Gairezi Ecotourism Project, a CAMPFIRE project, is a beautifully situated on the crystal clear Gairezi River in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. It started in the early 1990s and they are in partnership with Nyanga Downs Fly Fishing Club. This project benefits 304 households from the Dazi and Nyamutsapa Communities, Nyanga.
Accommodation – self-catering set of four-bedroom lodges and a campsite that can accommodate 20 single tents.
Management of the facility: The project is run by a board of 6 individuals and a management committee of four all drawn from the local community. At the moment the management committee and staff are getting management and marketing support from Nyanga Downs’ Club. The community is in a partnership arrangement with the Nyanga Downs Flyfishers Club. A Board of Trustees drawn from the local community oversees the management of the center whilst five staff are employed one as manager, the other as resource monitor and the rest are lodge attendants.
Access – The facility is situated about 30 km on the north west side of Nyanga and about 18km from the Troutbeck resort. The 20km stretch off the Nyanga Nyamaropa road after Troutbeck is a gravel road but is well maintained by the Nyanga Rural District Council. In the rainy season, an all weather rough terrain vehicle is advisable. Amenities – A local clinic in Dazi area is accessible to visitors. The facility is also covered by two mobile networks albeit intermittently. Shops and fuels are available 20km away in Troutbeck.
Attractions – Scenic views of the Nyangani mountain range; Gairezi river; cool weather, pine plantations, unique tree ferns, chief Tangwena – (his Chimurenga history).
Activities –Fly fishing for trout, hiking, bird watching, shopping for local crafts, chief Tangwena story and village visit,
Awareness – The facility is marketed mainly by Nyanga Downs Fly Fishers Club. STEP Zimbabwe website also contains content on the website.
Main Challenges: It was noted during the interview that the project requires intensive capacity building for the employees and the board members for efficient running of the business. Although the partnership with Nyanga Downs has been good in sustaining the operations (especially visitorship) there is no apparent effort towards local community empowerment and gradual handover. In the event that Nyanga Downs draws out of the partnership, the local communities will be left wanting. They need to make their own decisions pertaining to the running of the business. It was also noted that project is operating without being registered as a community based enterprise with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority. Some of the issues of the project include, poor capacity of board and members, weak partnership between Nyanga Downs Club, the Board and communities that does not promote transfer of skills from the partner to the community, poor readiness to takeover project despite the years of partnership, stagnant growth in facilities, activities and market.
Future Prospects: The community plans to expand the facility by building more lodges along the river that are operated directly by communities. There are also plans for horse riding and village visits into the park and to the Tangwena community.