Mkuru Camel Safari Project

Mkuru Camel Safari (MCS) is a community-based cultural and environmental tourism initiative, supported by Oikos East Africa and directly managed by local people, under the umbrella of the Tanzania Tourist Board - Cultural Tourism Programme.

It aims at spreading the knowledge of natural and cultural resources of North-western Tanzania, in particular of the Meru-Kilimanjaro-Lengai Mountain Complex, and distributing the benefits of tourism throughout the region, especially to the rural communities.

To make of the camel safari a viable income generating activity, capable to contribute to the poverty alleviation of the Uwiro community at large.

Project History
Mkuru is a Maasai sub-village situated on the North Side of Mt Meru, not far from the Arusha National Park, in northern Tanzania. The area around Mkuru is of great environmental and cultural richness. The Maasai, the most well known of Tanzania’s tribes, together with the verdant mountains, the scrubland plains and the typical African wildlife are its greatest attractions. The Tanzania Tourist Board, the national tourism authority, included Mkuru in the Cultural Tourism Program, an action which will entice tourists from all around the world to visit tribal villages of Tanzania during their safari itineraries.
Since the introduction of camels in the early nineties and with the assistance of the Heifer Project International, Mkuru has become one of the centres for camels in Tanzania. The local Maasai left alone couldn’t manage the tourism business and went back to the traditional herding activity. But their living conditions were getting worse because of the increasing poverty and social exclusion.
Istituto Oikos helped the Maasai of Mkuru to create, manage and promote their own responsible tourism plans, as a means for sustainable development. Oikos encouraged the constitution of the Mkuru Camel Group (MCG), a community-based-organisation composed by 16 local guides, involved in the tourism management in the interest of local people. Oikos provided technical assistance to MCG and helped them to select tourism routes. MCG owns now over 25 camels which are led everyday into the plains to search for forage and back to the village for being milked by Maasai women. Camels are not native to Tanzania but they are the perfect animals for this semi-arid area.
They can resist up to 15 days without drinking and they are capable of making long trips. For promoting the Mkuru cultural tourism program, Oikos realised a promotional leaflet, which is available at every office of Tanzania Tourist Board, and sponsored camel safari at Karibu Fair (Arusha Tourism Expo), where MCG offered free camel rides to tourists.
Moreover, between February and March 2005, a camel camp, entirely and exclusively managed by the Maasai communities for tourism purposes, was built with the support of the Alpi Marittime Natural Park. The camp was set among the acacias with an incredible view on the African savannah and Mt. Kilimanjaro and was designed to compliment the environment. Wooden platforms for tents, a simple toilet and a living area are set for hosting small tourist groups.
Since May 2006 Mkuru Camel Safari tourism business runs pretty well, with over 85 visitors experiencing long and short camel safaris only in the summer 2006. In November 2006 Alpi Marittime Natural Park provided Mkuru Camel Camp with new equipment while Oikos keeps on supporting the training activities for the leaders and the local guides.

Strategic Plans
The project's main objective is to raise the living conditions of the Uwiro community by making tourism a sustainable, community-based income generating activity, while ensuring the protection of natural environment, preserving the local culture and traditions and guaranteeing long-term sustainability of the sector.

To reach this objective a viable business development strategy will be developed, that includes:
- the expansion of business opportunities through product development and the involvement of private sector;
- the expansion of employment opportunities for the Uwiro community by raising the number of visitors experiencing the camel and walking safari;
- the protection of natural environment and cultural value of the area.

Main challenge is to achieve the expected standards of the private sector, namely the training of MCG staff and members, and the improvement of Mkuru Camel Camp facilities.
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