It is a beautiful thing when local communities benefit from the tourist activities surrounding them. Some like to call this responsible tourism. The Batwa in south western Uganda near Bwindi Impenetrable forest- popular for gorilla trekking benefit from tourism in the area, the people in Zanzibar also benefit from tourism on the island in different ways. Another community and ethnic group that is surrounded by tourism and that ought to be reaping benefits is the Maasai.
The Maasai are probably one community in East Africa that has been most affected by the continuous growth and development of tourism. Their pasture land was taken away by both Kenyan and Tanzania governments for conservation of wildlife and to set up fancy resorts and hotels forcing the Maasai to migrate to other parts of the country. However there are some areas where the situation is quite friendly to the Maasai community. In Ngorongoro conservation area for example; the Maasai are the main beneficiaries of tourism and tourism development in the area. They are therefore the leading custodians of wildlife and nature conservation in the area.
By ensuring that the local community which is the Maasai benefit from the tourism in the area, tourism stakeholders have managed to ensure that there is peace in the area, making the place an attractive tourist destination for people on safaris in Tanzania.
The conservation area has receives over 400,000 visitors every year generating about USD 45 million. Direct tourist revenue allocated to the Maasai community’s pastoral council stands at US$1.5 million per year and whose part of the revenue targets income-generating projects for the Maasai community.
Benefits for the community are sometimes directed towards community development projects such as income generating projects basing on livestock products since livestock keeping is the main activity among the Maasai. Cattle dips and veterinary centers have also been establish
ed through funding from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, aiming to raise livestock output within the conservation area.
Recently a livestock ranch has been set up through the funds from Ngorongoro conservation area. The conservation area authorities provided the funds to develop Ramat Ranch to train and expose the Maasai communities to modern technology on livestock keeping, focusing on high-quality beef, dairy, and other livestock products including hides and skins. The ranch is quite big. It occupies an area of about 30km. If well managed and fully utilized, it will be able to provide high quality beef and milk for tourist hotels in the conservation area. Under special arrangement, every Maasai pastoralist will be required to apply modern livestock technology through the ranch. There are plans for modern buttery, milk products factory and livestock facilities for the ranch. The incomes from supplying these products to the hotels in the area will of halp the locals earn a living and also improve their way of life.
Ramat Ranch is the perfect example of a tourism product which will definitely benefit the Maasai. East Africa needs more of those for the communities living in area with high tourist traffic.