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Lodges bring new work to northern Tanzania-1997-03-14

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Event - 1997-03-15
Friday, 1997, March 14
David Spark

The Serena Lodge for visitors to the Serengeti, opened last year, needed wooden pillars card local style. The management found a man by the roadside carving masks for tourists. Would he try carving a pillar?

The pillar was a success. But they needed over 300 pillars. They asked the carver to find more carvers and carve more pillars. On the strength of this contract, the carvers have set up a business.

This shows how, by building tourist lodges and tented camps, the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) has helped Northern Tanzania's economy.

Three villagers worked for 12 months to produce thatch for the Serengeti Lodge. As a result, other firms catering for tourists decided to order local thatch too, instead of bringing in makuti from the coast at great difficulty and expense.

At the Lake Manyara Serena Lodge, the contractor asked local people for permission to use a quarry. He said he would bring in a stone-crusher. The villagers said, "don't do that, we will break up the stones for you."

The managers of the Serena lodges have trained 400 local rural people to staff them. In the past the northern Tanzania tourism industry has recruited much of its staff Dar es Salaam and Tanga, but these new-comers from the cities were able to go home only once a year. This caused unhappiness. It also many that brought their families to the staff villages which became undesirably large.

The Serena managers decided they wanted staff whose homes were not far away. "We wanted them to go home every four weeks," says Tig Barrasford managing director for AKFED's tourism. Serena workers work four weeks, then have a week off at home.

To select staff from among modestly educated rural people, Serena devised tests independent of language and culture. Training in hotel skills was quite a challenge. All the staff, even the gardeners, have weekly language classes in English, with some French and German, so they can talk to the visitors.

Tig Barrasford says that the lodges buy as much as possible locally, "We import very little." They are working with local farmers to improve the quality of their chickens and fruit. "If they can produce something of a higher quality," says Tig Barrasford, "they will earn more money."

At Lake Manyara, the only lodge NOT in a national park, a trust is being set up which will receive a dollar a night per tourist. The Trust will help villagers with schools and water supplies. Barrasford says AKFED made four assessments of the effect of the lodges on the surrounding countryside. One issue raised was the scarcity of water at Ngorongoro. As a result, the Ngorongoro lodge has showers, not baths, and does not have a swimming pool. It has not tapped a spring used by the Maasai but brings water by pipe-lines from four kilometers away.

The lodges and tented camp offer 230 rooms, and AKFED expects to let them three nights in every five this year. The charge is US$100.00 per person per day, including all meals. AKFED does not expect a dividend from its investment for the first six years. It has to pay off loans.

It has invested US$ 40 million in the lodges, camp and a Serena Hotel with 51 rooms in Zanzibar.

Two old buildings in Zanzibar's historic Stone Town have been renovated to create the hotel. It results from a visit by the Aga Khan at a time when the Stone Town was falling into ruin. Officers of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which is keen to see it repaired and restored, asked him to invest there.

Various developers have built 600 hotel rooms in Zanzibar in the last four or five years. Tourism is putting new life into an economy suffering from the loss of clove sales.

Apart from its hotel and lodges, AKFED has bought and re-equipped the tannery at Moshi, enabling it to produce finished leather for export. Technicians were sent to AKFED's Kenyan plant for training. The Kenyan plant also helped with marketing.

The Moshi tannery was using only 10 % of its capacity when AKFED acquired it from the government. It is now using 65%.

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