My name is Filippo Bozotti. Italian by origin, in work, I wear many hats: in New York, I'm a socially conscious documentary producer, a job whose main perk is traveling the world off the beaten paths following remarkable stories and meeting remarkable individuals. That's what first brought me to Sierra Leone, West Africa, four years ago and led me to partner with a great nonprofit, Shine On Sierra Leone (SOSL).
For the past 3 years we have been working in education and microfinance, in partnership with FAWE (Forum for African Women Education) and with SMT (Salone Microfinance Trust), we sponsor 5 schools and 5,755 micro-loan recipients, mainly women. Come September, I'm moving to Sierra Leone to begin a new adventure: Tribewanted Sierra Leone.
Tribewanted, founded by Ben Keene, a Brit, in 2006, is an online-offline community of eco-tourists, knows as "tribemembers," that adopted the island of Vorovoro in Fiji and together with the local village, built a social, eco-community from scratch. Four years later, Ben and I have partnered to replicate the same concepts on the pristine beaches of John Obey, on the Freetown Peninsula of Sierra Leone.
Tribewanted Sierra Leone will open to the public on October 1st of this year, right after the rainy season, for $450/week a person, all-inclusive. Initially, there will be, well... nothing aside from basic composting toilets and a fresh water well. Bring your own tent.
On this untouched, squeaky-white-sand beach of John Obey, where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean, tribemembers will work together with the local fishermen village, population 352, to build the first eco-community resort in Sierra Leone from scratch. Together we will build earth bag eco-domes (using innovative Cal Earth Institute sustainable building techniques), we will develop a permaculture garden and farm, water harvesting, sustainable fishing, composting toilets and solar power. We'll even build our own wind turbine using only local material.
At Tribewanted, tribemembers can learn how to carve a canoe, weave a traditional blanket, set out at dusk with the fishermen to catch fresh lobster, or if they want, the can come teach at FAWE for an afternoon and leave a book behind for the school library, they can work in microfinance for a day with SMT, or just chill on the beach and drink poyo, local palm wine.
Tribewanted looks to be a sustainable community, sustainable for the environment, for food production, for clean energy production and sustainable financially. All the revenues generated will be re-invested into local community development. It will be a partnership between tribemembers and the local John Obey village; we will work together and learn from each other. We will bring employment to John Obey, purchase fresh fish, fruits and vegetables from them, and re-invest the profits into micro-loans and education.
The Tribewanted Fiji model has worked, bringing over 1,000 tribemembers and $1 Million in sustainable development to the local community over the past 3 years. So we are excited about replicating the same innovative model to Tribewanted John Obey. The local village has embraced us, made Ben and I honorary citizens, even gave us our own traditional "country-clothes."
Sierra Leone is poor, but it's at peace. It's missing basic infrastructure -electricity, running water, paved roads- outside the capital Freetown, but it is full of opportunities. The lush rainforest, the wildlife, the untouched beaches, the friendly people and the rich culture and history should make tourism the #1 export of the country. Right now it's non-existent.
The country still suffers from a terrible reputation due to the war, child soldiers and blood diamonds; it ranks dead last in a lot of humanitarian indexes. But it's safe, it's at a tipping point, you can feel it in the air. It's also in danger of being damaged by the wrong kind of tourism: massive hotels that destroy the eco-system and the local culture. With Tribewanted, we are trying to do it right, to be the first footers and show that sustainable tourism works.
Over the past 3 years, we have brought dozens of people to Sierra Leone, and it has changed their life. Now we are launching Tribewanted, with the hope of bringing many, many more. My next blog will be from John Obey beach, Internet connection permitting, come join us! www.tribewanted.com
Follow Filippo Bozotti on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@filippobozotti