Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Monday, July 5, 2010

We Are Almost There!

----GVI Volunteers Enjoy a Tour by Joseph and Emmanuel---

When I first came to GVI as a volunteer in July of 2008, I spent one week in Kidong village on the border of Tsavo West National Park helping ex-poachers make plans for a proposed eco-tourism project. At the site of the eco-tourism project there were two small huts for tourists to sleep in and a larger hut which was going to be the information centre. Oh, and a long drop toilet about 100m from the site with a food-aid bag as the door. I feel in love with the people in Kidong and the work that GVI was doing with ex-poaching communities on the border of Tsavo West. When I was in Kidong I thought a lot about the eco-tourism project that the villagers were planning and just how far they had to go before they were going to be anywhere close to opening the project for business.

---Kidong Restuarant----

It’s now 2010, and a lot has changed! I am now GVI’s Tsavo West Sustainable Development Officer responsible for running all of GVI’s community development projects in the Taveta region. More importantly, the eco-tourism project is almost ready to be opened for business! With the support of GVI and the World Society for the Protection of Animals, the ex-poachers of Kidong have significantly developed the eco-tourism project over the past two years. The site now has a restaurant, an information centre with information boards outlining the transition of the Kidong people from poachers to protectors, flushing toilets, six huts for tourists to sleep in, a kitchen, store room and a water recycling system which allows them to irrigate a small plot of land to grow produce for their restaurant. The major infrastructure is all in place. And so too are the people needed to run the project.

---The First Meal was Served in Kidong's Restuarant---

Two years of hard work by GVI volunteers training the people of Kidong on how to run a three hour tour for tourists around the eco-tourism centre and up Kidong Hill, has certainly paid off. I just took part in the whole tour for the first time ever and at the end of it, I was lost for words. I was greeted by a friendly group of ex-poachers, walked through the information centre learning about the poacher’s history, took an engaging walk up Kidong Hill and then returned to the restaurant for a drink and some delicious food. I actually felt like a tourist visiting the eco-tourism project – not an easy thing to achieve given that I have spent the past two years working in Kidong with the group of people who were serving and guiding me. A few final touches are still required to complete the centre, including tables and chairs for the restaurant, but for the first time in two years I can see this project being opened in the very near future. Congratulations to the people of Kidong who have successfully transformed from poachers to protectors, and, have built a sustainable income generating project in just a few years! If you are coming to Kenya later this year, you might just find the Kidong eco-tourism project is a stopover point on your safari!