When you successfully climb Kilimanjaro, you are in a very real sense, on top of the world. Kilimanjaro is Africa’s tallest peak and is often described as the Rooftop of Africa. It is also the world’s highest free-standing mountain. The views are simply breathtaking and that is one of many reasons why this powerful mountain has made it on so many bucket lists of tourists all over the world.
Many local people see Kilimanjaro as a sacred place and its summit is believed to represent the seat of God. It is little wonder that climbers who have successfully conquered Kilimanjaro view it as a spiritual and life-changing experience.
The highest point on the mountain is Uhuru Peak, which means ‘freedom’. However while climbing Kilimanjaro represents freedom to some, others are exploited by some of the travel companies that offer tours to Kilimanjaro.
Many of the budget tour operators are guilty of ignoring the human rights of Kilimanjaro porters and other local workers who are subjected to poor or dangerous working conditions and low pay. In extreme cases, porters have been found dead and left behind by their guides when they fell sick or had accidents.
Who are the Kilimanjaro Porters?
How are porters exploited?
Do Kilimanjaro porters get a minimum wage?
Why inadequate equipment and preparation endangers lives
Weight limits for Kilimanjaro porters
Climbing Kilimanjaro would be impractical if you had to drag all of your heavy luggage and camping equipment up the mountain. Thankfully, every tour includes a team of porters that will literally take the weight off your shoulders.
However, many budget operators have exploited this and in some cases, porters have been required to lug up to 40 kilograms of luggage and equipment up the mountain. Even though the official Kilimanjaro park limit states that porters should not carry more than 20kg and climbers can observe luggage being weighed at park entrance gates, the reality might still look quite different for the porters. When guides and park wardens all struggle to make a better living, the temptation for bribery is high.
Furthermore, when porters who are not adequately prepared for the harsh mountain conditions fall sick on the mountain, their guides may not arrange for a replacement porter, so other porters have to take on the extra weight.
It is worth noting that even if you are allowed to bring 20kg, this is not ideal, especially at the higher altitudes. The total weight of all gear and supplies decreases as food supplies are getting used up, and responsible tour operators will also make sure to re-distribute the weight fairly among their porters every morning.
However, the personal climber bag weight generally stays almost the same throughout the climb. To be fair to the porter carrying your bag, the most responsible tour operators will restrict your personal bag limit to 15kg.
Fair Voyage: Creating a safer climb for everyone
The Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) is a legally registered Tanzanian organization that is dedicated to supporting the fair and ethical treatment of Kilimanjaro porters.
They help porters by lending them free clothing and offering educational classes, such as training in first aid. KPAP also provides industry guidelines for proper porter treatment, educates the public on porter working conditions and encourages climbers to use companies that treat their porters fairly.
To know which companies treat porters fairly, KPAP offers a voluntary porter treatment monitoring program which is open to all licensed Kilimanjaro companies to participate with. The only acceptance criteria is that companies need to prove their adherence to the regulatory minimum porter treatment standards by agreeing for their climbs to be independently monitored by KPAP and meeting a minimum score throughout a climbing season.
It is worth noting that companies enrolled with the KPAP Partner program also tend to learn a lot about their own operations through the climb audits and feedback provided by KPAP. People working at offices and selling climbs can be very detached from the realities on the mountain. Company owners and managers may have the best of intentions, but without KPAP’s independent monitoring, they most often don’t even know how their own guides treat their porters.
Is Fair Voyage a member of KPAP?
Fair Voyage is partnering with KPAP to ensure that we only promote ethical climbs. We strictly only work with operators who are committed to ensuring porters are adequately equipped and paid fairly for their work. Our partners ensure that porters are given at least 3 meals per day and are not carrying more than 20 kilograms of luggage.
Please note that operators often claim to be KPAP Partners, or members of some other organization, without actually treating porters fairly. To verify that a company is indeed operating ethical climbs, please consult the official list of approved KPAP Partner Companies on the IMEC website.
The end result
By choosing a responsible tour operator, you are helping to ensure that both you and your porters have a safer, more enjoyable climb. The local teams that work for our partner companies also receive the adequate training they need to ensure that your climb is a safe and successful one. And they are sufficiently paid, nourished and equipped to attend to your comfort and safety, instead of struggling to meet their own most basic human needs.
At Fair Voyage, we commit to ensuring fair porter treatment and charging fair prices to our customers. Ultimately, it’s a win-win situation for all of those who dream of conquering Kilimanjaro.
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