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May 2007 Travel Zambia 55 Feature Strap

56 Travel Zambia May 2009 Inside view Whose village? How will the credit crunch affect Zambia's tourism? As the driving force behind Robin Pope Safaris, and tireless champion of Zambia's cause, Jo Pope is better placed than most to answer this question. From her home on the banks of the Luangwa, Jo describes for Travel Zambia how global recession becomes local reality - and explains why this is an issue that concerns us all. Global Village. I wonder who fi rst used this phrase. Hard to remember now, but it was not that long ago in the grand scheme of things and I doubt that, at the time, we really understood how truly ' global' this village was. Now, for the fi rst time, we are beginning to grasp what it means for every human being on the planet. When the fi ve o'clock BBC World News fi rst started describing the ' fi nancial crisis' I would wonder, in my usually sleepy state, just how this might affect Zambia. Could a bank messing up in Wall Street really have any impact on Mr Banda in Mfuwe? That was a year ago. And now the answer is crystal clear: Mr Banda is very much part of the fi nancial global village - whether he wants to be or not. For over 20 years I have been involved in Zambia's tourism, building up a safari company, promoting Zambia as a destination and, for my sins, becoming addicted to the fl edgling airline industry. All these things go hand in hand. And over this time it has been very rewarding to have witnessed - and become involved in - the positive knock-on effect that this industry has on the local community. We safari operators promote wild and remote areas. By default, therefore, we work among remote rural communities, who generally have few opportunities in life and must survive on subsistence farming. Tourism brings jobs, cottage industries, small- scale commercial farming and more to these communities. In Mfuwe, the community that borders South Luangwa National Park, this ' responsible tourism' is highly developed: most safari companies support local education and health, and local people benefi t in many ways - some obvious, others more subtle. So does the wildlife, as donations to conservation work also rise. The last ten years have seen Zambia's tourism grow steadily and the benefi ts to the rural areas increase accordingly. Take Mr Banda. He works as a guide at a community tourist village, his father is a waiter at a bush camp, his cousin makes mats for the lodges, his sister grows tomatoes and sells them to the lodges, his children are getting a better education at a sponsored school and his wife is employed at a local textile factory - for which the market comprises tourists visiting the lodge shops. Meanwhile a doctor, recruited and sponsored by the lodges, recently attended to Mr Banda's mother at a nearby clinic. As the local economy spins faster so those with money want to spend, and more dukas ( small shops), hairdressers, tyre- menders and other small- scale entrepreneurs mushroom around the community. I fi rst knew local business must be booming when the Chipata ' ladies of the night' began travelling the 120km to Mfuwe for the weekends to ply their trade here. But whilst the Zambians living next to South Luangwa National Park were fi nally hauling themselves out of extreme poverty and realising opportunities for a better life, the fi nancial whiz kids of the West were playing Russian roulette with the world economy. And fi nally they fi red the chamber with the bullet. Mr Banda has been taken by surprise. He is aware of the ' global crisis'. He may not have access to the Internet but, like everyone here, he listens to the radio and it is a topic that dominates the airwaves daily. Quite what it all means is not clear, of course. It's hard enough for those living in London or New York to grasp the intricacies of ' toxic assets' and ' short- selling'. But he has no doubt that it is serious. Zambia played no part in all this high- level fi nancial risk taking, so it does not seem fair to Mr Banda that he and his family are already affected. Tourist numbers are falling - not crashing, but falling - and it will not take much to reverse the economic growth of the last decade. Mr Banda looks around and sees lodges cutting back on their workforce and their spending in the local community. He notices that the tourists who do come are donating less to education and conservation projects. Mr Banda is worried. " When will it end?" he asks me. A very good question Mr Banda. I have no idea. We now all live in a global village. Could a bank messing up in Wall Street really have any impact on Mr Banda in Mfuwe? ROBIN POPE SAFARIS Mr Banda is worried. ROBIN POPE SAFARIS