Kagera region is located to the extreme northwest of Lake Victoria at the border of Tanzania and Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. It is part of the Great Lakes region. One of the challenges to tourist developers in the Kagera region of Tanzania was to find new environmentally and culturally sound strategies to attract visitors to the region's neglected attractions while enriching its local communities.
Kiroyera Tours is a private sector initiative established on June 1, 2002 and focused on delivering to the world the previously unseen beauty of Kagera region in Tanzania. This includes stunning scenery, varied wildlife, and fantastically hospitable people. Kiroyera--meaning "turn the dark day bright"--brings capital into the area through job creation, thus alleviating local poverty. By working in close partnership with local community groups, it provides a number of interesting activities for tourists and has contributed to the diversification of Tanzania's traditional wildlife-based tourism by operating both cultural and wildlife tours.
Of particular interest are the Kiroyera Eco-tours, which introduce visitors to local cultures and small-scale artisans in the Kagera region. Kiroyera Tours supports women and youth groups in the creation and marketing of curios and handicrafts produced from local materials; it is one of the first local tourism companies in Tanzania to provide such opportunities to local artisans. One example of such an initiative is BUDAP (the Bukoba Disabled Assistance Project), which employs disabled men and women from Bukoba, Tanzania, to produce traditional drums (ngoma) for retail. BUDAP operates an open workshop where tourists may see how the traditional drum is made and played; the drums are also sold online and in shops in Bukoba, Mwanza, and Arusha, Tanzania.
Kiyoyera Tours has invested heavily to create the infrastructure required to promote both domestic and international tourism, including running and co-coordinating a tourism working group. The group is a member of the Kagera Museum Trust and a major proponent in the foundation of the first Museum in the Kagera region. It spearheaded the initation of the "Lake Victoria Botanical Garden of Traditional Medicinal Plants," located near Bukoba. Kiroyera Tours also supports orphan schools in Bukoba, both financially and by connecting these organizations to international volunteers.
Through promotion of community-based tourist activities, Kiroyera Tours seeks to preserve Tanzania's environment in the face of degradation and economic damage that tourism often causes. These experiments in eco-tourism also provide opportunities for local people to generate income. Community-based tourism can have a positive impact on the environment through the improvement of local economies, raising the value of marginal places. As a private endeavor, Kiroyera Tours also seeks to provide quality services to tourists so that these goals can be achieved.
In recognition of Kiroyera Tours and its innovative community-based tourism activities, the company won an International Tourism trophy in Madrid, Spain, in 2004. Mary Kalikawe, the company's managing director, was nominated as one of the Top 10 African Business Women in the Pan African Women Invent and Innovate (PAWII) awards ceremony, held in Ghana on September 9, 2005. The Minister of Natural Resources has also appointed Ms. Kalikawe to be a member of the board of directors of the Tanzania Tourist Board.