Ensuring porter welfare on the Kilimanjaro
My name is Karen Valenti and I am the Program Manager at the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) since 2004. KPAP’s focus is porter welfare and we interact directly with porters. We obtain information via surveys regarding their working conditions. The results of these reports showed that the actual treatment during climbs were different than intended. Therefore, we started the Partner for Responsible Travel Program to ensure good implementation of proper treatment standards.
Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project
KPAP is a not-for-profit organisation. Its mission is to improve the working conditions of the porters on Kilimanjaro by promoting socially-responsible Kilimanjaro climbs.
KPAP raises public awareness about the proper treatment of porters on Kilimanjaro. They assist climbing companies with implementing procedures that ensure fair and ethical treatment of their porters. They lend climbing gear free of charge. Additionally, they offer educational classes to empower and motivate porters and mountain crew.
In this article
Partner for Responsible Travel Program
The Partner for Responsible Travel Program is a special tool. It uses KPAP as an independent organisation to determine if the proper treatment standards are being executed during a Kilimanjaro climb. We use objective quantitative measurements as a unique way to examine and ensure that an approved KPAP Partner company is meeting the treatment guidelines.
Working in collaboration with, and at no cost to the company, KPAP provides counsel regarding the implementation of procedures that safeguard the proper care of the mountain crews. Our aim is to assist the company in fulfilling their commitment to socially responsible standards and sustainable tourism.
“A reduced climb price for customers often comes at the expense of the mountain crew.”
Climb prices affect the treatment of mountain crew
A remarkable number of tour companies serve Kilimanjaro and climb prices vary considerably. Unfortunately, official salaries are not strictly enforced. And this often results in mountain crews receiving lower pay. When booking a climb, many customers may not be familiar with the important logistics and costs involved in operating a safe trek. And that a reduced climb price often comes at the expense of the mountain crew. Such as lower than minimum wage salaries and insufficient food provision and mountain gear.
There are many more people competing for work positions as porters than there are positions to be filled. Therefore, porters may agree to work not even knowing what the wage amount is. Simply because they view earning some money as better than earning no money at all.
When booking with an approved KPAP Partner company, you will know that the porters are well taken care of when climbing Kilimanjaro. It helps clients and agents make responsible decisions when choosing a tour company.
Assurance of proper treatment standards
The treatment standards were established by a variety of different Kilimanjaro stakeholders. And apart from bag weights which are regulated by the Kilimanjaro National Park, they are not strictly enforced on a regular basis. To qualify as an approved Partner, a company must attain a minimum of an 85% performance level. This is measured during the scoring of the two climbing seasons of the year by the following standards:
- Minimum wages in the agreed upon Tanzanian currency equivalency.
- Transparency of tipping to ensure the intended full amount is received.
- Bag weights of 20kg for the company bag. The porter carries his/her own kit in addition to this.
- Three meals per day of appropriate portion size.
- Proper tent accommodation with ground sheet and adequate sleeping space.
KPAP Partner agreement
In addition, the KPAP Partner companies agree to:
- Check the crew’s gear prior to the start of the climb.
- Register the crew with the company and assign work on a fair basis.
- Provide medical coverage for any mountain-related injuries or illnesses.
- Hold an annual meeting with management, porters and KPAP to hear directly from the porters and discuss any issues.
Impact of the Partner for Responsible Travel Program
Over 7000 porters per year, out of the approximate 20.000 registered porters, have been ensured fair and ethical treatment. Simply by working with an approved Partner for Responsible Travel company. It is mandatory for the Partner companies to pay the agreed upon minimum wage. Porters working with the Partner companies are assured of this amount lessening their dependency on the tip.
It is a Partner requirement to have transparency in tipping. And KPAP reviews the tipping procedure on every climb so that the porters receive the full amount of tip intended for them. When the Partner companies pay minimum wage, and have a transparent tipping method, their porters receive fair payment.
Partner companies weigh the bags prior to going to the gate. This ensures the appropriate number of porters for a climb. And that they are not exceeding the 20kg weight regulation. Many operators provide their porters only 1 or 2 meals per day on a climb. Partner companies commit to their crews receiving 3 meals per day. Porters may have poor and overcrowded sleeping accommodations. In 2020, Partner company porters slept in good quality tents. With adequate sleeping space and an appropriate ground sheet 98.2% of the time.
“KPAP provides a valuable tool to ensure that porters are treated properly”
KPAP Partner testimonials
Below companies highlight how they have benefited from KPAP. They also share its added value for their business and the sustainable climbing industry on the Kilimanjaro.
Eco-Africa Climbing is a Sustainable Travel Company in Tanzania whose focus is organising responsible and ethical tours. We voluntarily allow KPAP to evaluate the treatment of our porters on all of our Kilimanjaro climbs to ensure that we are complying with the fair treatment practices. KPAP helps us improve the proper guidelines for porter treatment so that we deliver a top standard service. Making us among the best Kilimanjaro outfitters in the industry. We strongly recommend our fellow Kilimanjaro Operators to collaborate with KPAP to practice responsible and ethical climbs. And to assure the climbers that the porters are well taken care of during a Kilimanjaro climb.
Fair Travel™ Tanzania has been committed to responsible tourism since its start in 2010. Partnering with KPAP has been invaluable for our operations on Mount Kilimanjaro over the many years of collaboration. Thanks to their non-profit model and independent monitoring and reporting tools, KPAP helps Fair Travel™, and other partner companies, to constantly improve after each expedition. Tanzania should be proud and very thankful for KPAPs presence and the positive impact for the most vulnerable on the mountain, the porters. It is our wish that the KPAP partnership become mandatory for all trekking companies on Mount Kilimanjaro to ensure that fair practices are in place so that human and worker rights are respected.
Local Moshi chose to become a KPAP partner company as we were looking for guidance and support in improving and maintaining the working conditions for our climbing crews. After becoming a KPAP partner we discovered there were many more benefits to being a partner. From educating our porters in First Aid, Leave No Trace and English classes, to keeping our company abreast of the latest government and travel industry regulations, KPAP has enabled us to better serve our customers. When the pandemic arrived and tourists stopped coming, KPAP connected us with marketing experts for advice during and after the pandemic, while our porters received classes on budgeting money as well as farming, empowering them to grow their own crops. We are grateful for everything KPAP has done to support us and our mountain crews during this crisis.
The story of Nature Discovery
Read more about the road towards ethical and sustainable practices on Mount Kilimanjaro by KPAP partner Nature Discovery in their beginning years in 2011 with the Partner Program in this extensive article.
Using the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to implement responsible trekking
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime experience for many. To get to the “Roof of Africa” you hike for days. You overnight alongside a dedicated mountain crew. Who transport your luggage, set up your camps, make your meals. They do everything they can to help you have a successful climb. It’s no wonder that special bonds often form among porters and climbers. Climbing the Kilimanjaro leaves a lasting impression.
The current pandemic and economic crisis may lead to a setback in the proper care of mountain porters. And not only on the Kilimanjaro, but on any mountain worldwide. Climbers need to be aware that lower climb prices can affect the well-being of the crew. We hope you will join KPAP and spread the message. We need to work hard to bring back the wonders of adventure travel in a post-COVID world. A world that is more sustainable, responsible, and fair for all.