Leadership, Change Makers, Responsible Travelers – Tourism fraternity has always come up with these terminologies for sustainability flag bearers. These are the people who are looked up to by everyone to bring out positive change in the mainstream practices. They are often seen passionately ‘Talking’ OR ‘Discussing’ their innovative ideas and believes about what can be done to make world a better place than taking ‘Real Actions’ to make it a better place. To achieve our global goals such as limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, we need action oriented approach as much as we need the strong global level discussions. As Anne-Marie Bonneau says,
‘We don’t need handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.’
The true Sustainability Leaders are the ones who transform their passion to create better future into a system where many others can join them in creating real positive impact. The impact that directly tackles the real challenges we wish to resolve as soon as possible. These stewards of sustainability create a strong movement through their actions show their responsibility towards environment, society and the community they belong to.
One such story of stewardship is when fresh graduates from Tanzania decided to resolve the issue of deforestation and waste generation in forests that they had been seeing while growing up. In the Moshi region of Tanzania, three young leaders established a tourism model that not only preserved the existing forests but also widened the area under forest cover.
One Trip – One Tree
When travelers visit this part of the world where highest mountain in Africa – Mt. Kilimanjaro is situated, Rau Eco & Cultural Tourism initiative diversify their experience with Nature Walks, Bird Watching, Local Market and cooking tours in Moshi. It offers plenty of unique experiences that are curated around local lifestyle, culture and biodiversity. The co-founders of the initiative, Linus, Daniel & Hamis have not only designed the multiple small tours around the Rau Forest but also turned the local houses in homestays owned by Mtalo family.
When travellers are enjoying living in nature, the Rau team introduces them to the local challenges of waste dumping and deforestation. By sharing local stories, harmful practices, possible impacts on local lives and biodiversity, Rau team educates the visitors to take active step towards bringing positive change. The efforts do not just stop at explaining the situation but the travellers are provided with an opportunity to make their positive contribution. When a group is wondering about existence of 200 year old trees in the forests, the team gives them seedling for plantation. The travellers leave with an assurance that they will keep getting updates about the tree they planted and the forest conservation. Here, these sustainability flag bearers are transforming the concern of environment into actions right there and creating a tangible positive impact.
The Success and Positive Impact
One action of making travellers contribute to the local biodiversity preservation has shown multiplier effects since the inception of the initiative. Since 2013, the initiative has successfully planted over 10,000 trees in the forest. Rau Eco & Cultural Tourism believes that the each traveller who visited Moshi in past and planted a tree, has helped in offsetting carbon more than the amount of carbon emission happened during their trip to this region.
As the initiative expanded, the local employment increased and women who are fondly known as Mamas started getting actively involved in the hosting and conservation. Mamas cook local food for their guests and offer warm hospitality in their homestays. They also preserve the seeds of native trees and sell it to the travelers who wish to participate in plantation. They manage the fund on their own and use it for community development.
The success of the initiative lies in the decision of bringing concerns of environment into reality. It is an exemplary approach of how one small gesture involved in tourism offer can create such a wide impact. Formulation of community development, environmental conservation, empowerment through actions evidently takes us closer to our global goals