Introduction for cultural tourism for communities living around the Mikumi National Park in Tanzania has reduced poaching incidents in the sanctuary.
Tourism and marketing manager, Mikumi National Park Godfrey Mwakapeje, said poaching incidents had gone down from 80 per cent to 30 per cent and “this has been contributed by the fact that people living around the park had realised the potentials embedded in cultural tourism.
Citing examples, Mwakapeje said in Kilosa District, villagers close to the park have embarked into cultural tourism—a venture that has employed many youth, who in turn improves their incomes.
“So, this has reduced pressure on wildlife resources and they are now working as the guards of the park because they are now benefiting from conservation in different ways,” the park official said.
He however said the introduction of cultural tourism has improved the number of wild animals in the park.
“We are now seeing an increase of groups of elephants, buffalos, giraffes, lions and antelopes, compared to the past,” he said, explaining that the availability of the wildlife animals has been attracting tourists to visit the sanctuary and local communities around the park.
He also stated that there are people, who were poachers, but they have surrendered their working tools and they are now busy with cultural tourism; that involves showcasing their culture to visitors.
Mwakapeje explained that they had introduced cultural tourism as part of diversifying tourism products to woo more tourists to visit the southern tourism corridor, which is less visited compared to the northern corridor.
Makame Ngoroma, coordinator of southern national parks said: “We’re trying to create more opportunities for youth living in villages located near the parks so that they use their geographical locations to earn a living.”
The national parks located in southern circuits include Mikumi, Udzungwa and Ruaha.
“So, cultural tourism is an area which is yet to be exploited, despite the fact that the area is very rich in cultural aspects. Southern corridor has a very unique cultural aspects compared to other corridors. That’s why we’re encouraging them to venture into it in order to tame poaching,” Makame stressed.
The official revealed that the park in collaboration with the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) will soon establish a special cultural tourism village, whereby all the cultural aspects in southern Tanzania will be showcased.
Sira Bakar, one of the artists in Mikumi village located along the TANZAM Highway said: “We’ve started building a cultural tourism house, where all the cultural aspects will be exhibited. And this alone will lure more visitors in the area.”
One of the villagers who have started benefiting from cultural tourism, Salome Sareh described the venture as potential for young generation, saying: “We’re not involving directly in tourism, but we are benefiting indirectly as we’ve been selling cultural tools to tourists and we’re getting good income to meet our daily basic needs.”
Through that business, she sends her children to school and take them to hospital once they fall sick.
“I use the surplus to buy livestock,” she said while continuing to prepare beads—one of the cultural tools.
Seleman Omary testifies that through cultural tourism venture, he has dumped his former business of selling bush meat and poaching in the Mikumi National Park.