Shompole eco-lodge's influence on community development in the Magadi Region, Kenya
The tourism industry has been recognized as a major industry which could help in development and poverty reduction in Kenya. This is especially through ecotourism and community-based tourism enterprises which can ensure that the local communities benefit. The purpose of this study was to explore the value of the Shompole eco- lodge to community development and how the lodge's presence has improved the livelihoods and the attitudes of the community towards wildlife conservation. The study sought to establish the economic contribution of Shompole Eco- lodge to the local community; assess the contribution of Shompole Eco-lodge to the local people's welfare and; find out the local community's attitudes and perceptions towards conservation of wildlife in the Shompole group ranch. The study adopted a descriptive survey design that allows qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis. The study findings indicate that Shompole Eco-lodge has on average benefited the community economically, socially and environmentally. The economic benefits include direct income, employment and support of community projects. Socially, the Shompole trust supports schools in musical festivals thus preserving their culture. Environmentally, the community has benefited from projects initiated by the Eco-lodge such as the set up of a conservancy and provision of water and grass which has also contributed to the reduction of their vulnerability to drought. The benefits have however been mostly communal benefits to a larger extent such as schools and health centre with little benefits accruing at individual and household levels. In addition, challenges related to leadership, governance and local politics were observed to be a major challenge affecting community participation and benefit sharing. The study concludes that, though the Eco-lodge had benefited the community. There is however a great potential for the Eco-lodge to provide win-win outcomes for both the community livelihoods and conservation. This can be achieved if among other things, issues of governance, leadership and local politics are addressed. The study recommends that the various stakeholders especially the government, local community and the private sector to work together to ensure sustainability of the Eco-lodge and the ecosystem.