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A women led CBTO meeting in Coastal Kenya

Fair and Transparent Benefit Sharing In CBT

By David Okul

The participation of local communities through sharing the benefits of tourism is one of the major characteristics of community participation in tourism. The benefits that can emanate from CBT activities include amenities, facilities, income, and employment opportunities. As the community expands, local governments provide additional budget in forms of road improvement and direction signs in and around the community.

Among the most common problems with CBTOs in Africa, and probably the world, is the benefit-sharing mechanism. In many cases, CBTOs would function efficiently until money, or other forms of benefit, comes in. It is important for a CBTO to develop and agree on a benefit-sharing mechanism before embarking on the CBT journey. 




Local culture is a common CBT attraction

How can a CBTO ensure benefit sharing?

The first step for an effective benefit-sharing mechanism in the CBT is to have an identifiable membership for the CBTO. It is common for CBTO members to register with a CBTO and pay predetermined membership fees. Additionally, communities should be able to identify their stakeholders with clarity

  1. Well-established institutions: Members of any community have different backgrounds and interests. It is important that they have a legitimate local community institution that is respected by the community and provides an interface for engaging with other stakeholders such as investors and local governments.  A CBTO can establish committees to deal with various issues that are pertinent to its operations.
  2. Well defined property rights. The CBTO resource inventory should be documented and the members made aware of their ownership and power rights.
  3. Local communities must get genuine benefits from community-based tourism activities in their localities. A sharing procedure must be defined and communicated to all stakeholders beforehand. Table 6.1 below shows how a CBTO can share benefits that accrue from hiking activities

Table 6.1: A simple benefit-sharing mechanism for a CBTO

A CBTO charges KES 1000 for a hiking experience to a local hill. The benefits are shared as follows:

  • KES 300 provides local motorbike transport and water for the hiker (30%)
  • KES 200 is a guiding fee for the guide (20%)
  • KES 150 is given to the owner of the land where the hill is located (15%)
  • KES 100 is sent to the tour operator or the referral who brought the client (10%)
  • KES 250 is retained by the CBTO for administration (licenses and office space) and the rest is retained as profit that will be shared as a dividend at the end of the year.
  1. If communities are denied fair and transparent benefit-sharing procedures, it is likely that conflicts will arise in the CBT.
  2. Assist the community in improving their access to basic services (such as water, sanitation, education and hygiene). This can be achieved by the group undertaking activities related to corporate social responsibility.
  3. Establish schemes to assist the vulnerable members of the community (e.g. disabled, orphans, widows)
  4. Encourage basic training of business operations to CBT staff and owners e.g. in aspects of cash flow, budget surplus/deficit, and retaining part of the profits to reinvest

Concluding remarks

Benefit sharing is a make or break for community-based tourism projects. Transparency is key in ensuring a fair framework. A predetermined benefit sharing is most ideal, from my experience. However, some CBT enterprises choose having a board to distribute benefits.

David Okul is a Kenyan environmental management professional with over 10 years experience on donor projects, conservation, forestry, ecotourism, and community-based natural resources management. When not working on  environmental projects, I spend my time writing for Silvica on a variety of topics. The views in this blog are personal and do not represent the organizations that he is associated with.