From our Challenge Coordinator Geertje Lavrijssen
One of the Participatory Action Research projects – The sustainable tourism challenge in Zambia – was led by Geertje Lavrijssen. The main objective was to co-create and implement together with local stakeholders ideas/projects on community development through tourism with keeping in mind cultural norms, values and traditions.
Tourism in Mfuwe Zambia is developing rapidly. However, it is a specific type of tourism. Tourists visit the South Luangwa National Park, stay in well-equipped and western standard lodges and are hardly ever in touch with the local population. Geertje investigated the possibilities to narrow the gap, to increase tourism in the surrounding communities and establish a mutual knowledge transfer based on equality. She involved local headmen’s and the chief, and managed the expectations. By listening to the people involved, and working together with them, two focus points for local initiatives were identified. The first goal was to diminish corruption within the local communities and the second to further develop the community by generating income through local initiatives.
In order to fight local (small-scale) corruption, workshops were set up to establish awareness. In all of the surrounding communities one person was selected to join a regional council, as representatives of the communities. This joining of forces resulted in a stronger voice and everybody to be able to address corruption on a higher scale, like in organizations that wouldn’t listen to one person but would to this group of representatives.
Development of the community
In order to stimulate economic development, the idea came up to set up a local market. By selling local produce to surrounding local communities, but also by selling locally and handmade arts and crafts products to tourists, there would also be a better opportunity for mutual contact and interaction between tourists and locals. To learn and benefit from each other.
Unfortunately, Zambia was recently struck by extreme rains and this affected the entire local community.
Meant to Be Travels
Geertje feels very connected to the local community, and has built up a special relationship with them, she wants to stay supportive of them and this is how she came to think of new ways of doing this in a sustainable way. She recently started a travel organization called Meant to Be Travels. The aim is to make people connect and learn from each other by local experiences. People from Western Europe are sometimes not connected to what truly matters in life anymore, lost that insight and are consumed by our materialistic Western world. This can cause confusion and stress, burnout is a common problem these days. Geertje organizes trips to Zambia for people who are interested in personal development, reflection and a more sustainable and – on a personal level – enriching travel experience. She offers a special coaching journey, back to the real heart of Africa. This will take you to Zambia on an interacting experience with the local people in these small communities, this often helps you to get back to your basics and true nature and lets you experience again what is truly important in life. The local community members are happy to welcome the foreign guests in their home environment, and to learn from their visitors as well. So both parties benefit equally.
Furthermore, Meant to Be Travels organizes tailormade roundtrips to Malawi and Zambia, which will give you the chance to really get in touch with nature, culture and the locals and their way of living.
This spring the personal development trip is planned for 10 – 20 May. If you want to join, a few places are still available. A brief video on these trips (Personal Discovery trips) can be viewed here.
Travel programs like these enrich lives of all involved. More information on Meant to Be Travels? Click here.
Would you like to know more on Action Research in the field of tourism read the information on the Sustainable Tourism Challenge on the 7Senses website and the article written by Katharina Goebel, Madelon Eelderink and Celiane Camargo-Borges.