Community-based tourism initiatives, cultural experiences, cultural heritage, environmental preservation, indigenous peoples, rural tourism, social and environmental projects and traditional gastronomy can be a great tool for sustainable development in Uganda.
Mass tourism can be an incredibly destructive activity with wide reaching consequences. However, fortunately some communities across Uganda have been setting up ecotourism projects; a truly viable solution to some of the most urgent problems faced by human kind today, such as global warming, deforestation and land speculation.
Community-based tourism (CBT) is not something new
CBT is probably the oldest way of conducting tourism. So, what exactly is it all about? Let’s start with a simple definition. By community we mean a group of people living in the same place and having something in common, be it culture, economic activity or simply the land and its ecosystems. In most cases they are farmers, fishermen, indigenous peoples or artisans living in remote, beautiful and well-preserved rural areas.
The touristic potential within their land and traditions is so evident that they decide to create infrastructures to host travelers and to set up community-led projects. Often, their goal is to improve their standard of living and preserve the environment through tourism.
These projects offer services such as accommodation, excursions (bird-watching, trekking, horse-riding, whale-watching, etc.), traditional cuisine, ecotourism and cultural activities. A fair-trade logic applies, so tourists are paying a fair price in exchange for high quality and often unique products and services, within a context of transparency and equality.
For travelers it is a genuine and rich experience. They get to know the local traditions, get involved in cultural activities and have the opportunity to see unspoilt nature and ecosystems
Examples of community-based tourism initiatives in Uganda
In our Mukono Discovery Tour travelers stay with the host families mainly farmers or people who are looking at improving the standards of living within their communities. Through authentic cultural activities, visitors gain an understanding of the local ancestral traditions and their strong link with nature.
Similar experiences are offered by indigenous peoples in the Northern Uganda, Eastern Uganda and the Western Uganda, or by rural communities in the beautiful islands of Uganda. Perhaps, the most rewarding aspects of CBT are the personal link visitors create with their hosts and the chance to see how this fair tourism is empowering them and their communities.
Touristic entrepreneurs? No, environmental and culture conservationists
These local communities are not becoming touristic entrepreneurs. Farmers still want to grow vegetables and breed animals, indigenous peoples still want to live their culture and preserve their traditions, and fishermen just want to fish. CBT is a source of complementary income (on average only 15%) that they use to improve their standard of living and to preserve their culture and eco-systems. For that reason, they are guided by a set of principles, among which we find income redistribution, transparency and capacity building. In other words, they are doing the polar opposite of mass tourism.
In fact, in many cases CBT is the best and most effective defense against mass tourism and land speculation (mining, mega-projects, agro-businesses, etc.). It is well known that stronger communities have much more political influence and visibility to raise awareness of their rights and defend their territories.
Responsible tour operators: a step forward
Several CBT initiatives are being developed and others have been flourishing in recent decades, but they still have the problem of a lack of visibility. For travelers it is difficult to find these initiatives and virtually impossible to book a tour with them. Recently SunTrack Adventures has partnered with tulavo to bring CBTs to life by working directly with the Community Tourism initiatives and actively promote sustainable tourism.
Using the tulavo platform, you can browse examples of tours and choose your next destination, and then contact directly a local, responsible tour operator to organize your holiday or vacation with them.
In Uganda, SunTrack Adventures is the most trusted tour operator to organize community based tourism initiatives, so you can book with confidence by knowing you are in good hands.
You know it is truly rural community-based tourism if it:
- Combines natural beauty and the daily life of rural communities;
- Promotes productive and sustainable practices;
- Adapts to rural life and preserves the welcoming, relaxed, and rustic atmosphere of the countryside;
- Is kept going by local initiatives and local people and strengthens local organizations;
- Employs local people, distributes benefits even-handedly and supplements farming income
We’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions, or to share your own experiences. Please visit our Facebook page and leave us a comment!
Team Leader | Tour Guide | Volunteer Travel Consultant
SunTrack Adventures | Ssamba Foundation