SFEL’s Eco-trails are Environmentally and Culturally Orientated Trails aimed at ecologically and socially conscious individuals. They are designed to be conceptual experiences, enriching those who choose to explore, study and understand the places that they visit.
In line with SFEL’s project objectives, the motivation behind ECOTrails is to provide economic benefits for the local community whilst minimising the negative effects that tourism can have on their cultural and environmental heritage.For tourists we provide a range of adventurous and informative programs.
In the past due to the way tourism is run in most of Ethiopia, the Konso people have not seen any real benefit and most of the income generated by tourists leaves in the pockets of Addis tour operators and foreign investors. As such there have been problems with children hassling visitors to the area with demands for one birr, water bottles and sweets.
However, as SFEL works very closely with the community, our tours are organised with plenty of involvement and communication with the villages involved and as such we can ensure to a greater extent that our guests do not suffer similar problems.
Income generated by SFEL can be seen to inject money directly into the community through a variety of means. ECOTrails encourages a greater level of interaction with the community and facilitates activities that allow visitors to gain a rounded perspective of the places and people that they are visiting.
We place the greatest emphasis on enjoying, whilst respecting the natural environment, learning about the fascinating Konso culture, whilst responsibly interacting with the members of their society. This is best achieved by immersing yourself in the local environment.
All food is purchased locally at the markets or from individual farmers along the way. Sleeping accommodation is mostly in tents unless you wish to use the Konso Community Tourism Project Lodges where you will enjoy a greater level of comfort. You can also opt to share the living accommodation of a local family or to sleep with the young men of the village in their communal house.
As an Ecolodge we minimise our use of private vehicles and all our tours are based on trekking between the villages as the local people do. It is also possible to use local transport (open back Isuzu trucks), which are only available on market days.
However if you want your camping experience to be more comfortable and do not want to have to carry the excess weight, then it is possible to hire porters who will transport tents, mattresses and foodstuffs unavailable in the countryside.
This option is sometimes viewed negatively by tourists, but in Konso it is the standard mode of transporting everything from fodder for animals, agricultural produce, livestock, beer, manure, sick people and anything else that you can think off.
Konso people have a sophisticated agricultural system to deal with the difficult terrain and climate in their part of the world but with Global Warming affecting normal rainfall patterns, their lifestyle is threatened. Services provided for tourists, including portering, are a welcome source of financial relief.
Video of our trekking tours: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uYEfWe5hKY
SFEL ECOTrails are tailor-made and itineraries are designed to suit your particular interests and needs.
If your focus is on trekking and the natural environment then we will reduce cultural activities to a minimum and provide short talks and demonstrations. However if you are more interested in learning traditional handicrafts and more about the culture then it is possible to arrange for you to spend days, weeks and months in one of the villages learning the skills of metalwork, weaving, pottery, drum making, tanning, brewing, cooking, farming, music or anything else that particularly takes your fancy.
Konso people are very proud of their culture and their mountains and are very happy to show and teach as much about it as they can to outsiders. Obviously, the longer you spend in Konso the more you will get to know and love the magical landscapes and people of the area.
Please check out our sample itineraries (click on the links below):