The Kaya Kinondo EcoTourism Project


The Kaya Kinondo Ecotourism Project has been a vital endeavor, born from a series of challenges that threatened the sustainability and cultural practices within our sacred forest. In the face of overreliance on forest resources, cultural erosion, encroachment, and biodiversity loss, the need for alternative, sustainable, and community-driven protection methods became apparent.


Our journey began with these pressing challenges:

  1. Overreliance on Forest Resources: The forest faced pressure due to the overuse of resources like firewood and building poles for domestic and commercial purposes in nearby towns, fueled by a growing population and a lack of sustainable livelihood alternatives.
  2. Culture Erosion and Modernization: Changing religious beliefs and modernity, especially among the younger generation, led to a neglect of local traditions, eroding the effectiveness of traditional conservation practices.
  3. Encroachment: The forest was threatened by encroachment for tourism development, farming, and infrastructure projects.
  4. Biodiversity Loss: Indiscriminate cutting, poaching, and climate change contributed to a loss of forest biodiversity.

The Turning Point

In 2000-2001, a comprehensive feasibility study was conducted within and around Kaya Kinondo sacred forest to explore the viability of ecotourism as an alternative method to harness the forest’s resources. The research yielded invaluable information:

  • Traditional knowledge about trees and their values
  • The significance of forest biodiversity to local people
  • Historical insights into the Digo people
  • Cultural lineages and settings of traditional systems and beliefs
  • Levels of tourist attractions, both natural and cultural

The Ecotourism Initiative

With the partnership of organizations such as WWF, NMK, and the Ford Foundation, the Kaya Kinondo Forest Conservation Group (KKFCG) launched the Kaya Kinondo Ecotourism Project in 2001. The project aimed to unlock the socio-economic benefits of tourism for the local community. Key achievements included:

  • Creation of Kaya Kinondo Forest trails connecting various attractions in the forest and local villages
  • Establishment of the Kaya Kinondo visitor’s information center and office
  • Community engagement in promoting local tourist products (handcrafts, local food, cultural dances)
  • Training of members in various tourist business services
  • Documentation and presentation of product information
  • Acquisition of essential items to support ecotourism

Respect and Conservation

As we opened the forest to tourists, respecting its sanctity and biodiversity remained paramount. Regulations were established:

  • Visitors must be accompanied by a local guide during forest walks.
  • Headwear like scarves and hats are not allowed in sacred areas.
  • Visitors must don kaniki wrappers out of respect for ancestral spirits and cultural norms.
  • No feeding of animals, littering, or object retrieval from the forest.
  • Photography and filming are restricted to specific areas.
  • Acts of intimacy are deemed indecent and not allowed.
  • Researchers must share their findings with the management.

Benefits and Sustainability

The Kaya Kinondo Ecotourism Project brings sustainability in many ways:

  • Job creation and additional income sources for the local community.
  • A ready market for local products and services.
  • Strong partnerships with the community and development partners.
  • Support for cultural and heritage protection.

Supporting Sustainable Development

The revenue generated from this project serves various purposes:

  • Salaries and wages for project staff.
  • Daily monitoring of the forest site.
  • Running and recurrent project costs.
  • Socio-economic activities, including education support and emergency assistance for the local community.
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