By Shadrack Mkandala
I was reading some texts on history a few days back and one of the new things I learned were that some trading centers along the slave trade and explorer caravan routes were established and grew to become very prosperous up to the present times because they were supplying abundant food to these travelers.
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Places like Arusha, Tabora, Mpwawa, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar, and Masasi among others were some of the food supply centers, and also stopovers, for the travelers to “refuel.” It was food that attracted the travelers, but why are we not now using these same gastronomic attractions to establish and strengthen a tourist segment that I know could prove to be beneficial to both local farmers and traders on the one side and, on the other side, to be quite an experience for domestic and international travelers.
We are well aware that cultural tourism, in which gastronomic interests fall, properly developed and promoted can be complementary to tourism thus increasing the tourism sector contribution to the country’s GDP that stood at Tshs.4.4 trillion ($1.9 billion) in 2017 accounting for 3.8 per cent of the GDP.
Since cultural tourism is about local communities and by local communities, the benefits, if the segment is properly managed, are just immense. And I count on food tourism as one of the beneficial aspects that we have not grown to think of exploiting as people in Thailand, for instance, are doing. During 2012-2013, the Thai introduced a campaign dubbed ‘Amazing Thai Food’ which was a combination of online and offline campaigns to specifically promote Thai food and increase understanding of Thai food to foreign tourists.
By us doing this, we would not only be showing our indigenous cuisine but also providing farmers with assured markets for their edible produces; fruits, vegetables, meat.
The weekly Masaai roast goat meat festivals always fascinate people when in Morogoro, Dodoma, or Arusha. And you find all categories of people there, rank and file. It is about enjoying local cuisine, knowing the generous variety of dishes, and it is also about the joyful atmosphere.
Tourists come to Tanzania not only to have a change of scene, but also a change of taste of food among other cultural attractions, and why are we not providing them with it. It will be exhilarating to them, as they try out mtori by the Chagga, ugali and kichuri by the Kurya, matoke by the Haya, coconut rice by the Swahili, mchunga and a host of other foods on the indigenous menu.
They will have a true cultural experience, if not exchange, as it is imprudent to treat them with same hotdogs, coffee, burgers, sandwich, marmalade and such junk stuff they are used to back home. But why is that not happening!
First our tourist managers, unskillful as they always seem to be, are of the views that the only tourism business sector worth their attention and promotion is the wildlife visits, then a bit of eco-tourism, beach tourism, purchase a few of Makonde carvings, art pieces and the time is up for the travelers to go home.
Second, local district authorities are very lazy to organize indigenous food bazaars for local and international food revelers. We have in every district council authority (or at the regional secretariat) cultural or tourism officers if you want to know. What is their function after all? They usually leave it to the local people themselves to do it, without any professional guidance from them, and without any properly managed places in terms of hygienic standards and creative presentation of the foods.
Why are we not taking advantage of the already established initiatives? I think of Nyama Choma (roast meat) festivals at kwa Mrombo in Arusha and at times held in Dar es Salaam, or the weekly market days with foods as one of the attractions at Karatu along the road to Ngorongoro and Serengeti, of the weekend sessions at Mnadani Dodoma or Dakawa in Morogoro, or of Longido Mnadani meat festival along the busy road to Namanga and on to Nairobi. Of potential but neglected fish dishes festival in Mwanza, Bukoba, Kigoma, Sumbawanga, Tanga, Dar es Salaam, Bagamoyo or Kilwa that pull locals from near and far to show case the different delicacies they can prepare using fish as a major component.
Certainly, I may conclude that both creativity and innovation are what is lacking among our professional tourist managers. Local communities have so many cultural attractions, and they are trying their best to transform this heritage into a tourist attraction. The only thing they are missing is serious professional support and guidance from the trained managers. This negligence by the learned tour managers makes it impossible for the local and indigenous community to benefit from the industry.
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