DOMESTIC TOURISM MARKET IN KENYA

July of this year marked my one year anniversary since i started marketing my domestic tourism business.

A lot of it has been trial and error since i didn’t have much of a grasp of the industry except what I had read and seen from the media.

So excited was I ,having grown up with a dad  who had been to almost every game reserve,resort,national park you name it as a film producer,he would bring back home photos of wildlife and I can still remember I kept a brochure of the Ark under my bed vowing i would go there some day..

Now years later,the brochure is lost,I haven’t been to the Ark but i want more Kenyans to visit this beautiful country we call home.

If you haven’t ever heard of this song,you need to listen to it, because it makes you feel like rushing to a tour operators and booking a holiday to Malindi,Lamu,Maasai Mara anywhere in this beautiful country.Seeing ever nook and cranny of my country is certainly on my bucket list and i wish it is on every one’s list too.

That said you have to wonder why the government does not spend as much money marketing our beautiful country to its own residents.Kenya has a growing middle class with money to spend and we are sitting on millions in terms of revenue if we could tap into this niche market.

There was a domestic tourism board that had been set up under the Ministry of Tourism but you never hear anything from them.

A lot of us Kenyans are guilty of never having travelled to see our country as it is ,most of us have seen Malindi town from the comfort of our couches in our living rooms when some news item from them catches the eye of a news editor.

Yet Malindi is an hour away by flight.

There are so many great places to visit in this country some just a drive away it is possible for one to spend their whole lives discovering the gems that lie just in our backyards.

From the little church built by Italian prisoner of war along the Mai Mahiu road,to the castle that was built for love by Lord Egerton in Ngata ,Nakuru,to the house where Jomo Kenyatta was put under house arrest in Kapenguria,the places to visit are inexhaustible.

Not to mention the archaeological sites scattered all along the Rift Valley…we have so much to celebrate.

It s time we started selling the concept of family holidays,safaris to Kenyans,it should not just be a preserve of foreigners that they should enjoy what this country has to offer.

We should celebrate our diversities and this will only be possible if we are able to venture outside our “gates”.

Hopefully the yet to be formed county governments will take into consideration the domestic tourism as a niche market to expand their revenue base.

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VISION 2030 IS IN THE HANDS OF OUR CHILDREN,IN THE CLASSROOMS

Vision 2030 so far has been the property of all manner of stake holders,political pundits,skeptics,government officials,the Executive but not the Kenyan youth in schools who are the ones who are set to benefit the most from this vision as well as turn it into reality.

As a country are supposed to have achieved all the Millennium Development goals by 2015 before we can talk about 2030,these goals include,eliminating extreme hunger and poverty,achieved universal primary education for all,reduction in child mortality,improved maternal health,achieved environmental sustainability,achieved better partnerships with international development agencies and reduced incidences of HIV/AIDS and other major diseases.

Now those look easy compared to the ones vision 2030 aspires to,right?

We are yet to eliminate hunger,seeing that we had a major funds drive Kenyans4Kenya to feed fellow Kenyans that was mostly driven by the Kenyan public and the private sector.Every now and then most of us have read about one woman or several who have lost their lives during child birth,NEMA(National Environmental Management Authority) busy haranguing public service vehicles to provide wastebaskets while real estate developers are busy satisfying Kenyans appetite for living in suburbia by constructing gated communities in areas previously classified as wetlands.

A lot of the time many of the things that are important like asking ourselves how we will achieve vison 2030 when the MDG goals have proved elusive are not discussed.

The vision 2030 is based on three pillars,economic,social and political;an economic growth of 10% over the remaining 18 years,in a just and cohesive society enjoying equitable social development in a clean and secure environment and ensuring our politics is issue based,people centred,result oriented,accountable and democratic.

Young Kenyans today aged about 12 years will be 30 years of age by the time this vision is achieved,which only makes sense that they should be made aware of what this country hopes to be by the time they are adults.This will help them bring the dreams of their fathers and grand fathers(the drafters of vison 2030) into fruition.

A country’s future is vested in its children and if we aren’t asking our young ones to be  part of this vision or even involving them into the walk towards a better Kenya, i am sorry to say we aren’t going anywhere.

We need to hear Vision 2030 being preached to young Kenyans in our high schools and our universities.
These  young people need to start being made part of the development of this country.Otherwise all we are going to see is them having dreams of immigrating to other countries because theirs (Kenya ) is in shambles.

Apart form those of us who have been privileged to get a look at the document,or maybe attended the workshops or think tanks that have been organized on this dream of a middle income economy of the future,how many school heads know what Vision 2030  is all about?

Has these grand march to “freedom” been made part of the school curriculum?have changes been made to the education sector to factor in the fact that in 18 years the world will be a lot more  different from what it is today?

We just need to remember the destruction that was wrecked by young people in London to see what idle energy and no sense of purpose and belonging can do.

And back home,if we remember the crowd that was at Uhuru park for the Kenyans4 Kenya concert,it was made up mostly of young people.

What better example or evidence for hope can there be than this?young Kenyans are changing our country left,right,centre,Generation Y  is the answer to how fast or slow vision 2030 will see the light of day.

We need to hear it being taught in our classrooms from Mbale in the western part of the country  to Balich village in Garissa.Young people need to hear about  the visions of a better  Kenya so that the they grow up knowing exactly what is the dreams of their fathers were.Only in this way will we be able to get rid of the demons of tribalism,nepotism and corruption that stalk our daily lives.

VISION 2030 AND DANCING ANGELS ON PIN HEADS

How many angels can dance on a pin head……?

Can you see angels?

Can it be proved they exist ?

The question of how many of these “beings” can dance on a pin head originated in medieval times and was often times used as a metaphor for debates that usually ended up nowhere or had no clear answers.

And that to me is how the debate on who the most popular presidential candidate is to me.

Already it seems we have almost if not more than 20 presidential candidates all seemingly offering miracle cures of the Loliondo kind for what ails this country.

Am beginning to ask myself whether we aren’t being hoodwinked with the popularity contests instead of focusing on the key issues.

Like my pet subject, Vision 2030.

A lot of the time the politicking going on about issues is done devoid of the grand plan for Kenya that was funded by tax payers money.

Politicians and Kenyans too ,forget that what oils the cogs of government is tax payers money,hell even the coffee and sandwiches members enjoyed when they sat till 12.00 am to pass the pending bills was funded by tax payers.

So why aren’t we asking what these presidential wannabe’s are going to do for our beautiful country.

Why are we wasting time discussing polls,tribal alliances and whom we are going to fix next.

Because we are so caught up in non issues we have lost focus of the three key pillars(economic,social and political)that Vision 2030 rests on.

Take the economy for example which at the moment we cant do much about…However, we can be vigilante and show collective displeasure for kleptomaniacs who are hell bent on leaving treasury dry with  their pilfering.

We can be responsible citizens by asking for more transparency in the way CDF(constituency development funds) monies are spent,in the way the CDF boards are constituted,such that an MP does not use it to reward cronies.

On the social  front ,do all Kenyans feel safe and secure ,of course not! and this is largely due to the social inequalities that exist and also the high rate of unemployment among the youth.

This has resulted in them being the perpetrators of social crimes like theft,burglary,hijackings and all manner of social evils.

But something can be done here,like government  creating an enabling environment  for the private sector to run business that can soak up the large numbers of unemployed youth.Removing most of the bottle necks and bureaucracy when it comes to investors setting up business here would be a great boost to the economy.Rwanda has already made quantum leaps in this direction and is now number one  among the East African countries when it comes to attracting investments,it takes only a day to register a business there.

And what about our politics…..

We need to strengthen our parties,too bad that the  amendment by a section of parliamentarians to have party hopping safeguarded even a few days in the lead up to the general elections will do nothing but slow down reform in the political front.

Party hopping a quintessential Kenyan habit especially when it comes to politicians will be with us till another generation sees what lack of national values and political ideology can do.

In part Vision 2030 foresees this on the matter of politics as a pillar towards vision 2030 “…Kenyans shall formulate and adopt a set of national values,goals and a political ideology supportive of Vision 2030.Among the key guiding principles for this third pillar of the grand march to a middle income economy are :constitutional supremacy,sovereignty of the people,equality of the citizens,national values goals and ideology,visible political party system,public participation in governance,separation of powers and decentralisation.

All of the above make sense and if implemented would see us achieve political maturity as a country sooner than later. But after the recent happenings in parliament left me  wondering if we weren’t getting ourselves into  a fix by going against the very same plan against which our Vision 2030 is going to be propped on.

Pray,how does allowing party hopping and whimsical change of parties days to general elections strengthen or even promote ideology?

Guess this Vision will need another generation before it sees the light of day and that is why i posited in an earlier post that this change we need will have to start in our schools,among young Kenyans or else we will be discussing ethereal beings and their ability to dance or lack thereof on pin heads for a long long time.

BATTLE FOR NORTHERN KENYA LIES IN THE CLASSROOM

Frederick Douglass was an African American abolitionist leader who was known for his anti slavery stand as well as for his great oratory and writing skills. Separated from his mother at the age of one so that she could go back to working in the plantation as a slave and forced to work as a slave himself at the age of 10,he rose to become one of the leading lights of the civil rights movement in America long before it became popular to do so.

Former  slaves who had escaped like Douglas and were well read,joined  a minority white population who decrying the evils of slavery.To Douglas literacy as he was so often quoted was the path to freedom

This great man came to mind because i realized that in Kenya today though we lack the chains of slavery ,poverty,ethnic bigotry  have  taken up where slavery left off.With a population of 40,862,900 as of August 2010 the world Bank report on Kenya shows that our national poverty levels were at  45.9% in 2010,this was a marked  improvement from 1997 when it  stood at 52.3%.The literacy levels in our country are also very high with the report showing that of our population above the age of 15 years,at least 87% are literate.This of course can be nothing but good news.

But  why our high literacy levels are not translating into change in our political sphere is another matter altogether

Am sure we cannot forget the clips we have seen of hungry children in Turkana,a region that has been largely marginalized since independence and that is only in the news for the wrong reasons-hunger and drought.

I often find myself wondering what the residents of Turkana would do if they knew the power to change their circumstances lay in their hands.That they do not have to wait for the government and non governmental institutions to provide relief food when drought strikes.

With one of the lowest literacy levels in all of the 47 counties and a poverty level that is said to be at 95%,i  the solution to Turkana lies in its people.With the right government support this county which is home to the largest fresh water lake in a desert,can be a case study of the proverbial phoenix and rise from the ashes of poverty,disease and illiteracy.

Much of Northern Kenya is faced with the same problems Turkana is battling with and the issues the counties in this region face will be waged in the classroom.

A correlation and a causal effect has been shown between illiteracy and poverty levels,disease and high infant mortality rates.Much of the cause for disease especially among infants  can be attributed to lack of rudimentary knowledge on good hygiene .

Other factors such as lack of safe drinking water,good sanitation,poor nutritional knowledge and lack of economic power all contribute to under development in the region.Government however does not escape blame for forgetting the region exits when it does its planning and allocation of  resources.

With the mapping out and setting out of boundaries soon commencing let us hope that the funds these counties in the region receive will be prioritized especially towards fighting illiteracy,because that’s where change for Northern Kenya will begin.

To paraphrase a quote by the former Secretary General of the UN,Kofi Annan,literacy lies at the heart of development of any region and it is only this that can guarantee and active democratic participation of the members of any society, country in active development.

DISCOVERING CARL SAGAN:WHY EVERY (SCIENCE) TEACHER NEEDS TO READ THIS GREAT MAN

Carl Sagan was a man famous for many things and especially for de- mystifyng science for ordinary Americans,sadly he died 15 years ago and today as i read his book The Demon Haunted World I wish I had met him but more  than that ,that science teachers in Kenya would get the book and read it cover to cover as i did.Sagan sets out to portray Science in an easy to know way without sounding pompous and his reverence for the universe (he was a Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences)jumps at you with every word in this book and with each turn of the page.

Written largely for an American audience it does have much to offer for Kenyan audiences too because much of what he discusses we can relate too,from aliens  ,to pseudo-science to miracles and even  hallucinations.He urges his fellow scientists to “communicate the substance and approach  of science in newspapers,magazines,on radio and television,in lectures for the general  public,and in elementary,middle,and high school text books.”

As i was reading the book, which is a must have in my opinion for the curious ,i was reminded of two things ,no its four  things that have hit our local headlines and that would be made clearer if Kenyan scientists took time to explain things to the general public.One of them is the afforestation programmes going on in the Mau Forest  and other water catchment areas,the increasing Kenyan population,the proposal to start nuclear power generation and the GMO debate.

Much of the debates that have occurred in the public sector have been based on superstition,ignorance and myths.Take the example of GMO that is sensitive very sensitive here because it deals with a national delicacy ugali(stiff mixture of corn meal taken with vegetables/meat stew).Even scientists who should know better discouraged it on the basis that it was an untested technology and that we were being used as guinea pigs by companies.We forget that maize seed has seen changes made to its genetic make-up to yield more and withstand disease.

Or the Mau Forest where a certain MP whom i would not name was telling his constituents not to move from the areas of the forest they had encroached because there was no way trees could attract rainfall.Yet if you drive along the Nairobi Kericho ,you get a clear view of the heavy grey clouds always hovering over the trees.Ready to pour down ,nourish the trees and provide water for the people down stream and feed the many rivers,lakes that rely on this water catchment.

All of these areas i have highlighted would benefit from a demystification approach without scientists being too patronizing to the listening public.We would all benefit from knowing exactly what it is we are dealing with and the after effects of whatever cause of action we take.Then science would cease being a reserve for the “nerds” but would become the marvel that it is.

In primary school i remember my fascination with the human body and with space,i would read over and over again about leukocytes(white blood cells) and (erythrocytes (red blood cells)blood plasma,how the heart and kidneys worked .My dad and i would even spend some nights outside star gazing,it was wonderful and thrilling !But in high school everything changed,i could never get my head around physics and chemistry was a struggle yet i remained fascinated with biology and would pore over my textbooks and notes especially when it came to the topic on genetics.Somehow my curiosity waned and i never understood why.

Probably it was the way it was taught or i was too afraid of asking dumb questions,something Sagan says he saw in high school kids too, the fear to ask and dumb .He said that his most enthusiastic audiences were elementary school kids who never got tired  of asking questions and Sagan talks about “provocative and insightful questions bubbling out of them.”.But he reports his disappointment with high school students ,who had  learnt to “memorize facts” and the “joy of discovery had gone out of them.”

Could we as a country learn something from the mind of this great man who never lost his wonder and curiosity about science?With a vision towards seeing Kenya being an  industrialized country by the year 20303,is there more we could add to the present curriculum to motivate students to take up more science subjects.We need to have more students taking up these courses in our universities and we need to have more Kenyan Professors who are passing on this love of science to the next generation.How many of them go to high schools to pass on this  wonder for the natural world to students,most forays in career fairs are by accountants or even lawyers but rarely do scientists venture out from their laboratories.Who knows the next cure for cancer,AIDS could come from among these young ones.With climate change slowing affecting seasons we need more studies done on the effects this will have on our environment,land use and disease and science will have the answer to that.

Hopefully the recent back and forth that has been going on among stake holders in the educational system as to the review of the 8-4-4 system of education and the way this knowledge is passed on to students will be reviewed so that we do not cede the natural curiosity and need to know we had as children.This innate “need to know” and “stretching of our minds” is something we as a humans have and must use in order to survive in a world that is changing pretty fast.

I will end this with a beautiful article by Carl Sagan’s wife published  in the Skeptical Inquirer in his memory….

WHERE ARE KENYAN URBAN PLANNERS?

Kenya’s cities and towns seem to have no forethought put into them when it comes to their growth  whatsoever and we can blame this on our lack of urban planners whose job it would be to make decisions on how our cities and towns should develop.Of course each administrative council in the country be it ,a town council,municipal council has a department of urban planning but it is questionable if their advice is even sought if the rate at which thoughtless developments are taking place is anything to go by.

In an earlier blog post here  in April of this year i had lamented the fact that the real estate industry was threatening the very livelihood of our country by encroaching on agricultural land .Housing estates are coming up left ,right,centre in every major town in the country,the situation is especially sad in Nakuru because people are selling off rich agricultural land .In areas that should be the source of food and livelihoods,people are looking for the quick shilling to be made by subdividing the land and selling it off to Kenyans who have suddenly got a voracious appetite to be home owners.Sad indeed….

If we indeed do have  urban planners in some of these towns am sure they should be  at the fore front of managing the now free for all real estate industry that is slowly becoming a cash cow for the well heeled in terms of money.Land has always and will always remain an emotive issue but i think prioritizing our needs and wants should be key.Would you rather live in an Italian  marble palace or go to bed with a full stomach.These are some of the questions we should be asking our selves.

Our cities and towns are growing daily with malls,office blocks and all manner of structures being put up daily,but how many of these have been well thought out ideas that take into consideration the growth of these towns and cities in the future.We are seeing most of these towns turning into concrete jungles with no thought given to recreation facilities like parks or even public utilities.

What is interesting to note is that for our cities and towns to grow we need to think not of today but 50 years ahead.In 2070,where will the residents of Nairobi be living,getting their water from,will there be enough electricity,sewage lines to cater for the cities population or will the city be another spot in the annals of history that was obliterated by a lack of planning.

Take the case of Nakuru that is said to be one of the fastest growing towns,how will the town;s growing population affect the environment around the lake,the deforestation in the Mau Forest that is threatening the very existence of Lake Nakuru,is there worse to come if we do not mange the way this town is growing?

These and many other questions can be replicated in the planning of the towns we envision to have by 2030 and that i think should be what urban planners (if we have any) should be asking themselves and advising the county governments set to come in after the general elections next year.

HUNGER IN A LAND OF PLENTY:The Kenyan food crisis is man made

 For anyone who has been watching local and international news they are already too familiar with the  pictures of starving children and their skinny  malnourished mothers from Northern Kenya and parts of Somalia as a result of what has been called the worst drought and famine the horn of Africa has seen in 60 years.It is said that especially in the Dadaab refugee camp a child is losing their life every day,either because help reached them too late or they succumbed to the ravages of hunger that have predisposed them to illnesses.

Now for any child below the age of three years it is especially important to be well nourished because good nutrition is a buffer against common child hood illnesses and infections that are major causes of child mortality.You can read about the effects of poor nutrition especially prevalent in developing countries here.

Since 1984 when Michael Jackson and other musicians teamed up  to sing the We are the World song in the USA for Africa  campaign to raise funds for the very same region facing drought today,it seems nothing much has changed.We are waking up every day to pictures of children with distended stomachs,hollow eyes and sagging skin  that is barely holding together famished bodies.It is 1984 all over again but on a grander scale or so it seems!

A lot of issues have cropped up over the delay in providing much needed aid, from the alleged squabbling by donors,to just lack of coordination yet every minute wasted will cost the life of a child.I watched with a growing sense of shame as the Australian and French Ministers pleaded with the international community to speed up the relief effort to reduce the loss of life at the camps,yet no senior government official from any of the countries affected has paid a visit to the area.

I went to a public university for a degree in Nutrition yet i got a job in a totally unrelated field as did most of my 20 classmates because international aid bodies would rather hire expatriates rather than local graduates for some of these jobs.

Meanwhile as the shame of the century unfolds ,Kenya is seeking to be a middle income economy in 18 years when we cannot even ensure that no Kenyan child goes to bed hungry.We can lay the blame on the weather,global warming and all manner of factors biggest load of blame falls squarely on our leaders backs.

Why almost half a century we should still be talking of hunger is a shame ,why we should be having power rationing in the name of power management beats logic for a country seeking to grow its economy.There are a lot of whys we need to be asking ourselves in the coming months leading up to the next general election and their answers lie in the kind of leadership we elect next year.

What this all boils down to is lack of vision by our political leaders.I watched with amusement when the speaker of the national assembly was disparaging the government slack lustre response to the famine crisis as they presented a check donation of over 8 million Kenya shillings  from parliamentarians.The speaker,his deputy and a coterie of members of parliament were handing over the donations to Mr Abbas Gullet who has literally been the face of the drought mitigating efforts by the Kenyan private sector that has so raised over half a billion shillings in the Kenyans for Kenya campaign.

As they presented the cheque i was taken back to a week ago where i dd  a road trip from Kakamega all the way through Kapsabet,Iten,eldoret,Baringo,Eldama ravine ,Nakuru,Kericho,Kisumu and back again to Kakamega. I passed acres and acres of lush green farmland full of maize in various stages of growth,at Total on our way to Kericho and all through till the tea county market stalls by the roadside were creaking under the weight of potatoes,cabbages,tomatoes and carrots and i was tempted to believe what i was seeing in the news was the work of an overactive Kenyan media.Along the road to Kisumu women were sitting by mounds of cabbages,green bananas and cabbages waiting for people to buy them while our people in Northern Kenya are starving and we are importing relief food.The rice fields of Ahero were spotting green baby stalks that bespoke of the rice crop that had been planted and was getting much needed nourishment .It is a pity my camera’s battery ran out of charge i would have been posting the photos of the bumper harvest this farmers had.

The only blight to these otherwise fertile landscape i witnessed in my trip round the rift was in Baringo where instead of lush green maize field i saw healthy goats, perched on cliff tops ,filling their bellies with leaves form the shrubs that dot the rocky terrain.

We have heard media reports of farm produce going to waste in Nyahururu because farmers had no buyers,why should people be going hungry if there is so much food.?

Because we fail to plan we are faced with images of starving Kenyans holding out tin cans for their monthly
rations of beans,maize,rice and cooking oil.In a country where many more people are abandoning farming than are taking it up,why are we watching mounds of cabbages,green banans and sacks of potatoes go to waste while peole in the north are starving?why cant we encourage this people to change their diets and thus provide a cash cow for our poor farmers .

What many peole forget is that farming is a noble profession much like being a teacher or morgue attendant,it is a job which very few peole take because it requires a sturdy body as well as a sturdy heart to keep going even when the rains fail or your crop is destroyed by pests or disease.We need to hear the government encouraging farmers by supporting them in whatever means necessary because they feed our bodies and are more important than the preacher spewing out condemnation of damned souls.

If presently we have 40 million Kenyans who are increasing at the rate of a million annually,why does our strategic grain reserve have to be at 8 million maize bags?For a country that produces so much milk and even exports most of it why do we not use more butter than margarine on our bread in the morning?why do you have to buy an imported box of cereal when you can buy a packet of millet flour and have porridge for breakfast?

The government seems to be like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights and has been taking one wrong step after another after it was declared that Kenyans were indeed dying of hunger.From our government spokesman who claimed ignorance of hungry Kenyans dying to the late response by parliamentarians when the Kenya red cross has marshaled the private sector to raise funds,it does seem that our elected leaders could as well be living in another country.

We produce enough food to feed oursleves,its our lack of planning that has had us being the laughing stock of the international community.We need to stop being beggars of everything be it expatriate experience,educational funds,funds to improve our roads to food aid,we need to atleast take pride in one thing,feeding our won peole which iwe can do with just more well though out plans .

It is time we stopped having stop gap measures to address drought and famine,we need to sit down and plan and decide that no Kenyan should ever go hungry again or die of hunger.If we can do this and demand more from our elected leaders then Kenyans will cease being the recipients of sympathetic looks and hand me downs from the donor community.