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Project: ‘Geotourism Initiatives in Southern Malawi’
Location: Southern Malawi
Beneficiaries: FOMO - Orphan Care Centre, Mpepwe Boatyard, Nancholi Youth Organisation (NAYO) & Nchima Paper Making Trust
Local sponsor: Responsible Safari Company
Since 2009 the Responsible Safari Company (RSC), an eco-tourism certified tour company, has been running successful and carefully managed tours to five community initiatives in Southern Malawi. Feedback from these visits has been consistently excellent from both the travelers and the recipient community initiative partners.
What does the project entail?
The project will increase RSC’s capacity to run more trips to the community initiatives by buying an additional new vehicle, hiring new staff and providing training to staff. It will aim to improve the current experience between visitors and the community initiatives by informing and educating the visitors in preparation for the visit.
What challenges does the project seek to overcome?
Vehicle logistics – currently RSC must rent a minibus and driver to take travelers on day trips to the communities. This costs $180 per day plus running costs and makes single day trips to the community initiatives unviable. Therefore these visits must be incorporated into a larger package itinerary. Otherwise:
- A group of 4 travelers wish to visit FOMO on a day visit
- Cost: $220 (bus, driver & fuel) + $25pp (tour fee: $20 donation, $5 RSC costs) = $320
- $320 x 25% (RSC fee for day) = $400
- $100 = expensive day tour per person, of which: $55-Bus, $20-FOMO, $30-RSC
Education - travelers need to be appropriately informed and educated about the customs, traditions and culture of the communities they are visiting, and what to expect from their time there. This extends to RSC staff as well, not only for their own benefit but for informing the visiting travelers
Employment – renting vehicles means that RSC have to work with a host of part-time hired drivers, who they need to train as quickly as possible prior to running a trip, which does not work
Marketing – financial restraints have meant RSC has been unable to promote the community projects to a wider clientele.
How the funds will be spent: £22 950 (Loan)
Minibus $18 000
Owning their own minibus will allow RSC to make more (and better) day visits to the communities and increase flexibility in their logistical arrangements. For package itineraries, the bus might be used to visit a number of community initiatives, along with scenic attractions and National Parks.
Driver/guide employment $1 620
Covering the salary of another full-time local driver and guide will significantly increase capacity to run trips to the projects. When not taking visitors he will work on developing the project visit information, marketing and would be involved in a training programme with the community initiatives to ensure they are provided with the necessary skills and resources to host visitors
Staff training $2 000
RSC staff training scheme would be expanded to train its own staff and an extended pool of part-time employees (5-10 drivers & guides). Training would take place three times a year, including seminars on environmental awareness, cultural awareness, responsible travel and practice project and National Park visits.
- 6 part training program over 2 years - $1200
- RSC’s two main driver/guides to also attend a course run by Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve or equivalent - $800
Marketing $1 330
Visitor numbers need to be increased. This can be done though RSC marketing internationally but to really increase visitor numbers through the low season then the local market is a better option.
Within Malawi the development/NGO market is large and many such organizations have visiting donors which the project aims to target via local advertising. The Eye Magazine is a magazine freely distributed nationally. This would be in conjunction with marketing efforts on www.explore-malawi.com. (e.g. Design an advert - $150; Quarter page advert, for one year - $1180 ($295 per issue)
What will be the outcomes and impacts of the project?
Financial - For each trip RSC makes, the local community initiative receives at least 75% of the tour fee. Currently RSC takes on average 10 travelers a month to each community project. With project funding they expect to at least triple this number.
Further Donations - Evidence shows that 95% of travelers take with them useful donations (clothes, materials, school equipment, etc) that is requested by the community initiative, and passed through by RSC. These donations will often be resourced from within Malawi. Additionally post holiday, 95% of travelers make a further financial contribution or continue to support to the community project they visited. This service is facilitated by RSC.
Employment - 1 full-time driver/guide job created and an increase in part-time work opportunities for trained local drivers/guides.
Training - Training of 5-10 local, part time guides & drivers trained in environmental & cultural awareness, responsible travel and general good practice in tourism.
Awareness - Increase in awareness of the community initiatives and geotourism activities that are run by RSC, both within Malawi (schools, NGOs, businesses, tourists) and internationally. Visitors will tell friends and family about their experience at the community projects.
What will the project offer the traveler?
Each visit offers a fascinating insight into community lives. Past visitors frequently comment on how much these trips enhance their stay in Malawi and it gives them a unique perspective of the country.
FOMO (Friends of Mulanje Orphans)- Orphan Care Centre, Mulanje district
Helping disadvantaged children from the Mulanje District, FOMO has been set up to offer support to the huge number of orphaned children. In addition to providing food and clothing to the children at the day care centers, it also provides all children with education sponsorship. FOMO has a tailoring school, a driving school, computer labs, and a health clinic. Visitors are warmly received by the children and staff and invited to participate in the day to day work - assist with clothing distribution, coaching some football or simply play games with the children.
Nancholi Youth Organisation (NAYO) – Blantyre
In the suburbs of Malawi’s second city Blantyre, NAYO works hand in hand with the local community to help its most vulnerable residents. Day visitors to the centre are invited to meet some of its beneficiaries, whether it be visiting a local family that is benefiting from NAYO’s support (clothing, parental support, school resources, etc), visiting the self-sustaining orphan day care centre or joining trained volunteers on their daily home-based care visits to patients suffering from HIV/aids.
Mpepwe Boatyard- Lake Malawi
A relatively new community run project on the shores of Lake Malawi. Mpepwe is a traditional boat building yard seeking alternative methods to wooden boatbuilding from unsustainable sources. Traditional ‘Mulanje Cedar Wood’ is heavily forested and there is a need to raise awareness of issues such as deforestation and the depletion of Malawi’s natural resources. They have begun to also recognize other development issues within the small fishing community for example HIV/Aids awareness and are working with community members to tackle these.
Nchima Paper Making Trust – Thyolo
Nchima Paper Making Trust is a small project in the heart of Malawi’s tea growing area. They recycle paper and cardboard to make products to sell at the local market and to visitors - proceeds go towards school fees of local children. Visitors to the Trust learn and participate in the hands on process of recycling paper and cardboard into crafts and fire briquettes. The fire briquettes are a sustainable alternative to, commonly-used, charcoal. A small shop sells gifts, address books, note books, paintings, local wares, etc.
How will the project be financially sustainable?
Revenue derived from the visits will ensure the project is financially sustainable for both the local sponsor RSC and the community initiatives it works with. The community initiatives will increase their income without any additional expenditure. Although RSC will continue to take only a small margin from the cost of a day visit, they have the opportunity to make larger margins on larger tour itineraries, where a greater commission can be made from accommodation and travel costs.
Local Sponsor details:
The eco-tourism accredited Responsible Safari Company (RSC) is dedicated to providing sustainable travel and eco-tourism opportunities throughout Malawi. For more details, please visit: www.explore-malawi.com.
‘As a responsible tour operator we believe in ensuring that the benefits of tourism reach local communities. The development initiatives we work with are all sensitive to the needs of the local community and are working hard to alleviate poverty from within Malawi. By working with us, we can support them by providing an alternative and sustainable source of income.’ – Kate Ward, Director.