The Juffureh-Albreda Revamp Project
Revamping a Heritage Tourism Destination for Sustainable Development
In 2012 The Gambia Tourism Board at the time headed by the current Minister of Tourism and Culture Hon. Benjamin Roberts held several meetings at Juffureh as part of efforts to have a better understanding of the challenges confronting the Kunta Kinteh Roots product. From the proceedings of these meetings, it became apparent that there was a need for a wholesale reassessment of the Roots product with a view to revamping it.
The rationale put forward on the need for such a reassessment was premised on the following factual experiences:
- The Travel Foundation supported project “Improving Destination Management Strategies for Juffureh and Albreda ‘Roots’ Heritage” was not generating enough returns to cater for further development of the Roots product, not to speak of other community development projects that were thought possible following the commissioning of the project
- The small scale enterprises that had resulted following the commissioning of the project were struggling financially.
- Since its commissioning, the product has deteriorated and the state of the two communities has also worsened with no sanitation infrastructure in place and with refuse and garbage all over the product area.
- One of the advantages of being in the World Heritage List (attained under Kunta Kinteh Island and Related Sites in 2003)is the increased potential to attract more visitors with all the attendant benefits and socio-cultural drawbacks inherent in tourism. The challenge lies in taking advantage of the benefits that tourism has to offer and at the same time find ways and means of empowering the communities that live around the sites to mitigate the negative impacts of large visitor numbers.
There was therefore need to not only re-assess the product but also to re-strategize on the way forward. For Tourists having to travel over one hour to get to the product and even a longer time for those that come through excursions, their expectations would undoubtedly not be met and a good number would leave disappointed having realized that their expectations and the realities are miles apart. These disappointments would, undoubtedly, over time reduce the appeal of the Kunta Kinteh Roots product and the historical value of this pertinent piece of global history.
To pre-empt this eventuality, was deemed necessary to put together a proposal to revamp the ’Roots’ product with the support of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, other stakeholders in the tourism and travel industry, and the National Centre for Arts and Culture, the institution responsible for heritage affairs and the management of the World Heritage Site of Kunta Kinteh Island and Related Sites.
It is against this background that CRAterre of Grenoble, France, with its longstanding experience of developing heritage sites in Africa and other parts of the world, was invited to provide technical assistance in assessing the product and developing an action plan to match the collective vision for the product and enhance the sustainable development of the area, using a participatory approach to take onboard the views of all stakeholders.
The CRATerre mission resulted in a project document premised on four main objectives and an action plan intended to achieve those objectives. The objectives were succintly stated as:
- Use the local resources to generate sustainable development within the community
- Develop Awareness on the value of the local resources
- Stabilise state of conservation of the heritage sites
- Improve visitors’ experience
Two years after the inception of the project considerable progress has been made in meeting the objectives. This includes the appointment of a Destination Manager to coordinate the affairs of the destination, including the revamp project; the installation of signage at the main points of attraction including both the tangible and intangible cultural and natural heritage of the destination to improve visitor awareness and appreciation ; and the beginning of the construction of the visitor information centre which provides for exhibition space on possible tours, a showroom/ sales outlet for crafts produced in the vicinity, office space and meeting rooms for the Destination Manager and Tour Guides; visitor conveniences and ample recreational space. It is hoped that once complete the information centre will allow visitors to relax and reflect on their option of tours, and hopefully encourage them to spend more time in the area and by so doing avail resources to the community who would have been empowered to offer services that will enable them to gain a dignified existence from the tourist visits.
The revamp project including the construction of the visitor information have been designed on sustainable development principles with the full participation of the Juffureh - Albreda community. The project document was developed through a participatory approach which involved all stakeholders, including the local communities and the tour operators. The objectives and action plan are the outcome of a SWOT analysis in which all and sundry participated. The design of the information centre is also the result of a workshop held with the community to enable them to avail their experiences on local building materials and techniques which have been widely used in the construction. The building materials and workmanship for the construction is mainly sourced locally, helping to empower the community both technically and financially.
Upto this stage the Revamp Project have relied solely on local funding provided by The Gambia Tourism Board, The National Centre for Arts and Culture; and the private partnership of a philanthropic local bank, the Guaranty Trust Bank. We take this opportunity to thank the financial partners, the Consultants, CRATerre, and all who have participated or collaborated in meeting our objectives and vision. We are still open to accepting partners in the project and any institution or individual who share our noble objectives are welcome to come forward through the Gambia Tourism Board or the National Centre for Arts and Culture whose contact details are available within this publication. For more information on the project you can contact these institutions.
Below are pictorial highlights of the physical improvements that have been made on the destination through the project, including the partly completed visitor information centre.