There are several organizations in Tanzania that claim to improve porters’ welfare. Behind the scenes, there are important differences that clearly distinguish them from each other:
Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP): KPAP supports the fair and ethical treatment of Kilimanjaro porters. They monitor every climb of the partner companies to determine if they adhere to the porter welfare standards agreed upon by the Kilimanjaro stakeholders. KPAP provides feedback to help institute procedures that safeguard fair porter treatment. These audits take place twice a year during every climbing season. The partner companies are placed on the approved Partner list if they can prove they adhere to KPAP’s minimum standards by achieving at least an 85% performance grade on their scorecard twice a year.
Kilimanjaro Association of Tour Operators (KIATO): KIATO is an association of local tour operators. Tour operators pay a fee to be a member of the association. KIATO claims that their members adhere to ethical standards. It is not certain if KIATO actually monitors whether these standards are being met. For example, some of their members may pay lower wages to porters, less than US$7 per day.
Zara’s Mount Kilimanjaro Porters Society: Zara Tours is a Tanzanian tour company and has multiple charities, one of which is their Mount Kilimanjaro Porters Society. According to Zara Tours, their internal society provides its porters with health insurance, financial planning, health education and English language classes. However, this is a porters’ society associated with a climbing company who gives these porters employment. There is no independent proof that the basic treatment standards are being met. Porters may be afraid to speak up if the company is the source of their employment.
Additional Kilimanjaro Porter Societies include the Kilimanjaro Porters Association (KPA) and the Tanzania Porters Organization (TPO). Porters are required to register with one of the Porter Societies and pay an annual fee in order to climb Kilimanjaro. Comments from porters are generally not positive about the assistance provided by these societies.
Climbing companies may claim to have their own internal porter monitoring programs. However, none of these are examined by an outside and independent organization and, as such, it is not possible to ascertain whether their initiatives are legitimate or not.
To summarize, KPAP is the only organization that is fully independent of a climbing company as well as transparent in their reporting of their findings of a Partner company’s climbs. They apply strict procedures and they monitor their partner companies who must prove their commitment to fair porter treatment practices on an ongoing basis by objective measurements in order to qualify as KPAP Partner companies. The difference between KIATO and KPAP is that KPAP can demonstrate that the standards are being met through the scorecard performance every climbing season. Furthermore, KPAP differs from Zara’s Porter Society and every other internal porter monitoring program because KPAP is a completely separate organization from any climbing company.
At Fair Voyage, we believe it’s important to share with you as a traveler what those differences are because we want to be able to guarantee that all climbs we promote are ethical and adhere to the highest porter welfare standards. Therefore, we only work with companies that are officially approved and qualified KPAP partners. This is our benchmark to guarantee fair porter treatment on all our climbs.
If you, as a traveler, want to be sure that you are booking an ethical climb, the only way to do so is by contracting your climb with an approved KPAP partner company.