Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Voluntourism in Uganda

Popularly regarded as Volunteer Travel, Voluntourism is a recent form of tourism which involves volunteering for charitable causes by travelers to help communities or the environment in the places they are visiting. Volunteer travel varies from low-skilled to more professional and high-skilled work; it could be short-term or long-term.
Volunteer travel participants share a common desire to "give back to the world". This could be in terms of “doing something beneficial” to the world as a whole, to a non-profit motivated organization, to a particular community or to the natural environment whilst experiencing new places, having fun, and promoting sustainable and responsible travel. This is done in many ways; ranging from helping in cleaning local wildlife areas, giving goods and money to local schools or marginalized groups of people, to intense volunteer programmes like medical aid services, scientific research and education, and any other technical services especially to community development projects of a foreign country.
The Great Trekkers Safaris recognizes voluntourism as one way of contributing towards development of environmentally, economically and culturally responsible travel because of its anticipated positive outcomes.

Combining travel with volunteering
As a community based responsible and fair tour agency, we strongly believe in promotion of tourism which is beneficial to communities. It’s through Voluntourism that our core objectives can fully be realized in one way or another once people get to attain practical skills, earn some income from travelers, conserve nature and environment in the most eco-friendly measure.
As Great Trekkers Safaris, we believe that there are so many travelers out there who are able and willing to have an opportunity to bring benefits to the people in the under developed world like Uganda. Besides, we have received a good number of travelers who have shown interest in helping the local person in one way or the other. Thus we do believe that we stand in a better position as a local partner to make sure that whatever it meant for positive empowerment of our communities is effectively and efficiently delivered to the intended recipient since we have a long-standing and rich relationship with a our local communities.
VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS 
Most programs are available year-round. We request Travel volunteers to get in touch with us in time depending on your area of interest and we shall arrange for you the most suitable program that will make your stay once in life time experience.
  
Community Involvement and Conservation
The Great Trekkers Safaris is in partnership with several community based organization. The company is working with the conservation communities around Lake Mburo National Park where the company has established a community camp site and it’s on this very Eco-friendly camp site that all our volunteers will have a hands on experience while working on several conservation projects on this very camp site. 

Hotel and Home Stay Experience
The Company has a good working relationship with several hotels and home stays both in central and western region of Uganda thus we always give all our volunteers a chance to work in various hotels, cultural centers, museums and home stays to have a practical hands on experience in various departments, Hospitality management, Front desk reservations, catering and above all they get to relate with both their supervisors and customers.
Agriculture and School Exchange Program
Do you like working outdoors and getting your hands dirty? Interested in seeing the impact of climate change in the tropics? Come volunteer at a local farm and help a community achieve food security and environmental sustainability.
Volunteers work alongside Ugandans digging and maintaining demonstration gardens to promote better nutrition, efficient use of land, natural pest control, soil conservation, and income generation. Depending on the season, volunteers prepare soil, plant, weed, chase pests, or harvest crops. Volunteers are given basic training and appropriate tools upon arrival, but bring gloves, a hat, and rubber boots if you wish. This project requires working in the sun.

Teaching in the selected Primary and Secondary Schools
Volunteers take part in a flexible schedule, which includes Teaching English, Art, Music Dance and Drama in selected Primary and Secondary schools not excluding sport programs. Great Opportunities exist for those who are fluent in English. The Great Trekkers Safaris has been supporting two community based primary school (Nyabuhama and Rwenjeru Primary) where you can spend time extending some basic skills to these vulnerable children.

In Uganda, income levels determine your children’s quality of schooling. This creates a large gap amongst student’s education. Most upper-class children receive ideal English instruction, but children of poorer families and communities lag far behind. This educational gap grows as children progress through their schooling and eventually into the workforce. Our English teaching internship programs in Uganda benefit local children and orphans by helping them develop useful English language skills. The demand for English-speaking Ugandans is becoming more prominent as the tourist industry grows. Improving these children's conversational English in Uganda makes for a better future and also prepares them to compete and participate in the global market.   



Expectations involved in voluntourism
A valuable volunteer experience is characterized by;
  • Targeting non-traditional venues if actual benefits to both the host community and the volunteer are to be realized
  • The volunteer must be in direct contact with local residents or environment working with a local trusted partner
  • Should involve physical exertion of both the volunteer and the local hosts / communities
  • Should be focused or engrosses goal-oriented activities; i.e. it should be contributing to long-term structured progammes,
  • Should empower the local community while the volunteer is learning from the experience
  • The actual attitude of an individual volunteer should be appropriate; "desired for” the local community as well what one can learn from the hosts.
How we do it
We do encourage both long-term and short-term volunteer placement depending on the type of programme. Cases that involve helping marginalized children or groups (orphans, the disabled, other needy people) require long term commitment by the volunteers compared to activities like environmental research, cleaning local wildlife areas, planting trees, etc. We as an agent may not have some specialized skills to be able to offer placement for all kinds of volunteers. Therefore we have prioritized some of the needs of our communities and established avenues where we are sure that we can perform effectively. Below are some of the ways in which a traveler can volunteer with our clear guidance and support.


Local Partner non-profit organizations: We hold memberships with a few local organizations that deal in environmental research, education and awareness. These organizations have specific programmes that may require expertise in different fields like proposal writing, fundraising and advocacy etc. At the present time, we work closely with 2 communities in Nyabuhama, Rwenjeru and Lake Mburo conservation groups. 

Local schools: There are quite a number of local schools that are established in remote areas and are unable to access some of the basic facilities, like well equipped libraries, modern amenities like toilets, special attention to the incapacitated schoolmates, structures like classrooms, or even minor requirements like books, pens or pencils.


Local organized women groups and other vulnerable people: these may be near a protected area or a valuable natural resource and are struggling to find ways of benefiting from the resource close to them. Support could be rendered in terms of technical advice through education, financial aid, partnerships / network / linkage with an external organization with similar objectives.

Eco-home stays: there are a few Eco-homes and model villages that have been identified to help a traveler have better insights on how to live and interact with the local people while enjoying a few material comfort in a Ugandan village setting. Though this activity is so recent in Uganda, we believe that your staying with a family or in a community may give you an interactive experience with local people. In addition, you bring your hosts direct income and your purchase of goods and services brings returning benefits to others in the community.


Contact us to plan a customized Volunteer trip to Uganda

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Who are the Great Trekkers !

The Great Trekkers Safaris is a social enterprise focused at promoting responsible tourism for sustainable community development.The company is based in western Uganda a region well known as a hub of the best tourist attractions. This is due to the fact that out of the 10 National parks found in Uganda, 8 of these game parks are found in the region including Bwindi Impenetrable Forest which hosts more than 50% of the world’s total mountain Gorillas. The region boosts of a wide range of nature and wildlife attractions, the best weather conditions throughout the year and it has two famous mountains that is Mt. Rwenzori one of the highest mountains in Africa with a snow capped peak and Mt. Muhabura another Volcanic mountain found in the region.  
As one of our core value, active community participation is our responsibility and for sustainable tourism to be realized, communities must be involved at every stage of development.
Vision
To be a leading travel and tours company that fronts sustainable tourism across Uganda and the region at large.
Mission Statement            
To be a first link point in accessing the best tourist destinations, providing the best tour services across the region while fronting community tourism for sustainable development. 

Uganda, the Pearl of Africa a country to discover? Is it a safe country? Friendly with foreigners? Is it interesting to invest?
In 1907 Sir Winston Churchill a former Prime minister of United Kingdom while on his “Africa Journey” visited Uganda and in his own words he said For magnificence, for variety of form and color, for profusion of brilliant life — bird, insect, reptile, beast — for vast scale — Uganda is truly “the Pearl of Africa.” I have moved the entire of this continent from the North to the south, West to the East, Uganda is truly the Pearl of Africa

From the beautiful landscapes, to the friendly welcoming people with rich cultures, to amazing mountain snow capped ranges of Mt. Rwenzori, Uganda is a place to discover. Uganda has 10 National parks with several game reserves that harbor the Big 5 (Rhino, Buffaloes, Elephants, Lion and Leopard). The country is home to the highest Gorilla Population found in one of the most thick jungle of Bwindi impenetrable National Park, with the most number of Chimpanzees found in Kibale natural forest, Uganda is the home to the source of R. Nile one of the longest in the world and has the largest fresh water Lake Victoria and many other lakes, the country has been ranked the best travel destination in Africa and the 4th best in the whole world by Rough Guides https://www.roughguides.com/best-places/2017/top-10-countries/ The country was ranked the most welcoming and friendliest nation in Africa by the BBC http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20170215-living-in-the-worlds-most-welcoming-countries They say “Facts and Statistics don’t lie” the above truly explain why Uganda is the best Country to discover.
Uganda has been very peaceful and safe for the past 30 years now, the country is very peaceful and with enough security for any person visiting. It’s a great potential for business and Investment opportunities with its favorable climatic conditions, best weather throughout the year and fertile soils. The country is among the top 10 producers of good coffee in the whole world and the second in Africa. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_coffee_production
The country is very rich in minerals including Gold, copper, Iron, and currently the Country has discovered Oil in the western part of the country (Albertine region)

Great Trekkers is sustainable tourism. What is sustainable tourism?
True, Great Trekkers is a tour company which fronts sustainable tourism as a great pillar for community development. Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make only positive impact on the environment, society and economy. Tourism can involve primary transportation to the general location, local transportation, accommodations, entertainment, recreation, nourishment and shopping. Through sustainable tourism, there must be a balance between the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, as it plays an important role in conserving biodiversity. Sustainable tourism minimizes the negative impacts on the environment and local culture while contributing to income levels of communities, offering employment, and the conservation of local ecosystems.
As a company we realized a need of promoting tourism which is beneficial and sustainable not only to the company owners but also to the communities. For nature and environment to be conserved, then communities must be involved in sustainable projects.
What resources do you count?
§     We count our experienced Team of Staff who are passionate and professional about the work they do both for the company and the community at large.

     As the only registered Tour Company located in the Western which is focusing on community and sustainable tourism, the communities of Rwenjeru found it very important to work with us. The owners of the Community land have entrusted us with their land such that we design better strategies on how to promote and develop the site.
§    The 12 hectares of community land is strategically positioned and it borders Lake Mburo National Park with great scenic views good for Camping. And we have so far conducted several outreach Community programs to the nearby communities where we sensitized the communities the Role of local tourists in boosting tourism for sustainable growth and development. It’s on the same land that we intend to establish an Eco-friendly Camp site in the near future with the support of partners. 

What role do the communities play in your project?
§      Our communities help us in implementation of our conservation Initiatives-The tree planting project at Rwenjeru community Camp site is implemented by the local communities who ensure that the trees are well protected.
§     Communities provide the required Art & Craft items which are displayed and sold to travelers at the Rwenjeru Craft Market Centre
§       They organize cultural music and dance performances which are showcased to the visiting tourists 

A portion of your profits go to the community, is not it? Explain an example of your activity.
As a social enterprise we realized a need of supporting community based initiatives which other companies couldn’t do. As a company we are sharing our profits with the community. Currently we are supporting 2 schools located in Lake Mburo National Park (Nyabuhama and Rwenjeru Primary Schools) where we have launched Wild Life Clubs and our plan is to establish an Eco-friendly Community Camp site where people could have more direct benefits once employed as workers among other related benefits. We are giving back 20% of our company profits to the communities for Charity initiatives and educational support to 20 children studying in the above mentioned schools.  Some of these children had dropped out of school and had started burning charcoal for business and hunting animals in Lake Mburo National Park as a way to raise an income through selling of animal meat. We are sponsoring these children by paying half of their fees and providing scholastic materials. Our plan is to have more support if we can have more people willing to support and sponsor the education of these vulnerable children

Projects for the future
§      Our future plan is secure more partners and support to enable us establish an Eco-friendly community camp site at Rwenjeru community where we intend to build a community Library to enhance the reading culture among the most vulnerable communities. This community Library would enable people get access to information on nature and wildlife conservation and we intend to use the same Library for community meetings and dialogues.

§      We intend to build a Community training & Skills centre for the Youth and Women who will be       trained in Art & Craft making and the produced craft items can be sold to the visiting tourists or even exported to the external markets abroad.

§     We intend to establish a modern Computer Laboratory (I.T Community Centre where we shall be teaching people basic computer skills) This I.T Centre would also enhance the research and reading culture of basically the Youth who will be trained on how to effectively utilize internet for research, marketing their local packages and products among many others  

       Send a message to travelers, and why they should choose an agency like yours to meet Uganda.

First and foremost I thank everyone reading this article and I take this opportunity to invite you to plan a visit to this beautiful, welcoming and peaceful country well gifted with the best nature and wildlife attractions. By choosing to travel with our agency, you not only enjoy the best safari experience but the money you pay to our agency for a Safari to Uganda leaves a good impact to the communities. We don’t just focus at earning profits we share the same profits with our community as our focus is to promote sustainable tourism for community development.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Supporting Community Based tourism initiatives is the way to go !

The Great Trekkers Safaris was started in April 2014 and later registered in March 2016 . As a community based tour company, we realized a genuine need of starting up a social enterprise which would not only benefit company owners but would also benefit and develop the communities. We happen to come from Western Uganda widely regarded as tourism hub with the best cultural, nature and wildlife attractions but we realized that the available tour companies’ only front profit making at the expense of the people in our communities. So we came up with the idea of starting up a community based tour company that fronts Community Based Tourism for sustainable growth and development. We started up by organizing several community camp experiences for young people where we got the opportunity to discuss community related issues in line of tourism, conservation and empowerment as young corporate while promoting such unknown sites.

COMMUNITY BASED PROJECTS AND INITIATIVES RUN BY THE GREAT TREKKERS SAFARIS
As a Social enterprise we realized the need to supporting children education among the most vulnerable families who are staying in the most rural conservation communities of Lake Mburo National Park by taking them to school because we discovered that most of the conservation areas which had the highest number of hunters and poachers were dominated by the highest number of school drop outs who would engage in charcoal burning business, animal hunting and other related activities as a way of raising some income to sustain their lives.

This has not only enabled these children to acquire education but it has also created a safe environment for the animals in Lake Mburo national park which was facing extinction and encroachment from the indigenous pastoral tribes of the Bahiima.  

Planting trees for Eco-Tourism
As a company we have not just stopped at sponsoring these children in school but we have opened up wild life clubs in all the 4 primary schools in the conservation areas of Lake Mburo and Bwindi impenetrable national parks where pupils are being taught the need to conserving our nature and environment. “For conservation to be realized then it must start with the Children and Youth” Reference World Wildlife Day – Main streaming the Youth in Tourism

Official Launch of Wild Life Club at Nyabuhama P/S Rwenjeru Community –Lake Mburo National Park 


Establishment of an Eco-friendly Community Camp site- Rwenjeru Community Camp site
Due to the fact that we are the only registered Tour Company located in the Western region which is focusing on community and domestic tourism, The communities of Rwenjeru found it very important to work with us. The owners of the Community land have entrusted us with their land such that we design better strategies on how to promote and develop the site. The 12 hectares of community land is strategically positioned and it borders Lake Mburo National Park with great scenic views good for Camping. And we have so far we organized  12 successful Camps at the Site and also conducted several outreach Community programs to the nearby communities where we sensitized the communities the Role of local tourists in boosting domestic and community Based Tourism.


During the monthly Open Market day at the Camp site
As a social enterprise tour company, we have created an open Craft Village Market on the camp site where every month we invite all the communities in this conservation area to come to the camp site with their locally produced items, crafts, food produce etc where they get to sell and have market for their goods. 

Traditional cultural performers at the camp site
We have also established this community camp site as a regular stop over for all our visitors, clients and volunteers in all the packages we are marketing 

PRIMARY SCHOOL TOUR PACKAGES & STUDY TRIPS
As a community based Tour Company, we found it very vital to design a suitable package for primary & Nursery Schools whereby we get to organize and arrange Study Trips to such schools partnering with us at affordable rates while providing them with cheaper transport and trip guiding options. This package has been highly welcomed by the many schools we have so far visited and it has offered pupils a chance to visit their own national parks, cultural and heritage centres etc thus appreciating the need to cultural, nature and wild life conservation 

Monthly Community Youth Camps
As one way of boosting community and domestic tourism, the company has been conducting monthly Camp trips for young professionals and other corporate bodies and so far the Company has organized and facilitated 4 successful Camp trips with the main aim of instilling a spirit of camping among the Youth who make up 65% of Uganda’s total population. Through the same community camps, we not only stop at sharing community related challenges affecting domestic tourism but we also get to identify the unknown eye catching destinations / sites that need to be promoted which we later visit and get to publish them on our website www.greattrekkers.ug , in our Company Magazine and we still add such places to our itineraries for travelers to know about their location.


Weekly Radio Talk Show on Community Tourism
The western region of Uganda is dominated by remote areas due to the rough topography that makes such areas inaccessible and 75% of the people listen to Radio which is the most effective and affordable channel of communication. And as a Company we found it very difficult to reach out to all people if we were to use any other channel apart from Using Radio Talk Shows to sensitize the communities on issues of Community tourism, Nature & Environmental conservation so that people get to understand that tourism is not only for the government and foreign tourists but it’s for us all.

Rogers Nasasira while on his weekly tourism RadioTalk Show 26th /Feb/2017
Currently we have been conducting our weekly Radio Talk Shows on Radio Rukungiri 96.9 FM and we hope that we can always have continuous shows if we get to have good funds to keep the programs running. 


 For sustainable growth and development to be realized, we must join efforts in supporting these initiatives. Community based tourism is the way the way to go. By traveling and Booking with our tour company  http://www.greattrekkers.ug/you get the assurance that the money paid for your memorable Safari leaves a positive impact to communities as 20% of the company's profit is specifically reserved for community support and empowerment programs. 

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

A Discovery Adventure To The Land of Twin Crater Lakes


Trek with Us to such memorable and eye catching destinations
  • Kalinzu Forest Walk
  • Ankole long horned cattle farm visit 
  • Kichwamba-Kyambura Crater Lakes 
  • Nyore Retreat Hill side
Tourist destinations are often packaged so that everything is a photo opportunity, and tourists are shown only one side of a country, the part that sells well. It is not always easy to get off the tourist trail and see how life is lived every day.
Uganda has not escaped this tendency. It is promoted as a natural paradise, and more than a half million tourists arrive every year to visit its National Parks, Forests, lakes and mountains. However, not many visitors have the chance to get to know the way rural communities live during their stay.
It is hard to express the variety and richness that you can experience with rural community tourism. So the best thing to do is to cross the threshold and start the adventure of getting to know the “Pearl of Africa” in a different way: Come and Trek with us we know where to find the best cultural attractions www.greattrekkers.ug


Kichwamba is in Western Uganda at the edge of the Rift valley, just 2 kms from Kyambura Gorge Game Reserve and 10 minutes drive into Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). It is about 350 km from Kampala on the Mbarara-Kasese road. Set on a very high escarpment, Kichwamba offers you stunning panoramic views of the QENP and the Rwenzori Mountains. Spending some time in these local communities will give you a window into their way of life. The information Office and starting point for the Community/Nature walk is in the vicinity of the lodges located around the Escarpment like Kingfisher, Katara, Enganzi, Kyambura Game Lodge, Jacana and Park View Lodge

When you are visiting Queen Elizabeth Protected Area, include in your program just 2 hours for this lifetime experience with the communities in Kichwamba-Kyambura area. A combination of culture, amazing geographical features and panorama along the Escarpment are well parked in a Community /Nature walk of one to two hours.
For travellers with a sense of adventure, this trekking route along the ridge of the vast, towering Kichwamba Escarpment with steep cliffs provides a truly unforgettable opportunity to explore part of the Albertine Rift stunning scenery and meet the people of the rural highlands, whose lives have changed little in many hundreds of years.
Target:
Small groups of 4 to 6 persons at a time, (not ideal for small children – cliff faces can make people nervous). You will not only enjoy the fascinating scenery but will also get an opportunity for a life-changing experience of rural African life by experimenting with harvesting food and preparing local dishes. All the food crops are organically grown.   Come with us and take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

COMMUNITY/NATURE WALK

A Discovery Trek to the Twin Lakes of Bunyaruguru (2 hours)
This walk takes you up to the Katinda Cliff. This time, you descend to the twin lakes of Katinda and Murambi and cross the Ismuth separating the 2 lakes. Here you will try out fishing in the lakes and then climb out of the valley on the South Eastern side of Lake Murambi. You will see and if time allows, participate in the process of making local brew called “tonto” an extract from a type of bananas.
 A Guided Nature Walk to Katinda Cliff (1 hour) This is a fairly short walk in fascinating surroundings with fantastic views of Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kyambura Game Reserve. Get a lifetime experience with the local community going about their daily chores, including fishing, gardening and brewing the popular local drink -“tonto”.

Compiled By;

Nasasira Rogers
rogers@greattrekkers.ug

Saturday, 25 June 2016

THE AFRICAN TRADITIONAL HUTS

Who, in Uganda, is not familiar with the mud and wattle hut?
It is the most indigenous house for most, if not all, tribes in the country. Even though modernity has continued to fraze the African Traditional Huts, Most Tribes in Ankole have indeed continued to preserve the Traditional Huts especially in the rural areas – Commonly among the Bahima Pastoralists and the Batwa communities
Vernacular architecture is one that is synonymous with the African society and in this case, As we prepare for the second Edition of The Uganda Live Stock And Heritage Show We take you through the Rich and detailed History about the Traditional Huts of Ankole and What the Cultural heads and historians have to say about their existence and background.

Characteristics
One characteristic that was common to the architecture was the circular shape they took and all the materials were never imported but made locally in every region. The doctor says everything was indigenous and not borrowed from outside. However, during the succession wars, one group would borrow from another and during migration and settlement.
Generally, the huts would be small and simple in nature because they would be occupied by a single person or utmost two. John Bishanga one of the great Elders of Ankole, explains that long ago people used the huts for protection. They would only go to the huts to sleep in the evening just like the other animals.

Types of huts, according to ethnicities in Uganda

BAHIMA HUT
The hut is made in such a way that it rises from the ground in a straw dome. They use emiganda (strong sticks that are resistant to termite attacks), which are woven in a spiral pattern to create a basketlike skeleton. Then spear grass is used to do the thatching. Bedrooms are separated by woven sticks attached to poles within the hut. The huts are made strong because in the past their skeleton could be moved whenever ancestors shifted to new grazing areas. Another platform called orugyegye is used to keep the milk pots from the ground. A small platform is raised in front of the door way of the bedrooms, on which a small skin is spread. This one is meant for the seat of the wife, where she sits to receive the milk.

NKORE HUT
The huts are built of earthen materials, wood reinforced with wooden poles. The roof is thatched of spear grass (Imperata cylindirca), which is bound onto woodwork of poles in a conical shape. Right outside the entrance, two reed pillars adjoin the roof to the veranda, consequently forming a mild arch-like shape. The exterior is lavished with plain earth colours all through. In the interior, it is separated by an earth partition to form a sitting room and bedroom.

NYORE HUT
the hut is built of straw roof draped to the ground, concealing every bit of the hut, the front fa├žade reveals the reed work. The threshold is carefully trimmed into an arch like a blond haircut. Between the arched roof and the actual entrance is a small veranda that is set off by two reed-laden walls. The interior is divided into two portions using a reed wall. Another distinct feature is fact that there is no mud wall in sight; the roof continues to the ground, creating an impression that the hut is made of fibre materials only. The house takes the shape of a bee hive with an apex at the top known as itunju.
The apex varies in height depending on the status of the owner; in the past, the greatest house in the land was the king’s court’s, which had a spear at the pinnacle. The part of the frame of the roof which was finished that night was raised on the three poles to such a height that goats and dogs could not reach. The house is divided into two almost equal portions by a reed wall, and it is impossible to see through from one room to the other. In the second room is the bed of the owner and his wife.
Peasants had to build their huts themselves, though at times one would call his friends to give a helping hand. His first task was to make materials available by utting poles and making ropes from papyrus stems, locally known as impotore. Alternative materials included palm leaves or banana fibres.

MADI HUT
The architectural design is distinct on two main features: the roof and the details on the wall. Firstly, the walls are characterised by in-built columns, which are spaced out between each other. The rectangular columns form partitions that are meant for decorative detail rather than buttresses.
Karimojong hut
The hut is round with a small passage by the entrance. At the centre of the hut is a dugout fireplace where a permanent fire burns – sometimes for a lifetime! The roof is made of grass with some tier around it. Because Karamoja is windy, there are poles put around the hut on the outside to hold it firmly.