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   A Concept Paper





Godfrey Kipsisey-Sobett (PhD-Candidate)

            P.O. Box 4445600100,

  Nairobi Kenya



Mobile: 0726 251985

        0736 311324

Landline: 2714943/4




1. Introduction

The Elgon Professional Association (EPA) has made an observation; the Western Highlands is historically a significant part of Kenya. Apart from the Western Rift Valley and its diversity, Mount Elgon is the only attractive scenery which serves as an ecosystem, water-tower, Game Reserve, and compass point for the North-Western part of Kenya. Given the large number of people visiting Kenya each year, there is an opportunity for the creation of an additional tourist attraction in western Kenya. It is noted that there is no cultural-based attraction in the region and this vacuum can be filled by the creation of such an attraction. It’s in light of the foregoing that the EPA have mooted the idea of the ‘Sabaot Cultural Centre.’


The Committee on Culture under the chairmanship of Godfrey Kipsisey has been asked by EPA to prepare this preliminary concept. For purpose of this paper, the committee members will be referred to as Sabaot Cultural Promoters.


2. The Concept


2.1 The People

The Sabaot sub-ethnic of the Kalenjin group (tribe) in Mount Elgon, Trans-Nzoia and Sebei Districts, occupy over half of Mount Elgon and its surrounding areas. They are to be found not only in Kenya, but also in Eastern Uganda and beyond. The language spoken by the Sabaot is one of the Southern Nilotic (Kalenjin) languages. Their history of immigration dates back to the spread of the Kalenjin people a thousand of years from a place called Misri in the north to Kitale Plateau, Sebei and Bungoma Districts. The Sabaot clans make a ring around the mountain. The spread of Sabaot around the mountain partly explains the resilience of their culture, despite the immense in-migration of the Bantu tribes (Bagisu and Bukusu) and European white settlers and eventual eviction from their homelands in Bungoma and Kitale Plateau. The later was renamed Trans-Nzoia District by the Colonial Government.


The Sabaot people have traditionally kept animals (cattle goats and sheep ) which are often essential for survival. The cow has played a particular important role in the history of the Sabaot people since it was valued in traditional ceremonies, for its blood as well as milk, meat and hides.


The most respected person in Sabaot society is an elder or boontet ab kook and especially one that has become wealthy with time and is a leader in the community. To reach this highest state a male has to go through the following stages: 1) young men between 14-25 years old are initiated and taken through an instructional lesson to learn how to look after cattle care for the household build a house and how to relate to others in the family and community. When the young man is able to do this things independently, he can request for circumcision from the father. If the father agrees, he is circumcised. 2) the second stage include the circumcision rite which enables young men to be considered adults 3) a young man is not considered to have reached manhood until he’s married and established his own home and has children. 4) the most respected men distinguish themselves from the other by their generosity and hospitality along with their ability to give good advice and their honesty. But it is generally recognized that these good traits can not be displayed without material so the most respected men are also those with wealth so the respected men are also those with wealth which  is defined in form of wives, children, cattle, land, ability to raise money through cash crops, shops, wholesale businesses etc.

Sabaot culture has changed because of outside contact.  For instance only 50% of every 3 men marry more than one wife.  The younger generation are less frequently marrying more than one wife. High bride prices, negotiated between the members of the two families are still required.  Female circumcision is till felt to be necessary.  Girls choose to be circumcised between the ages of 16 and 25.

The Sabaot have a reputation as a people very conservative of their culture and who despite massive land alienation and dispersal, have continued to preserve their ethno-biodiversity at a greater prize. On the other hand, they are the most welcoming and represent a community that has given hospitality to a diverse immigrant populations in Kenya. Their culture has retained certain distinct traits despite undergoing a lot of stress and pressure.


The Sabaot  have a tradition of loving peace.  However, when neighboring tribes  come to their territory to raid their animals, the Sabaot think it necessary to defend themselves. The agricultural Bantu Bukusu from eastern Uganda and southern Mount Elgon, desiring more land, also put pressure on the Sabaot people to move up the mountain escarpment and the white settler in present Trans-Nzoia district.


The Sabaot people are also proud of their cultural heritage and language.  The elders feel that many young people are losing this heritage so they feel a strong need for the younger generation to be taught both the language and the culture. The present innovators are those who have lived outside the areas for many years.  When they return to the mountain, they bring new things and new ideas which the young people often quickly accept.  However, older people change slowly and complain that new ideas are ruining Sabaot traditional practices and life styles.


The Sabaot have had a tradition of worshipping the Creator God, Yeyiin and venerating their ancestors.  Their religious activities include occasions when the entire community sacrifice an animal for koroseek peace offering to Yeyiin.  This is done during transitions, movements and calamities.


Because the majority of the Sabaot preferred to live on the mountain and continue their traditional way of living, the coming of the white men did little to change their lives.  Though changes have slowly come to the community, even totally the Sabaot people have had very limited educational opportunities.  While other areas have benefited from mission schools and the development projects of Christian organizations, this area has often gone without.


Along with the keeping of domestic animals, the Sabaot people grow maize and beans, millet, sorghum, bananas and sweet potatoes.  Coffee, tea, pyrethrum, tomatoes, cabbages and onions are also grown.  Most families divide their time between keeping domestic animals and growing crops.  Those who do not have good land wholly depend on their domestic animals to earn money, while those with good land earn money through raising and selling crops.


Any small excess of crops grown by the Sabaot people and not needed by their families is usually sold in markets,  Men’s work is to cultivate land and build houses, women’s work is to care for the children, fetch water, collect fire wood and cook for the family.  Farming and weeding crops is everybody’s work.  People often work together and exchange labour.  Some who lack money will give their labour as a form of payment but this common for the Bukusu laborers. Young girls normally help their mothers in domestic work after school while the boys take care of the animals.  Generally Sabaot women have very little time to rest.


Given this cultural wealth, the Sabaot would provide immense resources for the creation of a cultural centre. The Sabaot Cultural Promoters concept is to capsulate various aspects of the Sabaot culture and present it within the confines of a village called the Sabaot Cultural Centre.


2.3 The Elgon Biodiversity

Mount Elgon is the fourth highest mountain in Africa and is located around latitude 1ºN and longitude 34ºE. It stretches across the international border between Uganda and Kenya, the highest peak being is in Uganda. It is located north of Lake Victoria on the border between Kenya and Uganda. It is a mountain of volcanic origin, which reaches an altitude of 4,320 metres and is between 15 and 20 million years old. The vegetation is zoned by altitude. Montane forest vegetation spans between 2,000 and 3,500 metres, with many important indigenous species. Above 3,500 metres, Afro-Alpine moorland is the main vegetation type.


The Kenya side of the Mount Elgon ecosystem is situated in Mount Elgon District, and in Trans Nzoia District. It encompasses two Forest Reserves which are separated by Mount Elgon National Park. Of the total Forest Reserves 4,324 ha are in Trans-Nzoia and 42,097 ha in Mount Elgon District. The forest is managed by the Forest Department, while Mount Elgon National Park falls under the responsibility of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). On the foothills of the mountain, Forest Reserves and the Mount ElgonNational Park border subsistence farms especially in Mount Elgon District and on the north-eastern side in Trans-Nzoia. A few large scale farms are found on the eastern slopes.


Mount Elgon’s water catchment capacity and its bio-diversity functions are of regional significance for East Africa. It is the major water source for Lake Victoria and River Nile. The importance of the area has been recognised as trans-border mountain ecosystem with the establishment of integrated conservation and development projects on both the Uganda and Kenya sides of the mountain. Evidently however, political boundaries do not take account of realities of nature. Like most other political boundaries, the border between Uganda and Kenya was arbitrarily drawn by colonial governments never having set eyes on the Sabaot people and land. As a result, it severs the community and a functioning ecosystem, which would benefit from a larger scale, regional approach to conservation and development. The adjoining Mount Elgon National Parks in Kenya and Uganda have been recognised also in scientific publications as one of the 136 trans-frontier ecosystems consisting of Internationally Adjoining Protected Areas.


Mount Elgon ecosystem harbours one of the richest biodiversities in the world. Records show that approximately 240 species of birds are found in Mount Elgon ecosystem. Among the most common are the Guinea Fowls, Black and White Casqued Hornbill and the Grey Crowned Crane. The cranes breed in wetlands and forage both inside and outside the wetlands. The bird species have four habitat types which are the bushy grassland, open grassland, cultivated lands and swamps. Other birds include the Grey Heron, Long-tailed Cormorant, African Darter, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Night Heron, Hammerkop, Yellow-billed Stork, Hadada Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Yellow-billed Duck, Sparrow, varieties of doves, and others. Mount Elgon is considered one of the Important Bird Areas (IBA) in Kenya. Certain species such as the Splendid Starling are only found in Mount Elgon region. Apart from birds, Mount Elgon ecosystem is a habitat for many varieties of snakes, chameleons, frogs, tortoises and snails. The tortoise is found in salty springs which the Sabaot call koong’ta or ‘the eye.’


Original inventories and oral accounts showed that Mount Elgon ecosystem was inhabited by about 30 mammalian species, but as of now, only 20 can be check-listed. The remaining 10 species have disappeared from this habitat. Commonly seen species in large numbers are Loxodanta africana (Elephant), Syncerus caffer (Buffalo), Hyaena crocuta (Spotted Hyena), Taurotragus oryx (Waterbuck), Galago senegalensis (Bush baby), baboons, Red duiker, Impala, Leopard, Bongo, Hyrax, Giant forest hog, Rhino and various rodent species. The threatened African golden cat, Felis aurata or kimokoyit, and endemic small mammals such as Mount Elgon musk shrew, Crocidura elgonius or nteriit, and Mount Elgon mole-rat, Tachyocites rudii or bung’uung’weet, are indigenes  in the region. Among the carnivores are Leopard, Spotted hyena, Wild cat, and Civet. 

The major concern for the animal kingdom in Mount Elgon forest is with the mammalian group. This is due to their declining habitats and to pressures such as poaching and encroachment by man. Different species of mammals inhabit different vegetation zones, or habitats. There are three main categories of the Mount Elgon Forest as they relate to wildlife habitation and this include montane forest, bamboo zone, and open moorland.


The montane forest (2,000-3,500 m) is comprised of tall trees of various species, bushes, and climbers. It is the area where most rivers claim their sources. Caves that provide natural saltlicks are found in this zone. Where giant trees are found, animals such as waterbuck, buffalo, forest hogs and antelope are commonly seen. Among the mammals found in this zone are buffaloes, cave elephants, black and white colobus monkeys, and the antelopes. The zone offers abundant resources required by these mammals such as water, forage, and natural salt licks.


The bamboo zone (3,500 - 4,000 m) is at a higher altitude than the forest. It is frequented by red duiker and a few varieties of birds like francolins. Seed trees also thrive here hence plenty of food for the birds. Leopards can be found in this zone. The moorland zone, at 4,000 - 4,500 m has little vegetation and is cooler due to the higher altitude. Commonly inhabiting the moorland are rock hyrax, leopard, and a notable variety of rodents. Some stray lowland mammals are also found in this area, including buffalo and bushbuck.


The dominant tree species in Elgon ecosystem are Olea capensis (Elgon Teak), Juniperus procera (Cedar) and Hagenia abysisinica (Rosewood). Areas with pure stands of these particular species have become bare due to wanton destruction and fires while others have been replaced with exotic species including Cypress, Pine and Eucalyptus. Others species are Podocarpus spp, Markhamia lutea, Fagaropsis angolensis, Polyscias kikuyunensis, Hagenia abyssinica (rosewood), Aningeria aldofi and Prunus africana. Several shrub and tree species are exploited by the forest-adjacent community for medicinal purposes. The medicine is extracted from the roots, barks or even the leaves. Some species with medicinal significance include Ficus natalensis, Prunus africana, Croton macrostachya, Acacia spp, Aningeria spp and Elgon teak. On a small-scale, the medicinal value of Mount Elgon forest is being exploited for economic purposes. A few individuals can be noted openly peddling medicinal concoctions in market centres such as Kapsokwony District Headquarters and various places.


The Sabaot community has some cultural beliefs and practices which have assisted in the conservation of wildlife. Hunters were not supposed to kill pregnant animals. Others are not allowed to kill certain species referred to as family "totems" e.g. Kapchebet clan will not kill a buffalo. The community members were not allowed to drink milk for one week after eating wild game meat. Young boys were not allowed to hunt because they could violate the above norms. Most members of the community have long outlived these sustainable conservation measures. Efforts should be made to revive these beneficial cultural norms.


However during circumcision ceremonies, the initiates wear hats made from the skins of the Black and White Colobus Monkey. This indicates that the indigenous community has been involved in poaching, though this practice is dying out slowly as a result of awareness creation campaigns. Emphasis is placed on practice of selective, valuable cultural activities.


Honey hunting is yet another cultural practice that still exists amongst the forest-adjacent communities. The use of fire to scare away bees leaves most of them dead and always is a significant source of uncontrolled fires on Mount Elgon.

Mount Elgon ecosystem plays an important role as a water catchment and is one of the five main ‘water towers’ of Kenya. It is the head catchment area for two major rivers: the Nzoya and Suam or Turkwel rivers. It also provides water to the Morkiis (Malakis) River that crosses the farming area south of the mountain before entering Uganda as MalabaRiver. The Nzoya River is a critical water source for Western Province where it provides most of the water to highly populated areas before flowing into Lake Victoria. The Nzoya River crosses 123 sub-locations where the total population amounts to 1,054,283 inhabitants, according to the census undertaken in 1989.  The Suam or Turkwel River is one of three major rivers that feed Lake Turkana. It provides water to the Turkwel Gorge dam and its hydro-electric power plant. It is the main river that crosses the semi-arid and arid areas of the region on the southwest of Lake Turkana.


Amongst the major rivers originating from Mount Elgon ecosystem are Kaibei, Kapteka, Kimoson, Mubere, Kiptigot, Chebirirbey, Kamuchong', Chepchoinor, Kipyoywan, Kisawoy Kipkulkul, Cheptantan, Rongai, Kamakoiwa, Sosio, Laba, Kipkuresai Kimelil, Kibuk, Kimobo, Kibingey, Kitaban, Kibusi, Kapkateny, and Terem. Others include Kuywa, Kaptenai, Emia, Morkiis Emanang, Sitt and Rakook. Generally, the rivers are fast flowing. The drainage pattern is radial to parallel on the upper and mid-slopes respectively.


The government has allowed local communities to extract water from the forest for various uses at no cost to the beneficiaries. However, the local communities have not taken full advantage of this facility and only a few water projects exist. These are Salaam and Nyakaguana which serves about 10,000 people, Kimondo serving about 3,500 people, Kibuk (Kimnyokos) serving about 4,000 people, Laba serving about 2,500 people, Mount Elgon Orchards Farm and Wango farm. Most communities in Mount Elgon District are served by gravity flow water systems originating from the mountain. Others get their water from springs located near their homes. Water schemes include Ngachi water project, Chesikak and the proposed Chesekeer water project.


Rivers have certain religious significance attached to them. They are regarded by Sabaot people as very sacred or holy places, where certain vital societal rituals are carried out. During circumcision, initiates are required to carry out customary practical lessons in the river. Each of the Sabaot territorial clans have its own specific river, belonging to them historically and religiously. In Mount Elgon, rivers Rakook, Terem, Sosio Kisawoi and Suam have a lot of spiritual, emotional and cultural beliefs attached to them by the various Sabaot clans eg Rakook for the Kamukeek clan. A newly married woman from western Elgon could not cross Kisawoi River into Trans-Nzoia or Kitale without denouncing her witchcraft and throwing it into the river.


3. The Vision

The Sabaot Cultural Centre while strongly committed to promotion of cultural diversity will primarily be an educational entity and also an important commercial tool. With support from cultural stakeholders, the centre will initiate, develop, nurture and facilitate several cultural landscapes and artistic expressions in all its forms. It will strive to build fruitful partneships with cultural stakeholders in view of establishing sustainable cultural activities. It will host a variety of events, exhibitions and performances enhancing the cultural scene in the country. Sabaot Cultural Promoters are  to create a specialized educational and cultural tourist attraction with the Sabaot cultural activities as the centrepiece. Similar concepts exist in various parts of the world. The uniqueness of the Sabaot Cultural Centre, however, is that it will be located within the ancestral home of the subject community (the Sabaot), yet in close vicinity to a large metropolitan farming settlements on one hand and a Game and National park on the other.


Scholarly contributions of the Centre: In its long term objectives, the Centre is also aimed at encouraging and promoting comparative studies of Southern Nilotic cultures through investigative research, symposia, conferences and seminars. Scholars and university students locally and internationally should produce research papers on evolution of Kalenjin languages, scope of Kalenjin aesthetics and metaphysics; nature of ancient Kalenjin social and political institutions in the region and the trend of Kalenjin socio-cultural and political development on the eve of colonial infiltration into the Western Highlands and its impact on present development settlements.

The Sabaot Cultural centre will come up with an objective of developing, coordinating and promoting multi-disciplinary functions. The centre will make an attempt to depict Sabaot life in pre-literate, literate and modern conditions by use of demonstrations, planting ethno-botanical garden, manufacture of traditional products, observance and simulation of positive cultural ceremonies, staging of authentic traditional music, dances and exchange programmes for school children.


Sabaot Cultural Promoters’ vision of the ‘The Sabaot Cultural Centre’ is that the facility will comprise of the following:

  • A main building and several huts, all very well appointed but conceptually designed to reflect Sabaot architecture
  • Several adjacent huts; each hut will display a different aspect of Sabaot culture, for instance Sabaot food, music and dance, Sabaot handicraft, Sabaot ceremonies e.g. marriage, circumcision etc.
  • Each hut will also constitute a sales outlet for items such as; handicraft and other souvenir items (baskets, gourds, lesos, kikois); CDs and Videos; Postcards and books.
  • There will be one central hut that will as a museum and display art gallery of Sabaot culture, and will display items such as:  tools, ornaments, furniture, containers, clothes
  • There will also be a main hall in which various forms of art entertainments such as live Sabaot dances, music, drama and cultural simulations are presented.
  • The hall will serve as theatre/venue for annual/regular cultural and schools drama  music festivals.
  • There will be a library, audio-visual and language bureau both for reference materials in the Kalenjin and other southern Nilotic languages
  • There will also be a restaurant serving primarily Kalenjin cuisine and drinks as well as other types of dishes and drinks to a suit a variety of tastes.
  • There will be cottages acting as ‘resting cottages’ for visitors hiking on Mount Elgon
  • Nature trail with a mini-ethnobiodiversity of Greater Elgon
  • The entire design and décor will in, some way or other, reflect the Sabaot Culture.


4. The Marketing Strategy

The EPA Cultural Committee visualizes a strategy it considers appropriate for the Sabaot Cultural Centre. The strategy outlined below is a foundational strategy developed for purposes of this concept paper. It will also provide general guidance for the design work as well as a comprehensive feasibility study. A more detailed strategy will have to be developed at a later stage within the context of such comprehensive feasibility study.


4.1 The Market

The primary source of clientele for the Sabaot Cultural Centre will be educational institutions, tourists both local and international. In terms of the identification of the correct market niche, it is anticipated that it is primarily the middle and upper income level tourists who would mostly be attracted to such a cultural centre. Other groups would include special interest groups and educational institutions.


The development of a strong partnership with institutions of learning, hotels and tour operators that specialize in the middle and upper income level tourists will go a long way in ensuring a steady source of business and cultural exchange programmes. There is evidence that indicates that ecotourism, educational exchange programmes and business travel are some of the key segments for Kenya’s tourism. Cultural exchange programmes and ecotourism will therefore provide a good opportunity from where some business can be tapped.

The EPA Cultural Committee therefore believes that the Sabaot Cultural Centre can position itself to capture a substantial share of these market segments. Accordingly, the product promotion and pricing strategies should be geared towards satisfying these market segments.


4.2 The Product/Service

In the light of the target market indicated above, the design, amenities and facilities offered by the Sabaot Cultural Centre ought to be biased towards the needs of this market segment. Thus, the design, while based on the Sabaot culture should ensure that the following aspects are factored in:

  • The most creative and unique in architectural design.
  • Proper blending with environment without compromising on comfort
  • Special effects, both visually and I sound
  • Ample display rooms, gallery, resource centre and entertainment hall
  • Adequate display material artifacts
  • Adequate documentary educational material
  • Efficient and comfortable catering facilities


4.3 Promotion Strategy

EPA Cultural Committee envisions that the Sabaot Cultural Centre will have to adopt the following promotion strategy, among others:

  • Enjoin development partners and well-wishers as soon possible in the concept development.
  • Persuade hoteliers and tour operators to jointly develop special packages that include visits to the Sabaot Cultural Centre on their way to Mount Elgon moorland and National Park
  • Develop strong partnerships with institutions of learning, museums both locally and internationally.
  • Ensure up-to-date information on the Sabaot Cultural Centre is available to institutions of learning and tourists coming to Kenya.
  • Develop a web site of the Sabaot Cultural Centre with links to cultural museums and educational institutions internationally.
  • Advertise in the local media with a view to attracting the relatively large number of educational groups and Kenyans that visit tourist attractions in the country.
  • Join key museum and tourist trade and educational associations
  • Ensure key management staff enroll in the cultural exchange/trade associations and clubs  to develop networking
  • Archeological data: commission an archeologist for the purpose of carrying out tests excavations on historical sites(caves) to determine age, skeletal materials that can be studied and also assemble articles of material culture typical of such places and time.
  • Ethnographic collections: Commission an Anthropologist to collect and document Sabaot ethnography with participation of the community.
  • Architectural plans and designs: Commission an architect and quantity surveyor to design the centre based on Sabaot traditional architecture.
  • Land: acquire 5 acres of land on which the Sabaot cultural Centre will be sited. This will be the nucleus foe developing physical facilities.


4.4 Price Policy

EPA Cultural Committee visualizes a price policy that is based on a philosophy aimed at guaranteeing the customer value for money and a high degree of consistency and delivery of the highest quality of service and product.


4.5. Management/Administration

The Sabaot Cultural Centre will provide the public with general exhibitions, library services, restaurant, conference hall, indigenous craft shop and recreational services. To ensure consistency and delivery of the highest quality of service and product, it is critical that a highly qualified and experienced managers should be engaged to run the centre. The EPA Cultural Committee suggests that considerations be given to the engagement of a team specialists in three areas: hospitality management, anthropology and museum operations.


In the long run the Centre should have full-time Curator cum Administrator and Secretary who should be suitably qualified persons resident in Mount Elgon District but not necessarily from the community. Their terms of service should be decided by the Board of Directors but not subjected to any local interference.


The Administrator should be the Chief Manager of the Centre and his work should be to translate policy decisions taken by the Board of Directors from time to time. The Board of Directors have a constitution with membership open to local elite and distinguished persons representing Sabaot in the four districts (Mount Elgon, Bungoma, Trans-Nzoia and Sebei). Appointment of members of the board should be done in accordance to guidelines of the Ministry of Culture and Social Services in consultation with local leadership.


Finance: the Centre will essentially operate as a self-supporting entity. It will be able to cover its recurrent costs plus minor development expenditures, by effectively selling services to the public and operating a craft shop. One way of raising funds is through the Annual Exhibition where members of public give donations. For a start the Centre needs a sponsor to subsidize some of the costs. The Centre will not raise any loans instead donations will be sought from local and foreign countries.


4.6 Other General Matters

The Centre will need a 4-Wheel-Drive vehicle for its educational exchange visits, ferrying of materials and moving to project sites. Generous donors who are willing to support cultural exchange programmes will be welcome to assist with such transport.


4.6.1 Naming of halls, offices and arenas

It is of interest to have functional halls, offices and arenas at the Centre named after historical and spiritual leaders, dialects, warriors well-wishers who have participated both in historical and contemporary events.


4.6.2 Register of Honour

The Centre should open a Register of Honour where generous supporters are annually recorded.


4.6.2 Fundraising

The Centre will be asking for donations from well-wishers to finance the acquisition of land, initial construction of core buildings such as small administration block, library, auditorium, restaurant block, museum wing, and craft shop. The community in conjunction with local elite and donors should be able to contribute towards the construction of the centre, erection of monuments etc.



5. Social and Economic Benefits

The benefits of the Sabaot Cultural Centre are expected to be numerous and diverse. It is the view of the EPA Cultural Committee that the social benefits of the centre will include the following:

a)      Employment creation

b)      Education and training

c)      Environmental protection

d)      Promotion of ecotourism


In addition to the foregoing direct benefits, indirect benefits and economic multiplier effects will be generated through the following activities:

  • Improved road network in Mount Elgon and Trans-Nzoia districts
  • Improved security system on the Kenya-Uganda border
  • Improved access to social amenities such as health centres, clean water and electricity
  • Increased tourist traffic in Western Kenya
  • Production and supply of foodstuffs
  • Manufacture and supply of display items
  • Production and supply of operational materials and services
  • Educational and cultural activities
  • Construction and development works


The Sabaot Cultural Promoters consider the creation of such employment opportunities as critical in generating additional benefits to the community. This policy is also in line with the government policy of empowering local communities in terms of the exploitation of their natural resources and employment creation.


6. Detailed Feasibility Study

The realization of this idea will call for a detailed feasibility study that is tandem to EPA Strategic Plan on Culture. This will call for the input of experts in various fields, such as managements experts, architects, anthropologists, curators etc. (see appendix 1)


 Appendix 1: Detailed Feasibility Study


Tourism Strategy for Mount Elgon


Definition of the Region

In Kenya's tourism context “the Western Region of Kenya” includes Nyanza, Western and the middle part of Rift Valley Provinces. In physical terms, the region consists of Kenya's part of Lake Victoria and  low plateau surrounding it, a portion of the Great Rift Valley having in it the rift valley lakes of Bogoria and Baringo, the Uasin Gishu -Kitale Plateau, the Cherang’any Hills and the Greater Mount Elgon.


Topography, Geology and climate

The major topographical features in the region are Lake Victoria, Mount Elgon containing the world's largest caldera, and the Great Rift Valley with its rugged and haunting escarpments, lakes and hot springs, forest covered hills and cultivated plains. The altitude ranges from 500 to 4000 metres above sea level. Mount Elgon appeals to most visitors because it has rocky cliffs and caves which are accessible and explorable by walking or climbing, and furthermore because the sites are linked with each other by footpaths or hiking trails.


The geology of the area comprises of Precambrian metamorphics in the plateau and Tertiary volcanics in the highlands. Soils are highly to moderately fertile in the highlands and plateau and variable fertility in the valleys.


The tropical climate of the highlands is moderated by altitude, resulting in relatively cool temperatures of between 14 and 28 degrees centigrade and comparatively high rainfall with annual mean varying from 400 to 1800 mm and one long dry season from November to February. This pattern makes the area ideal not only for grain farming, being Kenya's grain belt, but also for sports activities and working holidays. Many of the world's best athletes practiced and got approbation here before the world record-breaking events.

For environmental related planning purposes, three ecological zones (I, II, III) are recognised in the region. Zone I, which mean highland areas of high rainfall and agricultural potential, predominates the region and includes the afro-alpine, medium altitude and upland forests, savannah and wetland. It is characterised by high biodiversity and endemism of species especially in fish populations. Mount Elgon, Cherang’any Hills and the Mau Escarpment have immeasurable value as water catchment areas and sources of major rivers namely Turkwell, Nzoia and Yala which flow into Lake Turkana and Lake Victoria respectively.


Vegetation and Wildlife conservation

The natural vegetation types vary with altitude and generally each type of vegetation forms a zone or broad belt which can be recognised in the landscape, except where there is variation in the matrix or composition of vegetation caused by the intensity of land-use (agriculture, grazing, urban settlement etc). The following vegetation types, each having its own account of interesting ecology and economic or cultural values can be recognised in the landscape: (a) Wetlands including open water, swamps and riparian marshes as seen in Lake Victoria, Lake Baringo, Lake Bogoria, Yala Swamp, Saiwa Swamp etc; (b) Semi-arid bushed and wooded grasslands or savannah; (c) Remnants of the West African type of medium altitude tropical rain forest that is characterised by the Kakamega Forest; (d) Upland or montane forests; and (e) Moorland and Afro-alpine belt at the top of Mount Elgon.


Although two thirds of the land is cultivated, the region has abundance and diversity of both large and small wild animals. The main difference from other wildlife and the ‘Big Five’ safari areas of Kenya is that, here the animals are isolated in relatively small areas surrounded by farms. Naturally this means that more work is being done here for the conservation of wildlife, especially in resolution of conflicts between the people and the wild animals.


Plenty of elephants, buffaloes, leopards, waterbucks and monkeys are found in the forest of Mount Elgon National Park. Lake Victoria has abundance, diversity and endemism of cichlid species of fish. The alkaline lakes, swamps and riparian forests of the Nzoia River and Kakamega Forest Reserve are the main homes of spectacular flocks of flamingoes, the shy and rare Sitatunga and the de Brazza monkey. The Cherang’any Hills are rich in Colobus monkeys and birds. On the Kitale plateau the widespread Combretum woodlands are rich in both resident and migratory bird fauna as well as the Jackson’s hartebeest, the Roan antelope, the Rothschild giraffe and the Lesser kudu.


People, Cultural Diversity and infrastructure

The western region has a total of about ten million people according to the 1999 Population and Housing Census and the highest population density among the regions. There are many cultural distinctions and differences in ways of life among the individuals and communities encountered in this region depending on their present and past ethnic identity, association and patronage. This factor constitutes a resource of great tourism potential for the region, but it has not been developed or exploited from this positive angle. The main reason is the scarcity of awareness and knowledge of tourism related business and of proper organisation for promotion and marketing of cultural products at community and regional levels.


In Kenya generally, tourism depends on road transport. This mode of transport is only slightly supplemented by railway, water and air transport. The road conditions in the Western Region are good or satisfactory in comparison to other regions of Kenya. However, like everywhere else in Kenya, the rural access roads between the trunk roads to the entrance of tourism destinations are unsatisfactory and inadequate for there is a tendency for rural roads to be neglected.


In addition to the road network there is a railway line linking the region to the capital city of Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa. However, although railway extends to Eldoret and Kitale towns, there is no passenger train service on this railway line. The passenger train service is confined to the Nairobi-Kisumu line only.

The region has got two major airports, the Eldoret International Airport and Kisumu Airport. In addition there are several public and private aerodromes. Kitale aerodrome is long and fairly well maintained. Mount Elgon National Park has an airstrip used and maintained by the KWS only. Water transportation on Lake Victoria is poorly developed being limited to local fishing boats and canoes which are hardly prepared or reliable for tourist passenger service.

Water supply, waste disposal and power supply services in the region are unsatisfactory. Sanitary systems in rural and national park facilities are also unsatisfactory since public sewerage systems are provided and limited to urban settlements only. Tourism facilities located away from the town centres are not supplied with electricity.


Rationale for Tourism in Mount Elgon

Poverty Eradication Potential of Tourism Industry

Tourism is a strategic industry that has potential to eradicate poverty in Western region and the whole of Kenya in general. In view of the unexploited tourism potential in the Mount Elgon region this is a vision that should be taken more seriously by sensitizing the entire population with the need to cultivate the right attitudes, hospitality skills and public relations in readiness for participation in viable tourism activities. National stakeholder organizations (KWS, KTB, KTDC, KTF, TD) should take lead in popularizing tourism to the Kenyan population.


Tourism Image Problem in Elgon Region

The whole of the western region of Kenya including Mount Elgon National Park has lagged behind other parts (except the North Eastern) of Kenya in visitation by tourists. Over the last ten years the average number of foreign and local visitors to Mount Elgon National Park per year was 3,000. At this rate the park could not pay back even 5% of its annual expenditure, and therefore it was acting like bottomless sink draining money the government and tax payers. The reasons for the poor state of visitation by tourists are not clear although many problems have been cited as the hindrances to tourism. It is quite clear from available information that the main problem facing the western region of Kenya as a tourist destination is detraction by Kenya's image among tour operators and tourists as a destination for a safari to see the "big five" and the beach.


Lack of Information on Birds

There are many angles of looking at birds that could make them a major theme of nature tourism in the Elgon region if only there was sufficient information put in the visitors' menu. This means, for example, that although to have a great deal of publicity about the flocks of flamingoes at Lake Bogoria is good, the almost total eclipse of information about other interesting birds is not so good. For instance there are colonies of crested cranes in Trans Nzoia and Mount Elgon Districts that the visitors to Lake Bogoria are never informed about. Nor is it appreciated by most people, except specialists, who are mostly visitors, that abundance and diversity of birds is one of Elgon Region's greatest natural endowments with potential for development and utilization as a tourism product. Many communities in the region hunt birds for meat and ceremonial purposes and they have various traditional skills for shooting and catching birds and these bird hunting practices have potential for tourism attraction. At the same time there are also populations of birds which are incrementally threatened by the eradication of habitats such as forest, swamps and woodlands, a fact of conservation by which Mount Elgon region should touch the empathy of visitors.


Ecological Isolation

The current reclamation of swamps and irrigation schemes at Saiwa and Kipsaina are typical examples of land-use conflict between environmental conservation and development at community level that leads to ecological isolation of small parks with the risk of possible genetic deterioration of certain populations of wild animals e.g. Sitatunga. Similar processes are affecting Rothschild giraffes at Soy-Moi Barracks, roan antelope at RumaNational Park and de Brazza monkeys at Sinyerere.


Sustainable Conservation Considerations and Measures

The large size and density of human population of western Kenya discussed above are indicators of the immense pressure that the region's natural resources are under and also a measure of the challenge for sustainable conservation and development. It is obvious, for instance, that the forest and wildlife resources in the Mount Elgon ecosystem are threatened by the insatiable dependency and demands of the communities and other stakeholders in the surrounding area to extract timber, wood, grazing, meat, herbal medicine etc without limit. It is an open secret that subsistence poaching of birds takes place in Mount Elgon and Kakamega Forest Reserves while illegal grazing is common in the Chepkitale moorland of Mount Elgon.


Characteristic Background and Trend of Global Tourism Industry

Mount Elgon is probably the most conspicuous landmark and possesses greatest natural diversity and variety of scenery and animals. However, the absence of quality accommodation and poor roads which are impassable during rainy season hinder potential visitors and development of tourism etc.

Another major problem facing sustainable conservation and development of natural resources on Mount Elgon is the high rate of dependence of different stakeholders on the forest leading to unsustainable rate of removal of available forest and animal resources in forms of wood and meat. With increasing land-use pressure and poverty in the settlements surrounding the mountain forest and the national park, human/conflict has intensified. With time the forest and national park are likely to suffer a great deal of environmental degradation.


The global tourism market is slowly changing and shifting in favour of ecotourism for which Mount Elgon and the Western Region of Kenya as a whole have great strengths and should embrace the opportunity aggressively. However, the current trends of global tourism are also demanding in quality products and in competitive marketing. This means that these attributes of the facilities and services that are offered to tourists by the park management and the business community in the vicinity will affect visitation to an area that has intrinsic potential for tourist attraction.


Attractions and Facilities in Mount Elgon National Park

The mountain, which is a natural beacon marking the border of Kenya and Uganda, is part and product of a dormant volcano rising from 2160 metres above sea level (7,200 ft) to 4155 m.a.s.l. (13,852 ft). The vegetation cover includes tropical moist forest, bamboo and moorland. Situated 30 km west of Kitale town and gazetted in 1968, Mount Elgon National Park is an area of 16,923 ha (169 sq. km). In 1978 a further 17,206 ha were added making the total area 34,129 ha. It comprises a narrow strip in the middle of the forest and the moorland and is surrounded by forest reserve. Many rivers such as Suam, Turkwell, and Nzoia originate from the mountain catchment some flowing to Lake Turkana and others to Lake Victoria. It’s managed by a staff of 75 persons including 9 officers, 45 rangers and 6 drivers. The park receives 3,000 visitors yearly. The main challenges of the park are security for wildlife and visitors, increasing human-wildlife conflict along the border with the former ADC farms around the park, now sub-divided and settled by formerly landless people and with non-residential cultivation in the forest reserves, as well as shortages of human and financial resources. Occasionally wild forest fire is a big threat.


The vegetation includes renowned tree species namely Olea capensis (Elgon teak), Olea africana, Juniperus procera (cedar), Podocarpus milanjianus (podo), Croton macrocarpus. Wild animals in the park and forest reserve include elephant, buffalo, Debrazza monkey waterbuck, leopard, spotted hyena, colobus monkey, baboon, etc.


Besides fauna and flora, other tourist attractions of Mount Elgon National Park are mountain trekking and hiking, scenery observation (to see the summit caldera, peaks, hot springs, gorges, water falls and surrounding plains from high points such as peaks and bluffs) and cave exploration at four caves namely Kiituum, Making’eny, Ngorishat and Chepnyaliil.


Camping and hiking

Mount Elgon has three major camping sites namely Kapkuro, Rongai and Salt Lick. They are situated in the forest zone. Recently Kapkuro Camping Site has been replaced by self service bandas and provision of another camp site named Rangers' Camp Site. The greatest concern for all the camping sites is the lack of water supply and decent sanitary facilities. Visitors are perturbed by the primitive structures labeled "toilet" and "bathroom" which are irritating eyesores in the camping site environment.

This activity involves exploratory walking at different sites of interest and along trails between sites. Investment levels for development of nature trails and related picnic and sanitary facilities are relatively low. Given the present low level of visitation and flow trekking is likely to be the most popular attraction.


Cultural Opportunities

Communities living around Mount Elgon National Park have the needed inputs in form of skills, indigenous materials and labour to develop cultural products for the tourist market, but their limitations and hence their requirements are technical assistance and facilitation to develop planning and organisation capacities for business development and management. The overall level of financial assistance is small and can be justified and adjusted in accordance with the level of community involvement and the kind of initiative. For instance a cultural centre and compound operated on behalf of the local community for use by various cultural groups may require as much as KSh1 million, which could be returnable through various categories of monetary earnings, while an individual cultural dancing team may require an average of KSh. 50,000 only to initially acquire essential attire, transport and promotion material such as information leaflets.


Park and Cross-Border Trekking

Mount Elgon offers scope for cross-border trekking covering the National Park of Kenya and Uganda. The inherent policy decisions, inputs and co-ordination largely depend on willingness of both the Kenya and Uganda administrations. No significant financial inputs would be involved except provision of contracted tour operator companies to undertake the necessary marketing skills, logistics and implementation. It is possible that the development of this opportunity could transform the tourism image of Mount Elgon and the Western Region of Kenya making it more attractive to visitors interested in unusual activities. It would certainly improve the competitive standing of Mount Elgon in comparison to other mountain national parks offering trekking as an attraction to visitors. Although cross-border trekking might have specific environmental impacts which can be envisaged and mitigated, the initiative has great potential for improvement of overall cross-border co-operation in conservation and law enforcement between Kenya and Uganda.


Tourist Numbers, types and revenue

From the limited information available it is only possible to say that visitors to the Elgon region include: (a) People with previous experience in Kenya safaris (b) Special interest groups (ornithologists, herpetologists, etc) (c) Backpackers (d) Business people in conferences and meetings.


The generalizations drawn from the above information are that these types of tourists are exceptions and that they are the least price sensitive. The average number of visitors to Mount Elgon National Park is 3000 per year or 250 per month (all passing through the Chorlim gate) and mostly residents. This translates to revenue of approximately KSh. 1,500,000 per year. This revenue is small in comparison to some other national parks e.g. Nakuru with an average of 170,000 visitors per year.


The National Park has a work force of 100, and the average salary is above KShs 30,000 per month, and simple business arithmetic leads to the obvious generalisation that Mount Elgon National Park is financially unsustainable. If other expenses e.g. staff allowances, operation of transport, power etc. are taken into account, then it is obvious that the park is currently sinking huge sums of tax payers' money into a bottomless pit.


Problems Hindering Development of Tourism

(a) Missing Technical Information and Guides

Essential information concerning a tourism product requires publishing in various forms and packaging in free hand-out leaflets and maps or booklets for sale. This service boosts confidence and satisfaction to visitors. Such information is missing for many years. Scanty park interpretation service, if any, is provided.


Lack of Tourism Theme and Park Management Plan

Currently Mount Elgon National Park does not have a management plan without which there cannot be clear objectives or consistency as successive park wardens exercise their individual perceptions in making management decisions.



Very little or no information about the moorlands is given to visitors


Cultural Promotion Items for Sale at Park Gate

It is normal practice for a variety of cultural promotion items to be displayed and marketed at the entrances of national parks by local community based groups, but this is not the case at Mount Elgon National Park. Cultural and historical information concerning the Moorland Sabaot people who have lived and grazed their livestock in Trans-Nzoia and Elgon moorland for centuries has potential for great demand but it is unavailable at the park.


(b) Inadequate management capacity and capability

The management of wildlife and forest resources in Kenya is characterized by existence of inadequate or contradictory policies and regulations concerning their utilization, the consequence being lack of competent legal authority.


(c) Disinformation

Visitors are constantly scared by staff talking to them about insecurity in the national park while they deny the visitors freedom to walk and explore outside the vehicle, yet it is officially recognized that Mount Elgon is a park for walking and hiking.

Owing to the myth of insecurity the KWS sub-station at Kaberwa in Mount Elgon District does not operate a gate or collect revenue from visitors. This situation is illogical as it perpetuates under-employment and loss of potential revenue. Local communities are denied opportunities of tourism related trade in cultural crafts and dances. Investment opportunities are deferred and tourism stakeholders are engrossed in uncertainty.  The local Sabaot community must resist this type of policy.


(d) Encroachment of Conservation Areas

This includes Mount Elgon, Saiwa Swamps and Cherang’any Hills forests.


e) Neglected Infrastructure and Poor Quality of Accommodation

Kitale is a dormant agricultural town that has no classified hotels.



Analysis of Views from the outlying Sabaot community

Analysis and generalization of views on key tourism related issues from the Mount  Elgon inhabitants are as follows.



  • Mount Elgon County Council has passed a resolution to start a conservancy and develop sustainable tourism in the forest and Chepkitale National Reserve at the top of Mount Elgon where Masop Sabaot will be allowed to continue traditional grazing of their livestock.
  • Mount Elgon County Council intends to construct bandas designed like Chepkumalisyek (the traditional flat-roofed Sabaot hut) for use by visitors and a cultural centre for use by community groups to entertain visitors with traditional dances. A Sabaot Museum centre will be set at the district headquarters to promote culture and documentation of the region.
  • Various NGOs active in the fields of education, food security, water, health and conflict resolution in the region, such as ACTIONAID Kenya, are willing to help community based groups to implement ecotourism projects.
  • Nearness to popular destinations in the Rift Valley and opportunity for stop-over while en route to destinations in Turkana.
  • Local tour operators have accumulated knowledge and experience for over 25 years. They have established top-end market and clientele for home stays and specialized ecotourism using available outdoor recreation facilities in spite of poor infrastructure.
  • Opportunities and choice of walking, hiking or trekking in unspoilt moorlands and forests and exploring historic caves.
  • Inexhaustible wealth and diversity of avifauna in the wetlands, upland forests and savanna woodlands of Lake Bogoria, Saiwa Swamp, Kakamega, Mount Elgon, Kitale Plateau, Cherang’any Hills, West Pokot District respectively.
  • Presence of Eldoret International Airport for direct international flights.
  • Availability of unlimited financial resource facilities of KTDC for private tourism developers of substantial means.
  • Presence of renewable infrastructure such as Mount Elgon Lodge, Soy Club, etc.
  • The presence of MEICDP and emergence of MENOWECTO which has potential for effective sub-regional and regional tourism promotion. MENOWECTO aims at diversification of tourism products to broaden the sources of incomes and at effective representation of stakeholders' voice and share in tourism, environmental and conservation issues.
  • Unexploited tourism potential of cruises in Lake Victoria.
  • Chepkitale National Reserve in Mount Elgon District has unexploited tourism potential of quality ecotourism resources awaiting development as a tourist destination.


  • Complacency of Mount Elgon National Park for lack of technical challenge and lack of management plan.
  • KWS's policy of abstention from marketing of its products because KWS sees its mandate and mission as conservation without undertaking marketing.
  • Local leaders (county councilors and municipal council) are unwilling to relinquish the Mount Elgon Lodge for sale to private investor.
  • Limitation of lack of diversity in tourism products or attractions.
  • Non-existence of forest management plans to guide development and conservation of exotic commercial forest and indigenous forests resulting in lack of guarantee for the latter.
  • Inadequate technical information, visitor services and public relations at Mount Elgon National Park.
  • Poor infrastructure and general lack of quality accommodation is the biggest constraint; Kitale town has no classified hotel.
  • Low level of local tourism, mass awareness and tourist information services
  • Kenya Airways fares for internal flights are prohibitive.
  • Stifling bureaucracy experienced by tour operators.
  • Unfair competition and rivalry from unlicensed tour operators.
  • A small population of Rothschild giraffes stranded around the Moi Barracks at Soy need rescue before they starve to death.
  • Insecurity is a modest constraint.
  • Kenya's tourism market prices are too high and too expensive.
  • Lack of a viable common vision and theme for marketing the region.
  • Condition of Mount Elgon National Park Airstrip: The condition of the Mount Elgon National Park airstrip at the Chorlim Gate requires improvement and expansion to accommodate large aircraft. This is despite the fact that the airstrip at Mount Elgon National Park is not a public but a private aerodrome used for KWS operations. Its extension had not been possible because the adjacent land is subdivided into small holdings.
  • Ineffective Management: Except for areas and facilities under KWS and a few Homestay tour operators which were managed on principles of sustainable tourism, many of the so called tourist attractions in the region are not developed or managed effectively. Hence they cannot satisfy visitors nor can they truly be called attractions.
  • Low density and intensity of production for tourism market of small and beautiful things associated with human society and culture everywhere, such as: (a) Well developed cuisine (b) Shopping facilities (c) Curio and gift articles (d) Historical and archaeological sites (e) Interesting structures and monuments (f) Entertainment, sport complexes and casinos
  • Low Quality of Services and Visitor Dissatisfaction: Attractions in the Mount Elgon region lack quality facilities and don't compete in their maintenance standards; they need to be improved. Among the attractions mentioned under this dim remark were Mount Elgon Lodge and the Saiwa Swamp National Park.
  • Few and small national parks.
  • Poverty and ignorance (low state of awareness).
  • Poor infrastructure especially accommodation, transport and communication facilities.

Specific Constraints of Mount Elgon National Park

  • Communication with Mount Elgon Lodge is difficult since it has no telephone, fax or e-mail. The lodge uses a generator for power and is unreliable. The lodge has no recreation facilities.
  • Unavailability of regular public transport for Park visitors From Kitale: It was noted that the absence of regular public transport between Kitale and the Chorlim gate of Mount Elgon National Park is one of the major constraints to visitation of Mount Elgon National Park. Many local people and back-packer tourists would like to visit the national park from Kitale except for the unavailability of reliable public transport. KWS has responsibility for creative innovation of essential services such as transportation in order to sustain the link with Mount Elgon National Park as a viable destination in the local and international tourism market.
  • Under the prevailing extreme circumstances KWS should act proactively by providing a regular bus service to take visitors from Kitale to Mount Elgon National Park and back once or twice a week. Occasionally when the rains fall, a 4x4-wheel vehicle may be required to transport visitors because the road from Kitale to Mount Elgon National Park becomes impassable by bus. Initially KWS should demonstrate and help to create public awareness of the potential for competitive tourism business in the supply and demand of public transport to Mount Elgon National Park. After the public transport service is established KWS could continue or withdraw its provision for such public transportation to and from Mount Elgon National Park according to its policy to devolve marketing functions to private sector. (a) Under-Staffing of Rangers (Problem of Human Resources). (b) Shortage of financial support from KWS headquarters. (c) Wild fires in dry season (December - March).

Under the “Kenyanization of Tourism Industry”, the Government of Kenya through KTDC, and despite odds, deliberately moved into the area and invested in the equity of the classified 3-Star Mount Elgon Lodge as a high-risk area project. The project turned out to be unviable, because of un-ending problems of unreliable water and power supplies, poor telecommunication and pilferage of equipment. Recently under the “privatisation programme” Mount Elgon Lodge was declared a “bottomless pit” and advertised for sale by the Parastatal Reform Programme Committee. Even after that KTDC did not close its doors to investment in the Mount Elgon or western region of Kenya the policy being that people with interest can come forward for loan money. This policy was corroborated by the Tourism Master Plan prepared by JICA (1995) and passed by the Cabinet in 1999, which emphasizes a regional approach and diversification of tourism products.

Recommended Improvements to the National Park

  1. Although it is not the fault of the park warden that the national Park has no management plan, and therefore lacks explicit objectives to give the management direction and challenge, there is nevertheless a conspicuous level of complacency, which is unsustainable. The roads, camping sites, signboards and sanitation - not to mention the façade of the gate area, the perimeter fence, and sanitary structures at the camping sites have been neglected for a long time.
  2. Recommendations for improvement of the park attractions and facilities include a management plan, water supply and sanitation at various camping sites and improvement of roads for all weather driving using two wheels and extension of the roadhead to reach the upper forest boundary. Rangers' and community's capacities to provide visitor services
  3. The capacity of park Rangers to provide services and especially public relations is extremely low. No retraining is recommended for Rangers because KWS intends to leave visitor services to professional naturalists and tour guides based in private sector or with communities. Recommendations are made for training of communities to provide visitor services.
  4. Various options and recommendations for increasing visitation to Mount Elgon National Park and revamping tourism in the Western Region are given. One option is to open a second gate at Kaberwa near Kapsokwony to provide entry to the park from the southern approach for visitors from Bungoma, Webuye and to rehabilitate with murram the road through the forest to the Chepkitale moorland. From there it will form a loop to join the road from Chorlim and Kitale. Then visitors to the park can enter at Kaberwa and exit at Chorlim and vice versa instead of the present situation where everyone must approach the park through Kitale town. Furthermore the proposed Kaberwa gate will introduce competitiveness among KWS gates as opposed to the present situation of complacency as Chorlim Gate is the one and only gate to the park and performance of Rangers lacks comparison.
  5. Another option to increase visitation to Mount Elgon National Park is either to rehabilitate the existing Mount Elgon Lodge or to build a new modern lodge on a part of the 170 acre land belonging to the lodge. In the latter case the existing lodge could be converted into a protected national monument (The Chorlim House Museum) representing a Kenyan colonial settler's farm-house which will form another attraction in the vicinity of the new lodge. A combination of The Chorlim House Museum, the new lodge and the Mount Elgon National Park will create a tremendous pull to both resident and foreign tourists.

Initiation of Community Ecotourism Ventures

  1. A major bottleneck of effective marketing and sustainable development of community based ecotourism ventures is the prevailing institutional gap between MEICDP and KWS. Although the operations of the MEICDP were formally embedded in the institutions responsible for park and forest management namely KWS and Forest Department, in practice the two organizations were not intimately co-operating in the community initiatives. The issue of the gap that needs closing through dialogue was discussed at length with the MEICDP team. The recommended institutional framework includes also provision for a trusteeship organ to give legal security and guidance to the groups initiated by the IUCN/MEICDP project after termination of the project.


  1. Marketing is a key component in the tourism strategy framework. Special focus is on relationships between local stakeholders at different stages of growth and development. Regional and sub-regional promotion agencies such as MENOWECTO have a significant role to play in enhancing mutually beneficial and synergic relationships among the local stakeholders as well as linkage with national stakeholders.


  • KTDC loan is available for rehabilitation and modernization of Mount Elgon Lodge with a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, indoor and outdoor games.
  • With sound management the lodge has potential to provide cultural entertainment and employment for porters and guides which could benefit local community based ecotourism groups.
  • Need for a hotel in one of the KVDA houses and sport fishing at Turkwell
  • Give local people money to maintain the roads in and around the MENP manually thereby creating employment; this should include the Mount Elgon District.
  • Extend the park to Mount Elgon District.
  • Kenya Aerodrome Authority (KAA) has produced an information brochure giving attractions in the Western Region of Kenya although it does not include Mount Elgon National Park.
  • Exploit the unique night elephant cave visiting behaviour at the Making’eny and Kiitum Cave to develop night watching from a specially designed pavilion that will make a unique attraction to pull visitors to Mount Elgon National Park. The pavilion should be leased to private developers and must have no culinary services. There are people who are interested to venture in this proposition.
  • Walking must be retained as the most important attraction in Mount Elgon National Park.
  • Keep all development on Mount Elgon small; no big structures such as lodges should be constructed in Mount Elgon National Park; keep all major developments outside the National Park.
  • Construct mountain huts where people can sleep above the upper forest line
  • Allow trout fishing in the moorland.
  • Allow the moorland Sabaot to go back to the moorland to graze their livestock and be part of the tourism activities.
  • Improve the existing Mount Elgon Lodge to become a viewing point.
  • Upgrade the Endebess-Chorlim Gate road to an all weather condition.
  • Construct an all-weather road from Chorlim Gate to upper forest edge.
  • Regional synergy for tourism promotion and marketing after creation and co-ordination of MENOWECTO, WKTA and other organizations. MENOWECTO needs an easily accessible office to provide information preferably at Kitale Museum.
  • Landowners among strong believer and practitioners of ecotourism and conservation of natural habitats to sustain homestay tourism on their farms.
  • Government's divestiture from Mount Elgon Lodge and possibility for lease to an efficient private enterprise management.
  • Co-operation and partnership between MEICDP and the Sabaot communities of Mount Elgon District who are willing to use their intimate knowledge and relationship with the natural resources of Mount Elgon to ensure sustainable conservation and development is achieved provided they are given an option to develop sustainable resource management. The other option and status quo has been the use of force to evict them from the forest as was done previously.


  • Misinformation concerning insecurity partly given by KWS staff: Insecurity: In Mount Elgon National Park preoccupation with security is the major priority in the day to day management of the park. The reason given is that cattle rustlers believed to be from Uganda have occasionally passed through the park. One report also said that only Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia and Vihiga Districts are generally safe and secure, and there is traditional friendliness towards visitors, other parts of the Elgon region do not have adequate tourist safety. The insecurity is attributed to government laxity. In Mount Elgon Districts safety for tourists is said to be inadequate.
  • Mobbing of visitors by begging children in Kitale town is a potential threat to tourists.
  • Pokot idlers way-raiding travelers at Marich Pass and blaming the Karamanjong.
  • Abuse of tourism opportunity by Kerio Valley Development Authority guides at Turkwell, often being unavailable or not serviceable. More guides should be employed
  • Competition for donor funds by NGOs
  • Kenya must stop using the Uganda border as an excuse for lack of security by deploying police and General Service Unit forces as necessary.
  • Poverty.
  • Current encroachment by the Sengwerr-Cherangany is a threat to the Kiptaber, Kapkanya and Kabolet forests on the Cherang’any Hills, which are valuable catchments for many springs and trout rivers of Munyaka and Morun.
  • Pre-occupation of leaders with grabbing and alienation of public lands.
  • Human/wildlife conflict accelerated by increasing population pressure and poverty (landlessness) in the agricultural and settlement zone and the high dependence of the local people on natural resources in Mount Elgon National Park. The Forest Department Policy of non-residential cultivation in the surrounding forest reserves has exacerbated the conflict. An indicator of the conflict is that the perimeter electric fence is vandalized regularly.
  • Local politics  of land settlement in Chepyuk
  • Animosity manifested in cattle rustling between the Bukusu and the Sabaot, and between the Iteso and the Sabaot.
  • Frequent raids across the Kenya-Uganda border by rustlers from Uganda.
  • Politically instigated banditry is prevalent.
  • The uncertainty of the future of Mount Elgon Intergraded Community Development Programme and inherent to this is the absence of an institutional framework to guarantee security and sustainability of community based ecotourism ventures at village level.
  • Disillusionment and despair of community groups not benefiting from ecotourism and waiting with expectations for a long time after they were sensitized by the Mount Elgon Intergraded Community Development Programme, and especially since they continued hearing that some other communities have succeeded.
  • Risk of stakeholder disputes and conflict: Apart from the local groups having ecotourism interest, there are other organizations such as the County Council with great interest in the same. Therefore it should not be forgotten that there are risks and bottlenecks to be anticipated and monitored just because ecotourism will involve many stakeholders of different backgrounds, perceptions, geographical origins and levels of social and institutional status. Territoriality, gender or any other forms of discrimination can lead to conflict. There will be very little or no progress in sustainable ecotourism if groups get into disputes.

Government Policies Influencing Tourism

The following policy issues emerging from the background information have significant implication on the future of tourism development in the region:

  • Negotiation of a cross-border agreement with Uganda to allow visitors to walk into the Mount Elgon Caldera.
  • A source of funding for rehabilitation of the Cherang’any Hills has been identified through the ASAL programme but advice is required on the modalities to be used.
  • Getting the Mount Elgon Lodge under private sector management.
  • Government investment in tourism development in the region in 1970s and recent declaration of divestment from hotels and lodges in Western Region of Kenya including Mount Elgon Lodge.
  • Suggestion that Government of Kenya should give investors in tourism a tax holiday.
  • Need for government to curb discrimination and greed especially among officers and councilors causing many people to be denied opportunity to develop business projects just because they don't belong to the place or tribe.
  • Development of Eldoret International Airport and stop unrealistic embargo
  • Investment and divestiture of Kenya Tourism Development Corporation in tourist lodges in the Western Region including Mount Elgon Lodge.
  • New Forest Policy and Forest Act.
  • Excisions of forest settlement in the Cherang’any Hills.
  • Uncertainty of legal status of Chepyuk Settlement and insecurity on the mountain.
  • Insecurity problems posed by youths in Chebyuk Area who have been indoctrinated by misguided elite against government resettlement and ecotourism on Chepkitale National Reserve.
  • Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act, 1999.

Appendix 2 Collection Plan for Artifacts






Approx. cost

Body covers





Head cover





Body cover























































Pattern on prod





Body ornaments










Institutions and















Outdoor furniture





Indoor furniture








































































Appendix 3 Field Documentation Sheet

The field documentation sheet is divided into five parts: A, B, C, D, and E as described below.

A.     Contains identification of the product according to its classification, ethnic name, specification of its collection, collector and reference to the Resource Reference Card (RRC)

B.     Contains its functions and uses according to age-group

C.     Contains the materials used to make the object

D.    Contains information on the maker and the market

E.     Contains information on manufacturing



Sabaot Museum Centre_______________________________________



A.     Tool ______________________ Field No. ____________________ RRC Ref. __________________

Container______________________ Date__________________ Collector____________________

Furniture ______________ Ethnic name: Sing ________________ Plural

Body cover ________________________________________________

Ornament _____________________________ District _____________

Location _____________________ Sub-location


B. Functions ____________________________ used by: man, woman, child ______________ everyone. Age group _____________________

Ceremonial use ____________________________________________


C. Materials _______________________________________________

Different shapes ____________________________________________

Different sizes _____________________________________________


D. Maker ________________________ Made for oneself ___________

Male _____________________________  Made for the market

Female ___________________________ Made for export ___________

Age group _________________________ Marketed by _____________

Home area ________________________________________________


F.      Production stages: 1. _____________________________________

2. _______________________________________________________

3. _______________________________________________________


Resource Reference Catalogue

RRC Acc No. ______________________________________________

Notes No. _________________________________________________

Photograph No. ____________________________________________

Drawing No. _______________________________________________

Model No. ________________________________________________

Map No. __________________________________________________

File No. __________________________________________________

Cassette No. _______________________________________________

Resource Persons ___________________________________________



Labeling Material Objects

Labeling gives an item a number for easy identification and storage. The accession number has:

District                        Elgon

Ethnic group               Sabaot

No. of item at collection         13th

Product classification  Tool

Year of collection                    2000


The Acc No.                MT.-E-S 13/T/2000