The sounds of “Jambo Bwana” and "The Kilimanjaro Song" echo through Mweka Camp. You’ve just reached the summit of Africa’s tallest mountain and you’re now back down in the relative comforts of the treeline. It was the toughest 24 hours of your life and soon you will be back at your lodge in Moshi or Arusha to rest for a few days before going on safari. It sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it?
Known world-wide as a relatively “easy” 5000 meter peak, and the highest point in Africa, Kilimanjaro attracts people from all over the world. A study published by the Overseas Development Institute estimated that 40,000 people visit Kilimanjaro every year, spending nearly $50 million (annually) in Tanzania. The study also revealed that local residents earn nearly 28% of the total revenue; the world’s most successful transfer of resources to a local community. Put simply, nearly $13 million a year goes directly into the local communities impacting nearly 50,000 local Tanzanians directly or indirectly. For one of the poorest countries in the world, this mountain is a lifeline.
As somebody who has spent a lot of time on Kilimanjaro I’m incredibly excited by these findings. It’s been great to see the park use some of this income to clean up the mountain and begin to build new huts and facilities. Each time I return the mountain seems healthier (with the exception of the fading glaciers). What’s most exciting is that the working conditions on Kilimanjaro for the porters, the backbone of every expedition, have improved drastically thanks to the efforts of an incredible woman by the name of Karen Valenti, Project Manager of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project. In addition to the no-cost clothing lending program which equips porters with appropriate mountain climbing gear, KPAP has managed to make it very difficult for guide companies to exploit porters by implementing the Partnership for Responsible Travel Program as set forth by the International Mountain Explorers Connection. This program sets the standard for acceptable working conditions; minimum wages, load limits, fair tipping procedures, proper shelter and sleeping equipment, and at least two meals per day. If you are guiding on Kilimanjaro and you’re not on this list you need to get with the program!
As always there is still much to be done. As adventurers, trekkers, mountaineers and travelers we have a responsibility to ensure that nobody is suffering on account of our passions. Here are several ways you can help:
1. Donate to KPAP
2. Complete a climber survey/ report poor working conditions
3. Only use guide companies who are a member of the IMEC Program
4. Tip your porters directly
5. Spread awareness