The National Museum of Kenya (NMK) has partnered with Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) to work with UNESCO on creating job opportunities for communities living around Fort Jesus, a well-known heritage and tourism site.
The sustainable tourism project aimed at promoting livelihoods with various components will focus on two sites, Fort Jesus and Lamu world heritage sites.
Fort Jesus Chief Curator Fatma Twahir said that when covid-19 struck, one of its effects was the drop of businesses that operate around heritage sites.
They are going to work with the organizations and tourism facilities that have energy and water conservation initiatives, zero use of plastics in order to achieve sustainable tourism, one of the components of the project that will create job opportunities for the community.
“The first thing we are going to do is community involvement where we are doing a pledge for all those who are practicing sustainable tourism. We want to highlight what they are doing and put them on a platform so that they can tell the general public what they have managed to do so far and what the others can try,” she said.
In Old town, she said that there is a community facility that collects used plastics, shreds them and sends them to recycling.
“If we can highlight such a local initiative maybe we can get funding technically or financially for that group to move forward to a different level of handling plastics,” she said.
Apart from sustainable tourism, Twahir said that there is also a component of building which targets the community that works around the heritage sites including food vendors, photographers and tour guards.
She said that they want to find ways on how the project can add value to their service, improve their public relations, and work on their entrepreneurship to grow in their business.
According to madam Twahir, 60 artisans and tour guides have been trained on issues of world heritage, how to sell history and how to improve their service delivery.
“The third aspect which is under the National Museum of Kenya is work for pay where we are recruiting the general community, youths, women and marginalized groups to work towards improving service that heritage site needs,”
“We sat in several meetings to identify their strength and what they are keen on doing to see what we can do to come up with activity that can benefit both community and heritage sites,” she said.
The chief curator said that they agreed with the community to clean the environment around Fort Jesus but due to budgetary issues, they are focusing on the conservation area to improve garbage collection and drainage cleaning.
The cleaning and garbage collection process aims at helping the community to see the importance of heritage not just by getting employment but by also improving their sanitary conditions.
The NMK and KTB are working with the county government and their collection system in the garbage collection process.
“There was an idea of possible installation of bins but then we are working hand in hand with the county government. We have an ongoing discussion on bin installations in different points but we are also considering having patrons in particular restaurants who will take charge of a bin that we will install for them,”
“The bins will be labeled to ensure that they do not overflow and are well kept for the community to use,” she said.
This will not only help in keeping the environment clean but also avoid drainage blockage.
Twahir said that there is a lot of vegetation that grows periodically at the walls of Fort Jesus which are 4 meters high yet only two staff are trained and have experience to remove them from the roots using a chemical. The community will also get an opportunity to be trained on how to safely access the heights of the walls at Fort Jesu
“Sometimes the roots badly damage the walls, forcing us to do some repair and that is why we want to engage the community in doing the work, we have not started the training yet but it is supposed to kick off,” she said.
She said that there is pruning and clearing of trees around Fort Jesus so that they are not dangerous to the visitors and improve the outlook of the Fort itself.
The community will also be involved in wood work which entails making of tables where three community carpenters working with a recognized group of youths will be given an opportunity to make around 10 tables for people selling food and other items outside Fort Jesus.
The tables will help them do a very presentable business to tourists.
“At Fort Jesus we will benefit from the wood work by putting up signage inside the premises and if funds allow, they will be installed in all the streets of the old town to inform the visitors where they are whenever they visit,” she said.
The project targets everyone and that they are ensuring there is gender sensitivity and inclusion of any marginalized group.
“Initially we had started by saying this is for youth but then the community told us that they have abled and hardworking people who are not regarded as youth interested in participating, we therefore decided that it is open to all so long as one is able to do the work,” she said.
The project which covers three groups with 18 people each plus two supervisors is expected to end by December 31.