The COAST Project has been executing its activities aimed at demonstrating and supporting the adoption of Best Available Practices and Best Available Technologies (BAPs/BATs) approaches for sustainable coastal tourism that reduces the degradation of marine and coastal environments of trans-boundary significance.

COAST Project supported bins

  1. Overview of Tourism in The Gambia

Tourism is important in The Gambia as a leading foreign exchange earner and one of the pillars for the eradication of poverty. In this regard, the government's stated policy is to promote tourism and its contribution to economic growth by marketing the country as the ‘Smiling Coast of Africa’, a popular and affordable winter destination attracting tourists in search of sun, sand, sea and rich cultural experiences. The main objective is to increase the contribution of tourism to the economy and to raise the general living standards of all Gambians. To this end, the government is continuing its efforts to broaden the tourism market, improve quality standards, and ensure rational use of the country’s Tourism Development Area by supporting ideals of responsible and sustainable tourism. The Gambia is one of the nine participating countries and is executing its activities at the Kartong Demo Site, through a collaborative venture with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Gambia Tourism Board (GT Board) and the Gambia’s National Environment Agency (NEA).


  1. 2. Background Information on the Kartong Demo Site

Kartong is one of the oldest settlements in The Gambia situated about 43km from Banjul (the capital city) and only 10 minutes across a river from the Senegalese Region of Cassamance. The area is growing rapidly and currently has an estimated population of 5,000 people of multi ethnic settlement and different religious practice. Community members engage primarily in farming, fishing, trading and most importantly in tourism related activities. The shape of Kartong village (also known locally as Kartung) is narrow and surrounded on three sides by Cassamance (Senegal) by a famous natural feature known as Hallahin Bolong (river). To cross to the other bank of the Hallahin Bolong (river), there is a crossing taking not more than five minutes of canoe paddling. The Demo Site area is famed for providing eco-lodges; traditional dances; authentic cultural experiences; river excursions; bird watching; a rich variety of local cuisine; picnic areas; and expansive and clean beaches. To interact with the locals, a trip to the sacred crocodile pool popularly known as ‘Folonko’ and the ‘Balanta’ Palm wine tapping center would afford visitors a real treat.



Figure 1: The Hallahin Bolong River, acting as the border between Senegal and The Gambia. It is thriving with fishing, oyster harvesting, tourism and cultural activities (Photo: COAST Project)


Figure 2: Map showing the Kartong Demo Site’s key touristic sites


  1. 3. Showcasing the COAST Project Work in The Gambia


The COAST Project has been executing its activities aimed at demonstrating and supporting the adoption of Best Available Practices and Best Available Technologies (BAPs/BATs) approaches for sustainable coastal tourism that reduces the degradation of marine and coastal environments of trans-boundary significance. Previously, the project had activities in three sites in The Gambia (Tumani Tenda, Denton Bridge and Kartong) but a Mid Term Review conducted in 2012 recommended a strategic emphasis on Kartong site, with the other two sites benefiting through knowledge sharing and mainstreaming of sustainable coastal tourism BAPs/BATs and lessons. Kartong is also emerging as a national icon for responsible and sustainable tourism, and is expected to lead the way in generating valuable lessons and results that will spur a national re-awakening to place sustainability criteria at the peak of the tourism development plans in The Gambia.

  1. Working with Local Communities to Deliver Sustainable Tourism Practices in Kartong

Through collaboration with UNWTO, GT Board and the NEA, the project is currently implementing a number of activities under the eco-tourism thematic area. The eco-tourism thematic area seeks to provide local communities ample opportunities to engage in, and benefit from the tourism industry. It seeks to also ensure that the nexus between environment and community eventually translates to sustainable tourism practices that are beneficial to the Kartong area.

Some of the activities being undertaken by the COAST Project to enhance this are summarized below:

  1. a. Community Awareness on Protection and Management of Marine and Coastal environment

This has been achieved through a series of workshops, trainings and public forums that have been done to ensure the local communities and the tourists in the area contribute effectively to environmental conservation in order to protect the marine and coastal environment. For instance, the project has held trainings of over 20 community members on environmental issues to protect the marine and coastal ecosystems, and a training for 25 staff from tourism and hospitality institutions on how to become biodiversity champions; and the project will organize a ‘train the trainers’ seminar for 6 members of the Kartong Association of Responsible Tourism (KART) and the Village Development Committee  to build capacity within the community so that they can conduct their own training programs on environment. The project also supports a number of beach clean ups and community sensitization workshops at Kartong. During the annual Kartong Cultural Festival, a one day triathlon event is set to be organized in Kartong that will include activities such as athletics, bike riding and regatta style rowing on the Hallahin River. The overriding message during this event will be the need to protect the rich marine and coastal environment in the area.

To support all these activities, the COAST Project is supporting the local Kartong Responsible Tourism Association (KART Assoc.) by equipping and furnishing their local offices with solar energy, a computer, printer and basic office functionalities. The lack of electricity in the area is a key impediment to the running of such a centre, and with the expected purchase and installation of solar panels at the office this year, the KART Association will be empowered to effectively deliver on the eco-tourism plans for the Kartong area. A follow up training program to equip the key staff with business and administration skills required to run the KART office and staff at the community owned Tesito Camp has also been planned within this year. This training will cover administration including record keeping, customer service, IT, food hygiene and business management.

  1. b. Managing Solid Wastes through Recycling and Manure for Income Generation

The COAST Project is working with the local partners in Kartong to support efforts of sustainable management of the solid wastes in the area. In this regard, the project purchased 20 waste bins for project tourist attractions with 10 bins being branded green for degradable waste materials and another ten in red color for non-degradable waste. A series of community awareness sessions will be conducted to teach the local people on how to use these bins to ensure successful application. These bins have since been distributed to the area, and are located at key tourist attraction sites to help manage the pervasive problem of waste management in the area. It is deplorable for tourists to visit a site and find a mountain of plastic, which are also known to cause fatal injuries and even deaths to marine life. Through this initiative, the COAST Project hopes to encourage the local partners in Kartong to adopt these bins and to conduct periodic clean ups activities to help rid the area of the wastes. In addition to the bins, the project plans to conduct training for 25 locals on waste recycling into organic fertilizer and crafts (bracelets, footwear, bangles etc), which can be sold to tourists visiting the area.

Figure 3: The NEA and GT Board officials including the COAST Project DPC handing over the waste bins to the local community in Kartong

  1. c. Supporting Eco-tourism for Employment Creation and Empowerment of Local Communities in Kartong

The issue of economic empowerment of the local communities is at the heart of the eco-tourism project being executed by the COAST Project in Kartong. Indeed, if the local communities get to benefit from the resources emanating from the tourism industry, they enhance local community ownership and improve the standards of living. In return, this may lead to immense environment benefits, since the local people now view their local surroundings as a valuable resource that is having direct impacts on their livelihoods. This is the importance of eco-tourism, as a key platform for supporting sustainable and responsible tourism practices. The COAST Project has identified a number of valuable opportunities and projects that will directly inject some resources into the local households.

They include:

  • Development of the Tesito Camp, a local community owned facility, into a camping site with solar energy and facilities like toilets, showers and proper waste disposal arrangement. Additional eco-tourism activities will involve the introduction of Gambian cookery classes with the village women leading these sessions for visitors;
  • The organization of a familiarization trip for local and international tour operators to Kartong in order to expand the market to more operators for the South Gambia cross-village excursion that is a combination of bush and river adventure covering the villages of Sifoe and Berending before ending in Kartong;
  • Enhancement of the local handicraft sector by introducing new craft products such as pottery as well as building workshops and points of sale for Kartong artists;
  • Rehabilitation and fencing of the Folonko crocodile pool to keep intruding animals away and introduce an entrance fee to the sacred site to raise some revenue to support the local community and their conservation efforts;
  • Purchase of 10 bicycles to introduce more environmentally friendly activities such as village cycling with the view to hire bikes out to visitors at the following locations: Sandele, Hallahin Camp and the KART Tourists Information Office. A training on tour guiding for 10 youths from Kartong will be undertaken for the youths who will be conducting the  bicycle tour as well as the village walking tour;


Figure 4: The COAST Project Environment Focal Point Mr. Momodou Suwareh handing over the 10 bicycles to the KART Association (Photo: COAST Project)

  1. Sustainable Coastal Tourism: Some Best Practices Emerging at the Kartong Demo Site

ü  Sandele Eco-Lodge – This is a wonderful eco-lodge that has successfully integrated the environmental conservation and community involvement within Kartong. It is one of the best resorts for holidays and conferences in Kartong and employs the exclusive use of renewable energy (solar and wind) and employment of the local community members. It also has a specific trust fund where some percentage of the resources generated from the lodge is integrated back for the good of the local community. While the land on which the facility rests belongs to the local community, the locals have surrendered it to the proprietors of Sandele on a lease of 25 years, after which the facility will revert to the local community.


ü  TESITO Eco Camp – This is one of the emerging best practices expected from Kartong. Tesito Eco-Camp is essentially, a community owned and managed eco camp site that straddles the beach area in Kartong. It closely neighbors a Ramsar wetland site, and has expansive spaces for camping picnics and a good beach that would attract tourists. If well managed, the Tesito Eco-Camp has a potential to emerge as a good example of how local communities in the tourism industry can own and manage an eco-camp deriving financial income that would spur local development in the area. The COAST Project will continue to work with its partners (UNWTO, GT Board and NEA) to enhance environmental management principles at this site and to design a workable business model for the camp.


ü  KART Association – The Kartong Association for Responsible Tourism (KART) is an association of small businesses that sell their goods and services to tourists in Kartong. The group recognizes every single member of the Kartong community as a stakeholder either directly or indirectly due to their role in the thriving tourism industry. KART Association is an active member in the COAST Project Demo Site Management Committee (DSMC), and is a champion for responsible and sustainable tourism practices within the area. For instance, KART has developed a Code of Conduct for its members in the tourism industry and also adopted a Responsible Tourism Policy that acknowledges the importance of integrating sustainability principles for the benefit of the local community members. The offices of the KART Association are the central tourist information centre for Kartong. The office is centrally located, and has visible tourist information that provides the background to the area, some information on the popular visitor sites and a history of community. The COAST Project, through the Eco-tourism activities is working to empower KART to be champions of sustainable tourism in Kartong.


ü  Reptile Farm – The reptile farm, located at the periphery of the Kartong site provides a rare chance for the tourists to Kartong to view a number of reptiles commonly found in the area. The farm has tortoises, a number of species of snakes (black mamba, green mamba, pythons, cobras,) crocodiles, lizards and many more. The snakes are normally kept for medical research (venom), conservation and for aesthetic value. An emerging best practice is where the local community who have now been sensitized to always inform the reptile farm management whenever they spot such reptiles in their neighborhood. These are then captured and safely accommodated within the reptile park. This has led to a reduction of the killing of some of these, especially the snakes.


ü  Folonko Sacred Site – This is a sacred site for the Kartonka people, with deep cultural heritage value to the community. The site has some sacred crocodiles and is known to be a prayer site for various people who have some specific requests, which according to the locals, are normally granted once one pays a visit to the site and pays homage to the crocodiles. Many tourists also visit the site, and interact with the community members living around the site.


  1. 6. Conclusion

Resulting from our ongoing work in the Kartong Demo Site in The Gambia, it is clear that the COAST Project is on the right track to deliver on its core objective of supporting and enhancing the conservation of globally significant coastal and marine ecosystems and associated biodiversity in Sub-Saharan Africa, through the reduction of the negative environmental impacts which they receive as a result of coastal tourism. The eco-tourism activities at the Demo Site are expected to help enhance the local economic impact of tourism and to motivate local people to protect the environment and biodiversity of the area, and turn Kartong into a tourist destination site in The Gambia that places a maxim on sustainable and responsible tourism practices. It is the intention that valuable lessons and experiences can be learned from the activities in Kartong, which will be useful to share with professionals and institutions dealing with sustainable coastal tourism in Africa and beyond. When all these activities will have been executed at the Kartong Demo Site, the COAST Project will generate useful results, experiences and good lessons for replication in other similar coastal destinations in the region. It is also our hope that these activities will continue beyond the COAST Project life span to enhance the place of Kartong Demo Site as a sustainable coastal tourist destination in The Gambia.

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