Kenya A Paradigm for Sustainable Development

A Paradigm for Sustainable Development

Introduction: The purpose of this paper is to analyze the historical development of Kenya’s nature based tourist industry in order to develop a better understanding of the concepts relating to sustainable tourism in the developing world. I will show how past resource management practices has affected tourism’s carrying capacity. Because of the complicatedness of this paper I will break it down into five sections. In the first section I will define sustainable development. In the second I will briefly describe the history and current state of nature based tourism in Kenya. In the third section I will give examples of elements that threaten to saturate the carrying capacity of nature based tourism in Kenya. In the fourth and final section I will give a brief historical account of ecotourism’s presence in Kenya and give ways in which it can be a possible source of sustainable development in the future.

Part 1: What does sustainable development really mean?

The most common definition of sustainable development is: “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987).” In essence, for sustainable development to occur there must be some sort of trade-off between the aspirations of the present and those of the future. Successful management of resources is the cornerstone of sustainable development. Creating sustainable development is especially important to nature based tourism because it completely relies on an ecological resource that is usually non-renewable and irreplaceable. Once the environmental resource has developed past the point where it is no longer attractive to perspective tourist the entire economy of the dependent host community will collapse.
The maximum amount of positive development that can occur is determined by the carrying capacity. The carrying capacity is the saturation point where anymore development will result in the degeneration of future resources. All nature-based tourism locations have limited ecological, aesthetic, and social carrying capacities. The ecological carrying capacity is reached when the number of visitors starts to have a negative impact on the wildlife and environment (Whelan, p. 11.). The aesthetic carrying capacity is reached when tourists encounter so many other tourists that the intrinsic value of the beauty of the environment is marred (Whelan, p. 11). The social carrying capacity is reached when the number of tourist in relation to the host population increases to the point where there is increasing unfriendliness, and hostility directed towards the tourist (Jackson, p. 90). When a tourist destination reaches the saturation point of any of the three carrying capacities a decrease in the revenue generated by tourism will result..
The most important point in devising an optimal tourism development policy is not to let tourism grow to the extent or in the form that it brings about its own demise. It is essential to determine and monitor the carrying capacity of a tourist location. Unfortunately very few areas in the developing worlds have identified the carrying capacity, or determined how to avoid exceeding the carrying capacity. This is especially true for fragile ecosystems where the carrying capacity can dramatically change from season to season and year to year (Whelan, p. 31).
Obtaining sustainable development is difficult, especially for developing countries. Widespread poverty and a general lack of financial resources make it difficult for poor countries to voluntarily curb growth. This is because often times sacrificing economic growth results in starvation and/or rampant suffering. Also, a community’s lack of financial resources can limit its ability to determine its economic direction. Also because the business in developing country’s are often owned by outside sources the locals have little or no input in business decisions. Furthermore developing countries often are plagued with political instability and governmental corruption that makes it difficult to enact ordinances controlling economic growth. Also, it is highly likely that by the time that a developing country realizes that their economic growth is unhealthy it is too late to turn back because of over-dependence on the tourism industry.
According to the Tourism Development Magic Pentagon-Pyramid, created by Hansruedi Müller, there are five variables that must be balanced to ensure sustainability. The five variables are: economic health, subjective wellbeing of the locals, unspoiled nature, protection of resources, healthy culture, and optimum satisfaction