Igniting the Tourism Value Chain in a Quiet, Hidden Escape

How Accelerator Lab in Zambia is working with community members in Rufunsa to co-create an experiment that will tap into the economic potential of the district’s culture and vast landscape

June 5, 2024
An image of a road in Rufunsa, surrounded by mountains

Rufunsa is a district surrounded by mountains and filled with gorges, waterfalls, and many great wonders

Image captured by: Vanessa Wematu Akibate/UNDP Zambia

Just a 2-hour drive from Zambia’s buzzing capital, Rufunsa is beautiful, largely unexplored escape from the busy Lusaka lifestyle. Cradled by hills on all sides and on the edge of Zambia’s most renowned game park-the Lower Zambezi, the people of Rufunsa enjoy a flourishing green landscape with plenty gorges, waterfalls, lagoons, hot springs and wildlife. The district seems to be placed perfectly to attract a regular slew of visitors from out of town looking to escape into wildlife and enjoy a relaxing break from the busy hum of life in the city. Yet, the people of the quiet and hidden district see very few unfamiliar faces each year as local tourism in the district is generally non-existent.

Monica Kameso has lived in Shikabeta, a village in the district, for all her life as a self-described “granddaughter of Chief Shikabeta”. She shares that the district is rich in culture, boasting a wealth of Soli traditional history passed on through crafts, and oratory and performance-based story telling. “We have a museum here that we can use to share stories of how we have paid thanks and shown respect to our ancestors for years. We learn how to make traditional beer, store harvests and of our history here… I hope I get to welcome more people to our museum and to our Nkumba Lyanga ceremony to share the culture with us”.

An image of Monica Kames, the grand-daughter of Shikabeta Chiefdom

Monica Kameso, a member of the Shikabeta Chiefdom and attendee of the training

Image captured by: Vanessa Wematu Akibate/UNDP Zambia

Currently, there are not many income sources in Rufunsa, outside of farming, which has become less of an attractive space for small-holder and rural farmers who are experiencing the impacts of climate change daily. In light of the ongoing drought that has left many small-holder farmers with reduced harvests, the Community Resource Boards in the district felt it was time to tap into the tourism potential of the district. Raphael Mupwaya, the Executive Officer of the Shikabeta Community Resource Board noted, “Community Tourism will be beneficial to the people [of Rufunsa] because it shall create a source of employment, and a source of income to the local people”.

In partnership with the Zambia Tourism Agency, the Zambia Development Agency, the National Museums Board, and the Hotel and Catering Association of Zambia, the UNDP Accelerator Lab in Zambia engaged community members in Rufunsa’s Mpanshya and Shikabeta Chiefdoms to co-create an experiment that aims to stimulate activities in the local tourism value chain and boost the livelihoods of the district’s residents. The experiment targets, women and the youth specifically, as the two groups are often the hardest hit by climate shocks, and most at risk of being left behind. 

Kicking off the experiment, the Accelerator Lab in Zambia (AccLab), joined by its partners, trained over 43 participants from the Mpanshya and Shikabeta Chiefdoms on product development, business management, financial literacy, partnership building, and tourism product packaging and marketing. These trainings are in preparation for the next phase of the experiment, where the AccLab and community members will identify potential tourism products and investment opportunities to draw visitors into Rufunsa. 

“The experiment will promote the local tourism spots, the cultural heritage of the Soli people and the traditional artisanal products.” – Roselyne Mwila, Head of Exploration, Accelerator Lab Zambia.

Keeping in line with the AccLab’s programmatic approach, the experiment will be anchored in innovation as the team and the community jointly explore ways to localise the use of digital technologies to connect the communities with a wider, global audience.