Zambian agriculture and tourism by 2014, a Zambian investment promotion official said on Friday.
“They are undertaking feasibility studies in agriculture, food security and tourism,” Andrew Chipwende, director general of the state-run Zambia Development Agency, said at an official signing ceremony.
“We expect investment of up to $250 million to be done over a two-year period starting next year.”
The deal is the latest in a big push by Africa’s biggest copper producer to diversify its economy away from mining.
Majete Game Park, Malawi
The Malawian government plans to construct a canal through Majete Game Park. The canal is planned to take water from the Shire River to an area targeted for farmland.
African Parks took over the management of the park in 2003 and have repopulated it with over 3,000 animals. Prior to this virtually all the game had been slaughtered by poachers. Elephants, sable, buffalo, eland, hartebeest, zebra had all disappeared and the people surrounding the park were poverty stricken.
Since African Parks have come into the park and revitalized it they have also taken on many community projects in the local area to ensure that the people surrounding the park can make a living.
African Parks is seriously concerned about the impact of this canal on the environment. They have employed consultants to conduct and Environmental Impact Assessment on the canal. The outcome of the Assessment is that the canal can only damage the environment and the wildlife it protects.
Alternative solutions have been suggested to the Government. I really hope that this is not another Serengeti moment …
AFRICAN QUEES TURNS 10
During the week, the African Queen became 10 years old. And, in order to celebrate this momentous occasion, a group of us were invited to celebrate in style on a river cruise. Of course, there is nothing more magical than a cruise on the Zambezi so we all boarded with a smile. All wrapped up in woollies too because it is a bit cold right now.
Although we should have been chatting about the river and the African Queen, most of the conversation around me was about the new traffic lights! Shock-horror was the order of the day. Gradually, though, we all mellowed into a calmer state of mind, lulled by the beauty of the river. (And the beer?)
We all have to remember that it was Sun International which improved the economy of Livingstone ten years ago. African Queen and other companies started up to offer services to the hotels at that time.
I can remember then everyone being so nervous, wondering if we could cope and if our staff could manage so many international clients. Of course, we didn’t have anything to worry about. Livingstone folk have taken it into their stride and we now have the most amazing people working in the tourism industry. Do you remember not long before then we were calling Livingstone the Dying-Stone? Things have definitely changed.
We still have so many challenges in Livingstone. Not least of which is the cost of doing business. Once we had stopped chatting about the new traffic lights, conversation turned to how bad business is. The world recession has something to do with it, but there is more to it than that. So many people would like to come to Zambia to see the beauty, but usually they opt for something cheaper.
Mainly it is the cost of licensing an operation but there are so many other costs involved. Take, for example, the cost of fuel. In Zambia we are now paying US$1.80 for a litre. In Zim it is US$1.50, Botswana and Namibia it is US$1.30, or thereabouts. The cost of fuel increases all our costs because transport is so expensive. So why is Zambia like this? Surely we have a right to know …
And, if Zambia is to compete with its neighbours our costs have got to be reduced. Only, in this way, can the tourism industry contribute to the economy and create those much-needed jobs.