Thursday, 24 November 2011
Saturday, 12 November 2011
I arrived at Lungi airport at 9:30pm. The first thing that you experience is the difference in climate (if you had come from the Northern Hemisphere). I went through passport check. No problems there. Collected my bags quick sharp. Outside was the usual bunch of porters, taxi drivers and name card brandishing guys. I was then directed to the Water Taxi ticket office -Lungi airport is on a different peninsula to Freetown, and to get to the other you need to either take a Water Taxi, Ferry, Speedboat or Helicopter. In not time, I was speeding towards Freetown. When we approached the Aberdeen port, I got a small insight into what to expect from Salone, little electricity, candle light, humidity, a slow pace of life and a community feel. I disembarked and changed my money (current rate: $1 = 4500 Leones) with a guy called Solomon, just in time for my ride to arrive to take me to my first destination, John Obey beach.
Part 1: John Obey - Community-exchange & Sustainable Living Tourism Project
When I arrived, I was greeted with a big plate of chop (food in Krio) and a Star beer (national beer of Sierra Leone) by Kat, a volunteer overseeing the project. We got along straight away and then I was introduced to the night security guards, Momo and Mister Alou Sene who is also the village Imam. I was shown to my accommodation and after debating about the differences and similarities of Islam and Christianity (SL is 50/50 and there are no conflicts) until 4am, I called it a night.
Mister Alou Sene & Momo, the security guards
The next morning, I awoke to the sound of waves crashing and birds twittering. I slowly rose from my mosquito net covered 'four-poster' bed and opened the door to my beach shack to discover Sierra Leone in the daytime. It was beautiful! Just outside my accommodation was a lagoon which rose and fell with the Ocean tide, multicoloured butterflies flew gracefully between the palm trees, a gentle breeze carried the smell of jasmine around the shack. Welcome to Sierra Leone!
After breakfast I was shown around the project. Solar tower, recycling area, compost toilets, earth bag 'honeydomes', permaculture garden, bucket showers, all the signs of a sustainable development project that works. The project also employs 30 people from the local community, 10 of them were working on a new structure using the skills they had learnt over the past year to build earth bag domes as accommodation for guests. I was told that this was the main project, so I lent a hand on the 'building site'. By the afternoon, after lunch, the structure was nearly finished. I was given the honor of laying the last earth bag on the top which we then celebrated by playing drums and singing. Such a good feeling!
From left to right: Solar tower, recycling center and compost toilets
For the next couple of days at Tribewanted, I learnt how to cook 'special sauce', practiced yoga, went to visit the local school, cooked an amazing 'lime and spice mackerel wrapped in banana leaves and baked in the mud oven' dish, swam every morning and every night at sunset, went baby croc spotting, drank palm wine, visited the market at Waterloo, experienced tropical thunderstorms, visited the improvised turtle sanctuary on the beach, listened to local legends around the hot stove, learnt about the local communities' aspirations and positive ambitions. As you can imagine, it was hard to leave, but my feet were itching to walk other paths and discover more of hidden Salone (Sierra Leone).
To be continued... next time: Part 2: The provinces - Waterloo to Bo & Beyond
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Sandy Asuming, a student from the Gambia, shares with us her passion for the development of the responsible tourism concept in West Africa by explaining how the tourists themselves can help implement very simple changes in behaviour which can have major impacts on the sustainability of destinations and the local communities living there.
Responsible tourism is about tourists making environmentally friendly, sustainable, ethical and respectful choices when travelling and minimising the negative impact of tourism. Being responsible is something all tourists needs to take into consideration when making a decision on travelling to a destination.
Responsible travel can be considered as the most enjoyable way to travel because it brings you closer to local people and culture, it gives you the chance to experience the authenticity of the destination. It shares some of the benefits of tourism more widely with local communities, and helps minimised some of the negative impacts tourism might often have. No matter the type of travel you’re involved in, tourism brings both positive and negative impacts to a destination but responsible travel and tourism maximises the benefits of tourism and reduces some of the negatives.
The majority of us travel to experience new cultures, take on new challenges, experience new activities, or even to discover ourselves. Travelling gives us the opportunity to take a break from our typical daily routines and to reflect on the importance of life. But yet almost all travellers show an abject ignorance of anything other than a westernised world view. Being a responsible tourist can make a big difference by supporting the type of tourism that is not harmful to the environment and is supportive of local communities who lead the effort to gain or maintain sustainable livelihoods.
Contact between tourists and local people may result in mutual appreciation, therefore tourists need to be aware of local customs, traditions and to show respect to the host community in question. Residents will then be open minded and will be more willing to be educated about the outside world without leaving their homes, while their visitors significantly learn about a distinctive culture. Local communities are benefited through contribution by tourism to the improvement of the social infrastructure like schools, libraries, health care institutions, internet cafes, and so on. If local culture is the basis for attracting tourists to the region, it is important to preserve the local traditions and handicrafts.
If tourists’ attitudes change and they allow themselves to become responsible travellers, the host communities will benefit from this by protecting endangered wildlife, as the importance of preserving and conserving this resource will become more apparent. Many of West Africa’s countries depend on their wildlife as tourist attractions and if it’s not protected, there will be a decline of tourist numbers and as a result will have a bad effect on the economy. For example every year around 23000 tourists visit the Bijilo forest park in the Gambia and because the park is close to Banjul which is the capital city, it is easy for tourists to commute from the park to the town. However, the number of incoming visitors tends to be high which causes overcrowding. This causes damage to local wildlife especially the green monkeys which no longer find the need to look for food but instead sit beside nearby road sides and wait for tourists to feed them. In addition, tourists purchase bags of peanuts for the animals and litter the grounds with the empty bags. This is a danger for the monkeys who attempt to ingest them. Also, by over feeding these monkeys, they become over-friendly and become susceptible to theft by poachers.
Bearing this in mind, it is advisable for tourists to be educated on the effect of their ignorance. In doing so, tourists will become responsible for their actions while enjoying the experience.
At the end of the day by protecting and enhancing favourite destinations, future enjoyment for visitors and local resident will be sustained.
Another point is that tourists need to recognise that water and energy are precious resources which need to be used carefully. It’s important to buy from the local stores, use local taxis, local tour guides etc. All these little transactions help the local community. In the Gambia, for example, there is an excellent selection of good quality restaurants, therefore by eating in local restaurants you are ensuring that your visit benefits the wider community.
Applying the WCED’s definition of sustainability¹ to tourism, as coined in Bruntland’ Commission, the reason for responsible travel to be practised is “to meet the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability to meet the need and aspiration of future generations.” The core issue is conserving resources. There is a need to balance social, economic and environmental impacts for both tourists and host communities.
To learn more about projects that work towards implementing responsible tourism principles in the Gambia, you can view out selection here.
You can also learn more about travelling in and around West Africa by joining our growing community of 1000+ people passionate about West Africa and its beautiful local heritage.
¹ World Commission on Environment and Development (1987). Our Common Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wednesday, 20 July 2011
Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Our friends at Blogging Tracks have recently organised, in association with the Moringa Tree, a festival in Ghana aiming to bring people from around the World, Ghana and the local community together to experience the fundamental universal constant which is Music! Below is an account of the organisation that went in to the event, how it all went and the vibe that transcended the whole festival. Enjoy, it's a great read and there are some amazing artists that you may want to check out.
AND SO...The Asabaako Music Festival train pulled into Busua village last weekend for two days of live music and SERIOUS beach parties!! After 2 years of figuring out how this might work and a mad few weeks of preparation, everybody came together to make the Asabaako Music Festival a very special event, combining the most beautiful beach setting with a mix of traditional to modern African and African-inspired music. People came from around Ghana and mixed with those from around the world, alongside a village of people whose energy, enthusiasm and welcome left everybody awestruck.
Our Asabaako DJs Kobby Graham, Rita Ray, DJ Juls and Guynamite made daytimes chilling by the beach, sipping on coconut milk and rum, just that little bit more perfect, spinning anything from Afrobeat to hip hop, afro-funk & soul to high life, reggae and loads more.
Asabaako is a way for us to provide a platform for younger artists with Bless the Mic, bringing a bus full of underground MCs from Takoradi to tear up this usually quiet village resort. Performances from Sketches, Spooky, Nero, Jay Billz, Pictures, King Arthur, Scurry plus Macho Rapper, while Kweku Ananse brought a whole different vibe with his solo balafon performance.
The Agona brass band got everybody moving, while one of Ghana’s hottest rappers, Yaa Pono, took the crowd in the palm of his hands with his distinctive flow and hard hitting punchlines.
Wanlov the Kubolor, our headline artist representing Pidgen Music, had already got the village’s attention by strolling through town in his trademark dreadlocks with nothing but a tight pair of swimming trunks. But things got really interesting when he introduced his African Gypsy band, including a French accordion player and violinist, to bring something completely different to Asabaako.
And the after parties...WOH. Man....they were serious. They were serious beach parties man. I can’t even really put them into words. Big ups to our Busua DJs, Shocka and Andy Stoner!
It was a fantastic community effort, with boys from the village helping to put the stage together, running around picking up last minute generators, getting food together for our artists...and best of all, the village LOVED it. I’ve been walking through the street since having anyone from kids to old women shout “ASABAAKO!” at me as I go by. Which is nice.
OK, so preparation was a little complicated. What was supposed to be a 2-day beach party about 5 weeks before, took an interesting turn when US hip hop legend Talib Kweli tweeted to his 260,000 followers that he wanted to perform...despite the difficulty we knew we’d face, we gave it a go, had it lined up, but were then forced to cancel due to sponsorship problems...eventually taking us BACK to our original plan... (That’s a very long story short)
The past year has been an amazing experience of highs and lows, and it’s as if that was all building towards some crescendo of madness that carried into the last few hours of Asabaako 2011. Talib, no Talib....sponsorship, no sponsorship, bit of sponsorship maybe....but we got there, we did it, despite the various and plentiful challenges and pitfalls, we did it, and not without thanks to the dozens of people who helped us, along the way and on the day itself. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster like nothing you would ever imagine, but we’ve got there.
BIG LOVE to (in alphabetical order)...The first Asabaako is done, and preparation is underway for the next with an increased programme and international artists currently in discussions. And I’m telling you...BIG tings about to happen here in Ghana!
So I guess this is where we say thank you...It’s quite a list. So let’s get on with it. Thank you EVERYONE for EVERYTHING you’ve done to help us get where we are, for those who helped us out when times got hard, who believed in us when doubt reared its ugly head. Your support, guidance, advice, contacts and stress relief techniques have started something that more and more people now see will really, truly grow into something very special.
Achoo, African Rainbow (Bill, Sewa, Nana and the team), Africa Cola (Aicha, Pierre and the team), Akua and Louise, Akwaaba UK (Eben and Elliot), Ameyaw Debrah, Amy Clark, Bob Gallagher, Bibie Brew, Bill Bedzrah, Ben Bish Clark, Black Star Surf Shop (Naiomi, Yaw, Kofi, Charles, Ernest, Nat and the team), Bless the Mic, Busua Inn (Daniel & Oliver), Brown Berry, Dadson Lodge (Mama Betty, Julie and my many Dadson wives), David Thomas, Ebeneezer Bentum, Entertainment Revolution (Regis and Ben), Fayzbuqbwoi AbeikuQuansah Breezy, Fiona Stewart, Ghana Facebookers (Nana Yaw, Bizzy Mill, Eli, Gamel et al), GhanaWestCoast.com (Lorena and Stephen), The supportive family!, Green Turtle Lodge (Tom and Jo), Ian Bowden, Iso Paelay, Jay Hill, Jean Berthon, Jambo Lafferty, Jon K Fidler, Kajsa, Kate Marriage, Kobby Graham, Kofi Amponsah, Kweku Ananse, i-cr8 (T, Alima and the team), Lisa Lovatt-Smith of OrphanAid Africa, Macho Rapper, Macjordan, Mantse, Marie Howell, Melody FM and Gyandoh, M3nsa (next year I'm telling you!!), MMRS Ogilvy (Miguel, Nathalie, Fred and the team), The Moringa Tree (Chris Vaughan & the team), Nana Chillin, Nana Queci Otu Nketsia, Ms Naa, Neon Comms UK (Sam, Rols and the kids), Nick, Tom, Steve and the “overlanders”, Nii Ayertey Aryeh, Nii Sai Doku, Paa K Holbrook Smith, Paa Kwesi aka
RASTAMAN, Panji Anoff and Pidgen Music, Paul Stagg, Pete Nardini (Surf Shop & Black Star Development NGO), PY, Quantas, Rita Ray, Sidique, Skyy TV and Radio, The SRK, Stak Dollar Bundles and the OC crew, Takoradi Facebookers, Tacitus, Trenton Birch, Uncle Ralph Casely-Hayford, Valerie Lesbros, Vodafone (Cynthia and the B&S team), Wanlov the Kubolor, Yaa Pono, Yemisi Mokuolu of Out of Africa, and everyone else who's pointed us in the right direction or lent a helping hand along the way.
And a special thanks to all the people of Busua for letting us party on your beach, partying alongside us, helping to get everything together and for your continued support. We hope the festival will continue to bring business your way and show the world what a beautiful place you have here.
For more information on West Africa, its rich local heritage, and tours, accommodations and volunteer projects which will give you the opportunity to discover first hand how beautiful this region is, visit the West Africa Discovery website, or you can join us on Facebook.