Ecotourism has been expanding rapidly since the early 1990s and stems from the earlier global environmental movement that had its naissance in the late 1970s. The aims of ecotourism as outlined in the 1992 Agenda 21 guidance for the tourist and travel industry are to promote responsible travel to host regions which not only plays a part in the conservation of the local environment but aims to improve and offer future opportunities for indigenous communities.
Over the years, the buyout of land owned by local smallholders in Kenya to further the needs of intensive farming and big business has not only left many communities displaced from their traditional homelands but has also removed a sizeable proportion of habitat previously used for grazing by the local wildlife. Lack of local business skills and finances means there have been too few opportunities and no real incentive for the local population to understand the benefits of wildlife conservation.
It is against this backdrop that Gamewatchers Safaris has developed its conservancy concept and operates the Porini Camps.The company, headed up by local Kenyan Jake Grieves-Cook is applying the principles of ecotourism literally at the grass roots level by developing conservation areas for wildlife on land that it leases from local communities in Kenya. These tracts of land border national parks and extend the habitat of threatened species.
The key to Gamewatchers’ success has been in sharing its private sector commercially gained expertise and experience to work with the local community to demonstrate that there are real tangible benefits in treating the land as a resource, that can provide wildlife protection zones while at the same time bringing in income gained from tourism and the resultant employment opportunities to support it that it offers.
Gamewatchers is responsible for putting into place the infrastructure necessary to support tourism facilities that will have minimal impact on its environs, thus respecting the principles of ecotourism e.g by the building of a restricted number of access roads to the camps, the setting of selected tracks to view game, and operating campsites only using renewable energy sources which accommodate a strictly limited number of guests.