Voices: How tourism is improving livelihoods in Tanzania

"We are helping improve the livelihoods of Tanzanians through creating better market access to the tourism industry, whether they earn their living by growing tomatoes, supporting tomato farmers, or working in a ketchup factory." - Peter Donelan, Cluster Coordinator, Tanzania

​Tanzania has a successful tourism industry, with attractions such as the Serengeti, Mount Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar, but often the benefits do not trickle down to local suppliers. For example, despite there being high-quality locally produced ketchup, you often only see the international brands in hotels. ​​​​​​Fresh fruit and vegetables, processed goods such as pickles and chili sauces, and high premium goods such as organic honeys, and chocolate are often imported.

Only 60 percent of produce sold to the tourism industry is sourced locally, in comparison to nearby Kenya and South Africa where that percentage is above 90. Tourism makes up a large proportion of Tanzania's Gross Domestic Product – 17.5 percent – meaning there is huge potential for the sector to improve the lives of more Tanzanians. But how can we do this? That's what we are trying to address with the project I am coordinating.

The moment I saw the role advertised I knew it was for me, but I had to apply for the job three times before I got an interview. When they told me it was mine, I was over the moon. I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into it. I am responsible for managing and coordinating all stages of this Swiss government-funded trade development project. The initiative is being implemented by the Government of Tanzania and the UN Inter-Agency Cluster on Trade and Productive Capacity, which is comprised of four participating UN organizations.

Specifically, the Tanzania project aims to do three things: make it easier for Tanzanian farmers or food processors to sell safe high-quality goods to the tourism industry; improve opportunities for locals to work in hospitality and hotels, which commonly recruit their workforce from abroad; and deepen understanding of business climate and responsible tourism issues at the public-private level. By engaging local communities, we can help them sustainably access this mature market that is right on their doorstep.

National ownership is extremely important for the sustainability of any development initiative, and is a key objective of this project. Being embedded in the Ministry of Industry and Trade means our project management unit can very quickly respond to the needs of national partners and each UN agency is paired with financially sustainable local partner organizations that are able to absorb and continue the work beyond the lifespan of the project.

Having led the design of this project in Tanzania, I feel like I know it inside-out, making it all the more thrilling to see it being implemented until the end of 2016. In my previous work as a consultant trade expert, I would go in and design a project, before packing my bags and heading off. Or I would be called in to manage a project that was already up and running.

Before joining UNOPS in this position, I was designing similar projects as a World Trade Organization trade consultant in Rwanda, Liberia, Gambia and Tanzania. I also worked for the United Nations Development Programme in Sierra Leone for four years, working with the Government to integrate trade into their national development agenda.

Development work is challenging. For it to work, I believe we must focus on the long-term sustainability of any 'market system changes' we hope to leave behind from our project work. With this trade development project, the best thing we can leave behind is better livelihood opportunities for everyday Tanzanians.

UNOPS is the fund manager of the Swiss-financed SECO Trust Fund, which is the Swiss government's contribution to the wider 'Aid for Trade' agenda that includes a larger multi-donor Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) Trust Fund, also managed by UNOPS. Together, these two funds support lesser developed countries to be more actively engaged in international trade.