Factors Hindering Kawiru Community Participation in Tourism Development in Meru National Park,Meru County,Kenya
This thesis examines reasons why Kawiru, a local community living around Meru National Park does not play an active role in tourism development despite being a key stakeholder in the conservation and tourism agenda of MNP. Local community involvement in tourism activity is a pragmatic approach that endeavours to link the development of sustainable tourism to the cause of alleviating poverty and improvement of local community livelihoods. The UN Commission on Sustainable Development in the Local Agenda 21 maintains thaiif industry and government are to protect and sustain the social, cultural and environmental wealth that attracts tourists, they must build more ambitious and committed partnerships to plan, manage and invest in this wealth. In the National Tourism Policy document, the Kenya Government acknowledges that due to historical inequities in the tourism industry, local people living in tourist host communities have rarely been involved in sharing of benefits or planning of tourism activities taking place within. their community. In view of the challenges posed by poverty especially in the rural areas of Kenya, and the fact that tourism can effectively be used as a tool for fighting poverty, the objective of this study was to understand reasons why local communities living around Meru National Park are not able to take part in tourism happening in their locality with a view to generating knowledge that could inform initiatives aimed at enhancing local community participation in tourism development. The area of study, Meru National Park, and the target population of Kawiru Community was purposely chosen for the t.:~asonthat MNP is a premier park established in 1968 and the residents of Kawiru community are the immediate park neighbours situated along the main tourist route leading t~'the park. The research was designed as a cross-sectional descriptive study which employed both qualitative and quantitative methods. Questionnaires, face to face interviews and photography of features relevant to the study objectives were employed as data collection methods. Since data collected was mainly qualitative, thematic data analysis aligned to the research objectives was the preferred analysis method. The findings were projected to have a far reaching impact in stimulating among other things, formulation of a Community-based tourism policy to provide a framework for encouraging and guiding local communities to access opportunities in tourism development and share in the benefits of tourism activities taking place within their community. Specifically, the study found out that for local people to benefit from tourism development in their neighbourhood there is great need for aggressive awareness campaigns to educate the community on the importance of tourism as a viable economic option at the local level. Therefore, the study recommends sensitization of community members by the relevant stakeholders on the benefits of conservation and tourism and the role they can playas individuals and as a community in tourism development.