JULY 16, 2012 -- Visitors to Ethiopia feel a strong connection to the people and places they visit, but lack a reliable channel to give back in a meaningful way. To support these efforts, the Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Alliance (ESTA) and Sustainable Travel International have created the Ethiopia Travelers’ Philanthropy Fund (ETPF).
Through the ETPF, tourists will make secure donations to help Ethiopian communities generate income and conserve their environment. These donations are integrated into authentic and interactive Ethiopian travel experiences.
ETPF’s two pilot projects involve tree-planting and the donation of energy-saving stoves. The former, run through local NGO Konso Development Association (KDA), was launched in April 2012. Tourists who make a donation are provided a guided tour of the Gersale village nursery, and then select a seedling to plant in a nearby degraded area. After instructions from the guide and a blessing from a village elder, tourists plant the seedling. A donation of $18 per tree goes toward the cost of the seedling, and helps village members water and maintain the tree.
The second Travelers’ Philanthropy experience, run through local NGO partner Sustainable Environment and Development Action (SEDA), was launched in May 2012. On trips to historic Tulu Gudo Island (or villages on the Lake Ziway shore), tourists will visit households which are utilizing energy saving stoves. They can also see the stoves in use at the high-quality, community-run restaurant on the island. A $34 donation purchases an energy-saving stove, which reduces the amount of wood needed for cooking, while stemming deforestation and the need to walk long distances for wood collection. The experience is part of a fascinating lake boat tour, which also includes hippo sightings, bird watching, and a visit to a monastery housing millennium-old relics.
“A growing number of travelers and travel companies wish to give back to the destinations and communities they visit, but are unsure about how to do this most effectively and reliably,” explains Brian T. Mullis, Sustainable Travel International’s President and CEO. “Through innovative programs like the Ethiopia Travelers’ Philanthropy Fund, we’ve formalized a process for connecting travelers and travel companies with local NGO projects. This creates opportunities for small donations, while establishing a system for sustained giving that addresses local needs and increases the positive impact of tourism on the local community and environment.”
Both Ethiopian and international tour operators play a critical role in the program, facilitating and promoting the philanthropy experience. Participating tour operators pay an annual fee in order to ensure there are resources available to keep the program operational well beyond the course of the ESTA project. Participants include 20 prominent Ethiopian tour operators and top international tour operators such as Intrepid Travel, G Adventures and Dragoman.
“Ethiopia is an ideal place for travelers’ philanthropy, given the close connections tourists often feel to Ethiopians, as well as the many needs that exist in the country”, says Mekonnen Gebre Egziabher, ESTA’s Ecotourism Development Specialist. It is hoped that successful implementation of the two pilot projects will lead to expansion of the project into other parts of Ethiopia.”
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About the Ethiopia Travelers’ Philanthropy Fund Partners
The ESTA is a five-year, USAID-supported project focused upon developing sustainable tourism as a tool to help communities generate additional incomes and conserve their natural resources. In partnership with Sustainable Travel International, a US-based NGO which helps destinations, businesses and travelers implement innovative solutions that support sustainable tourism development, ESTA created the first Travelers’ Philanthropy Fund in Ethiopia in 2012.
The program operates through two local NGOs: KDA and SEDA. KDA was founded in 2000 with the primary aim of planning and implementing integrated development activities in order to improve the livelihood conditions of the Konso People. SEDA has been operational since 1994 in drought prone districts of Ethiopian Central Rift Valley. The organization focuses on livelihood schemes that alleviate environmental degradation, climatic change risks and deepening poverty.
The program has also partnered with Global Giving, a highly-respected online donation portal that will enable secure, tax-deductible payments online. Since Global Giving began its operations in 2002, nearly 200,000 people have donated US$45 million in donations to over 4,000 featured projects.