I am Girma Tadele, the founder of Tadele Travel, and I was once a member of community based tourism initiative.
I joined TESFA (Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternative) in early 2007, three years after the initiative was launched. I had been attracted into TESFA by the stories told by a good friend of mine over an evening beer. He was a TESFA guide, and the stories were his experiences in the rural community some 60 kilometres away from town.
This community based tourism project was launched in early 2000 by SOS Sahel, and then taken over by Save the Children UK as part of their livelihood development programme. I was fortunate enough to be trained by Mark Chapman who took the lead from inception till now. I was working in the project as a trekking tour guide and a community tourism advocator until 2010.
This is a tourism project that really changes rural communities’ life. The concept was to build a network of community run sites, or overnight stops, in the astonishingly dramatic landscapes of the highlands. With this infrastructure in place – funded by external donors – TESFA created trekking holidays that benefit the communities as each group of tourists moves from site to site. As a guide and community development advocator, I shared knowledge with our partners from the host communities, and I learned a lot about the reality of rural life in food-insecure environments. The guides, all of whom speak good English, facilitate close interaction between tourist and the locals. These interactions could be astonishing, the long conversation that I translated remain fresh memories.
Some of the beneficiaries from the project built a grain bank, and there were discussions about building clinics and other community facilities. However Ethiopia’s past history is a hard to shake off, the negative image the 1984 left is still an obstacle for Ethiopian tourism development. Ethiopia now has a thriving economy and is stable. Roads have been built, and new ideas around sustainable tourism are being developed.
We set up Tadele Travel to market both the remarkable historical sites of Ethiopia and reconnect to the projects we left behind. At Tadele Travel, we believe that well-developed, sustainable tourism is one of the most powerful tools for poverty eradication. We encourage visitors to go and visit this extraordinary country, enjoying the unique hospitality of Ethiopians, and the warm sunshine.
Tadele Travel is organizing tours to this community based tourism projects near Lalibela. Contact us to find out more.