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3 Inspiring Sustainability Initiatives in East Africa

February 5th, 2018, by Lucille Sive

3 Inspiring Sustainability Initiatives in East Africa

Visiting Africa is always a thrill: there’s the majestic wildlife safaris, exceptional accommodations, and, of course, the five-star service you receive from some of the friendliest people in the world. My most recent trip to Tanzania and Rwanda featured all of these aspects in abundance. From my luxury safari in Tanzania to my time trekking with the gorillas in Rwanda, I came home with unforgettable memories. Equally important to me is how Africa is embracing sustainability and social responsibility to build a better future. Here are three projects in East Africa that are taking sustainability and social responsibility seriously.

Planting trees in Rwanda


1) Shanga | Arusha, Tanzania

During our stay at the Arusha Coffee Lodge, I visited an incredible souvenir shop called Shanga. “Shanga” is the Swahili word for bead and refers to how this business began. In 2007, local resident Saskia Rechsteiner produced some necklaces for a Christmas fair. The necklaces were made from fabric and glass beads and they sold out within hours. Saskia then started receiving orders from safari companies, gift shops and travellers who wanted to import her beautiful creations back home. This sudden demand inspired her to grow her business, but not in the typical way. Saskia reached out to women and men in the community with disabilities to help her meet the demand. The result has been a growing business that now directly supports the employment of 70 women and men with disabilities who produce beautiful artisan gifts using recycled glass and sustainable materials.


Shanga gift shop in Arusha


When I visited, I had the opportunity to see the people of Shanga produce their wares in the workshop. The impressive array of sustainable products includes weaving, glass blowing, beading, papermaking and metal work. I was impressed by the skills of Shanga’s artisans, many with disabilities, who were creating such stunning pieces. At the entrance of Shanga, there’s a wall painted with a quote that encapsulates this shop’s philosophy: “Kindness is a language which blind people see and deaf people hear.” I encourage all African Travel guests who stay at Arusha Coffee Lodge to visit this shop: with the purchase of stunning artisan jewellery and crafts, you will directly support the local communities in Arusha.


A weaver at work Shanga


2) Nyaruswiga Safari Lodge | Serengeti, Tanzania

Situated in the heart of Serengeti National Park, One Nature’s Nyaruswiga Safari Lodge is a an ultra luxury tented camp, perfect for travelers who crave absolute comfort combined with unforgettable wildlife safaris. Nyaruswiga not only features first-class accommodations and a wonderful spa where you can relax and rejuvenate with a variety of wellness treatments, but a portion of your booking contributes to One Nature’s impressive conservation and sustainability projects. All One Nature camps, including Nyaruswiga, minimize their carbon footprint by using solar energy to power their camps’ operations. The purpose is to conserve the Serengeti’s resources so that travelers to the region can continue to enjoy its rich wildlife experience.


Solar panels at One Nature Nyaruswiga


One Nature also supports anti-poaching initiatives in the region: they have partnered with Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) to support the Serengeti de-snaring program. This initiative recruits locals, many who are ex-poachers, from villages in the Serengeti to use their skills and experience to locate and destroy snare traps throughout the Serengeti. The snares are a major problem for local wildlife and this program is making a real impact thanks to guests choosing to travel responsibly in Tanzania.

3) Bisate Lodge | Rwanda

Bisate Lodge, a new luxury lodge that opened in 2017, is committed to sustainable conservation and community development in Rwanda. The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the lodge is just how small of a footprint it makes. Bisate features just six luxury rooms, which they call forest villas. These villas are proudly made out of recycled materials, including glass and wood that you notice as soon as you enter your room. The look of the villas is also striking; they are pod shaped and the rooms sit on stilts high above the forest floor. These features only enhance the luxury feeling of Bisate: the rooms are spacious and feature large balconies that overlook the forest that surrounds the lodge.


The beautiful chandelier in the lounge area at Bisate, made of recycled glass


Bisate embraces a philosophy called “every guest a philanthropist”. During the construction of the lodge, Wilderness Safaris, the owners of Bisate Lodge, embarked on a project to plant more than 15,000 indigenous trees across the site on which Bisate is situated. Guests are encouraged to make their own small contribution to this ambitious project by planting a tree during their stay. Not only is this a fun activity, but I also learned more about the unique ecosystem and biodiversity of the area. The goal of the project is to restore rainforest habitats in the Volcanoes region as this will also help to expand the gorilla’s habitat. In total, Bisate wants to reforest 43 hectares of land with local vegetation including bamboo, hagenia and dombea trees.  As more vegetation returns to the region, more wildlife will follow. I highly encourage guests to take part in tree planting at Bisate; the feeling of contributing to this ambitious conservation project is a joy.

They have also started a project to build a dam so that the local community will have easier access to water and not have to carry water so far.


Planting trees at Bisate Lodge


CST #2071444-20