Clutter Wastes Away at the Tourism Sector's Potential

May 23 , 2021
By Eden Sahle

I have had the good luck of travelling to several parts of the country, visiting parks, mountains, and lake destinations. Everywhere one goes, what stands out like a sore thumb is the mismanagement of waste in these areas. Although the spectacular sites are refreshing, it is astonishing to see to what extent they are neglected and are decorated with trash.

Over the past year, COVID-19 has significantly harmed the tourism industry in Ethiopia. Political instability has worsened matters. But what fails to get recognition, sometimes even in passing, is the unsustainable implementation of community-based eco-tourism and wildlife conservation.

Nature-based tourism is one of the fastest-growing tourism sectors in the globe. Even in Ethiopia, this is witnessed in the growth of hiking among the middle-class, a phenomenon that has rarely before existed. But the sustainability of this sector is highly dependent upon the conservation of natural landscapes and wildlife. Unfortunately, the protection of natural resources and the basic act of keeping them clean has not gotten the attention it deserves.

Ethiopia has catching up to do with countries such as Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mauritania, Morocco and even Eritrea, which have taken drastic measures to regulate disposable plastic materials to protect their environment, their people and animals.

Fortunately, some people are attempting to make up for the shortcoming. Investors such as Nick Crane, owner of Simien Lodge, and a few other tour operators go out of their way to keep destinations clean. They are getting their hands dirty, collecting trash, and inspiring communities to join them by conserving their environment from waste such as single-use plastics.

These individuals not only encourage tourism into Ethiopia but also keep destinations clean to guarantee social and economic benefits. Nick, for instance, raises funds to keep destinations uncluttered. After a cleaning campaign of the Semien Mountains over the past four years, with the help of communities and the youth, he offers tourists free reusable aluminium water bottles instead of the highly common plastic holders. Him and his friends recently expanded their cleaning initiatives to the Danakil Depression, although they do not have an investment in that destination.

If investors care this much, these natural destinations deserve much more care from the authorities, who need to play vital roles to effectively preserve natural resources by applying waste management systems. Engaging local communities to protect the natural resources in a way that makes them beneficiaries is a good place to start. Even the simple act of placing more garbage cans at destinations can address some of the waste mismanagement challenges.

To give credit where it is due, waste management in cities have improved. Cities such as Bahir Dar and Hawassa are impressively clean and calming to visit. Addis Abeba, where population density, increasing consumption of goods (there will be no plastic consumption if the population is too poor to afford any) and construction are common, the same success has been hard to achieve. Still, several of the major roads in the capital are usually kept relatively clean thanks to municipal solid waste management efforts.

But these are just urban areas, and very few of them at that. The major battles are to be fought in areas where the forest and wildlife coverage is the lifeline to environmental sustainability. An added advantage will be helping the country to benefit from the flailing tourism industry.

For far too long, plastic waste thrown away after a single use has disgraced glamorous and UNESCO registered sites. Coordinated actions and bold moves will align the efforts of investors with that of the country in keeping our tourist destinations clean and presentable.

PUBLISHED ON May 23,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1099]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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