Have you ever gone on an adventure or an organized tour to a foreign country (in Africa especially), and have someone say to you: “Take some sweets with you to hand out to the kids?” Every time we take friends and clients on one of our tours, especially our Lesotho Adventure Tour, someone will always comment on our social media posts saying: “Take some sweets for the kids”, and it just makes me cringe! If you’ve ever traveled through some lesser developed African countries like Lesotho, Ethiopia or the likes, on your own or with friends or a group - you’ll know that there is this phenomenon that exists where locals (children especially) have taken to throwing stones at foreigners passing by. There are those who will write negative remarks and undesirable reviews about these (considered to be) exotic destinations and how it’s not safe to visit these areas as you’ll get stoned.
Ever stop and take a step back to ponder just why these people react the way they do? Any self-respecting Matrix fan will know the word ‘causality’. The relationship between cause and effect. So what is the cause for this undesired effect? Two words - ‘Responsible Tourism’!
So many of us rarely consider the effect that our actions might have further down the line. Throw some sweets to kids as you blast through their village on your motorcycle or in your 4x4 and give yourself a pat on the back for having done such a good deed. On the contrary friend. Consider the following: You give some candy to a small child standing on the side of the road somewhere in a remote village in the middle of nowhere in Lesotho. You leave feeling like you’ve done some good and give no further thought to your actions. Said child’s older brother, who is a sheep herder, saw you giving sweets to his younger sibling and comes down to take it from him. Sometimes using force. But you never get to see this and so no worries. Dental and medical care is also basic, if not non-existent in some of these remote villages. We all know what candy does to your teeth, don’t we? Also - what have you just taught this child?
We all know the adage that goes: Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime. We don’t do these kids any favors by giving them ‘fish’. By giving these children sweets, we teach them to expect handouts. So the next time a tourist or visitor passing by doesn’t give them sweets for free…they throw rocks. Because now an expectation has been created?
So instead of handing out sweets the next time you’re on your own adventure or an organized adventure tour, it could be helpful to do some research into what would be most useful to the people in the area you intend to visit? Maybe invest some time in helping to teach the children how to farm their own vegetables. Help build a school? Or gather some clothing if that’s what a community needs. Then, allow the elders to teach their young. They don’t need foreigners to help them, they need their own to show them the way. Help the elders to add more value to their own community and their young ones. There are countless worthy causes out there to consider giving your support to. Or start your own cause. But for the love of responsible tourism, please think before you act when you are on your next African adventure. Be a considerable tourist.
At Jo Rust Adventures we support responsible tourism and practice it on all our adventures tours, if you have any questions please feel free to contact us!