This fall SENE participated in a week-long Leave No Trace event on Mount Kilimanjaro. The main concept of Leave No Trace is to “enter the wild, enjoy the wild, then leave it as you found it…without trash, cigarette butts or a smoldering fire” (Julia Hubbel). 15 companies with 400+ mountain crew members participated in this event between August 31st through September 6th. The companies’ teams trekked for 3 to 7 days, covering all of the routes on Kilimanjaro.
The main goals of the LNT event were to:
- Train porters and guides in Leave No Trace (LNT) environmental care principles, achieved through LNT pre-climb briefings and post-climb debriefings performed by Sentinel Outdoor Institute.
- Practice Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and demonstrate mountain crew readiness for incoming trekkers.
- Provide an employment opportunity for mountain crew.
- Highlight Kilimanjaro during the COVID-19 economic recovery.
- Conduct a thorough sweep of Kilimanjaro during this period of tourism downturn.
In a normal, non-COVID year, this would be the time when international hopefuls would flock to Moshi in an attempt to summit Kilimanjaro. 50,000 climbers come each year during Kilimanjaro’s two climbing seasons (December-March and June-October). Instead, a group of Tanzanian visionaries had the idea to use this opportune and unusual high season to do a clean sweep of all the trails and encourage LNT education among Tanzania’s porters while providing them with a source of income.
The economic turmoil due to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a severe loss of income for close to 20,000 porters, who are “often subsistence farmers [and] use the income they earn taking climbers up the mountain to support their immediate and extended families” (Julia Hubbel). Once the event was announced, funding for the LNT education and trek supplies came pouring in from the Exodus Travels Foundation, the Sentinel Outdoor Institute and Peak Planet. Additionally, the participating companies set up funding campaigns that would provide for the porters’ wages, transportation and food supplies. This event also presented an opportunity for the climbing community of Tanzania to come together and care for their beloved Kilimanjaro.
As Simon reflects on SENE’s experience during this event he notes that,
Alone we can do something small but together we can make big changes. COVID-19 has allowed us the time and togetherness to accomplish this amazing collaborative effort of LNT and sharing the knowledge of LNT. A joint effort of many companies aiming for sustainability and a spirit for our mountain. I had the privilege to be on the mountain during this time and the positive energy of each and every crew member was inspiring — all proud that Kilimanjaro is our home!
During the event selected porters also attended special workshops on LNT so that each team would have an expert porter that could demonstrate and assist in teaching other porters about LNT practices during the hike. All porters and guides who participated are now closer to becoming a LNT expert and instructor.
This first-ever Kilimanjaro LNT effort is a stepping stone in fundamentally changing porter, climbing companies and tourists’ behaviors for the better. Through this community effort among climbing companies, Mount Kilimanjaro is more magnificent and pristine than ever before. As the world begins to reopen for tourism, the stunning views and gorgeous peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro stand ready to welcome visitors once again.