Fighting displacement in East Africa

Masai_villageOne of the most severe effects of tourism development is the forced displacement of people from their homes. Our campaigning efforts focused particularly on the Maasai and other tribal people of East Africa. Tourism Concern was contacted by Maasai people from Tanzania asking for help, declaring quite simply in hand-written letters: “tourism is killing us.”

In 1988, pastoralists were evicted from the Mkomazi Game Reserve in north-eastern Tanzania, on the border with Kenya. Many of their homes were razed to the ground and some livestock was rounded up and sold by the government to pay for the evictions. People received no compensation and were literally left by the roadside with 40,000 cattle. They were later confined to a narrow strip of land surrounded by the agricultural community along the Pangani River.

Tourists are permitted to enter the park to view the wildlife, but if cattle wander into the reserve in search of grass and water, they are impounded and the pastoralists have to pay a heavy fine. This is a pattern that has been repeated throughout East Africa. National parks and wildlife are being conserved at the expense of the people who have lived there and been guardians of the land and the wildlife for centuries. These indigenous communities understand the bush in more detail than Western wildlife ‘experts’ and have a low-impact, sustainable lifestyle. However, as well as being displaced by tourism, they are typically excluded from participating in any tourism related income-generating activities.

Our campaign

Tourism Concern conducted a postcard campaign with our supporters that sought to raise awareness of the problem amongst British tour operators and ascertain their position on the issue. We held meetings with the tour operators to encourage them to operate tours in consultation with the Maasai and other tribal groups, and to involve them in the business of tourism.

Thanks to our campaign, a number of tour operators began conducting tours to Maasai-run lodges in Kenya and Tanzania.

An ongoing issue

Other campaigns highlighting displacement havefollowed, in particular ouw work looking at Human Rights and Tourism in 2009. And the issue has now spread to the honeypot cities of the world. They now find themselves affected by the gig economy’s new tourism products.

As it has become easy to rent a property at the touch of a button, so landlords have found it more profitable to end longer term tenancies and take in holidaymakers.

In 2018 we funded a short film highlighting how this issue has affected Barcelona. Called ‘Casa sin Familas’ you can find it on You Tube.

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