While many people perceive the term eco-tourism to mean a more friendly, most are not aware of the negative impacts that result from this type of tourism.
"Nature tourism" is based on the use of natural resources in an undeveloped state.
With this separation of people and nature, reserves areas in Tanzania were created without any consideration for the local communities.
Tourism industry has grown to be a $439 billion a year business. Tourism is one of the top five export categories in Tanzania. It is no surprise, then, Tanzania government wants to take advantage of this incredible economic opportunity. In competition with many other beautiful places, Tanzania has to make their lands look the most attractive to the tourism community, and, unfortunately, the price is paid by the local people.
Today, more parks and reserves are being created by the government without the participation or consent from the indigenous people. The indigenous people consider development, whether it is through tourism or other government projects, to only benefit others and not their own situations. Over the course of their existence, Maasai land has been taken away from them repeatedly, and after many broken promises of compensation and participation, the Maasai have started to fight for their land rights.
Maasai societies were sharing their land with the wild animals long before the arrival of those who use game only as a means of making money. They should not be pushed off from their own land for the financial convenience of commercial hunters and hotel-keepers.
The Maasai were highly influenced by the concept of privatization and its benefits and by the World Bank, which encouraged privatization. Privatization, however, was not an ideal substitution for the traditional migration that was so compatible with the land. While the Maasai did compete with the wildlife, it was not so significant for it to be damaging. Privatization concentrated their livelihood to a restricted piece of land, thus contributing to "unsustainable ecology”.
Two events have played into the environmental injustices that have occurred among the Maasai people. First, the Maasai lost considerable rangeland to the rich, white British colonists in the early part of their history, and it is unknown whether or not the land they were left with can sustain the remaining population. Second, to keep their parks desirable to tourists by preserving the wildlife, the governments restricted the Maasai to small parcels of land, which is not compatible with a pastoral way of life. It is ironic that while the government is blaming Maasai overgrazing on park degradation, they are encouraging unsustainable practices by restricting them from migrating.
This pastoral tribe relies on the land for raising their cattle. They have interacted with the land, sustainably, for thousands of years by migrating in order to allow the grass to regenerate. Ever since the British colonization, however, this interaction has been disrupted in order to protect the wildlife from unnecessary competition from the Maasai. This concern for the wildlife stems not from a moral ethic, but from the economic opportunities it creates.
The Maasai’s only demand is rights to the land that they have inhabited for years. Not only have they been denied this right, but they have not been compensated adequately for the land they have given up.
There are many things the government can do to break down the preconceptions they have about indigenous people and to recognize how tourism can negatively affect these people when considering future projects. The government should recognize that tourism is not only affects people by taking their land away, but that, it has many social and psychological impacts also.
There are many avenues for correction that should be explored by governments, the tourism industry and environmental organizations. Above all, they must realize that while they are preserving the wildlife in these areas, they are eliminating some of the most endangered groups in the world.
The governments should secure prior informed consent from the indigenous communities that exist in these areas before beginning a development project, and then give them more control over the implementation of the project. Their decisions should base on knowledge about both the pros and cons of development. We are tired of hearing about the ‘enterprise concept’ which usually promotes only the benefits of ‘development’ and we need to know the potential downside too.
Local control would give back to the community and would lessen the impacts of development because the indigenous communities would have more interest in preserving something they are actually benefiting from. However, with all the tour companies that exist today, local communities do not have the political or economic force to compete with these other corporations and their government.
The scale of the tourism project should be considered. The number of tourists should not overwhelm the local population.
The economic disparity between the host and the guest should be examined. This disparity could lead to increased hostility among the hosts and guests.
The cultural differences between the host and guest should be explored. Guests should respect the traditions and wishes of the hosts. Finally, guests should not come with any cultural expectations.
The government should realize that the local communities have a right to say no to tourism activities in the area. Finally, to compensate for such imposition, the government should support indigenous community programs.