Why Stella Track? Why “fair trade”?
Do you know the feeling of working your arse off, breaking your back, only to find you probably won’t get paid? No? Nor do we, but for some people this is reality. Maybe the feeling of being on the adventure of a lifetime as it slowly dawns on you, someone else is paying the price for your joy, is more familiar?
Climbing Kilimanjaro is an adventure of a lifetime, many people have been saving for years to do this. But what if the porters carrying all the luggage and equipment for the tourist adventurer, are not get anything from the company for it ? If they depend solely on the tip you are able to pay them. If the tea the porters are enjoying as the tourists are having breakfast or lunch, is not after meal tea; it is the meal itself. Then what?
If the income is the tip, it becomes overly important to ensure the tip. Then the wishes of the customer becomes more important than company polices, or security gudielines. You might ignore important safety issues in order to keep your unaware customer happy enough to pay you a good tip.
If porters have not eaten properly or does not have a proper sleeping bag, if they are tired from carrying 35 kg on the back – then the people soposed to ensure your climb, might become a security risk them self.
Is this the kind of climb you would like?
Richard Branson said, “Emplyees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will care for the clients.”
Now, on a mountain side, going for the top, this is not just desirebal, it is essential.
Climbs up Kilimanjaro comes in most price levels. Low price companies, ie 1500 USD pr pax pr climb (excl. flight costs), or less, does not get enough revenue to pay the guide and porters a decent salary. But choosing to pay a little more does not in itself, solve the problem of fair payment.
Porters are hired for each climb. Often the guides are the ones both hiring and handing out the wages to the porters, which is done in cash. The requirement is three porters per climber. With fewer porters there are fewer to share the portion of payment. It is possible to get in with more weight than the official limit of 20 kg pr porter.
How would I know?
Now these conditions have been documented by others as well
It is not unusual for both companies and guides on Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, to manipulate with the amount paid for salaries. Low price companies does not get enough revenue to pay the guide and porters a decent salary. Normally the guides hired by the low price companies are the ones handing out the wages to the porters, and it is done in cash. It is also the responsibility of the guide to hire the porters for each climb.
The guide can be tempted to take fewer porters for the climb if the payment is low. The company pays the guide for the number of porters required for a climb but there are no written records of how many porters participate in each climb. With fewer porters they are fewer to share the portion of payment, and the porters agree. The maximum weight a porter is allowed to carry is 25 kg including his own luggage. The Luggage is weighed by the national park before the porters can enter any of the trails up Kilimanjaro. One would think attempts to cheat would be discovered and stopped. Still you see porters like the ones on the picture on this page, walking up any of the trails.
It is also possible to cut down on both weight and expenses by skipping the food for the porters. It has happened that porters have had tea for breakfast and lunch and ugali (made of corn flour and water) for dinner, and nothing else during the entire climb.
Another problem with the current system of cash payments is if the guide himself is in desperate need of money. Time to pay the school fee for his children for instance, or a close relative in desperate need of money to get hospital treatment. It can be both tempting, and very easy to cheat with the cash payment. No one will check it.
Being underpaid makes you tip depending and can therefore encourage unnecessary risk taking, in attempting to ensure a good tip. And your porters might depend solely on the tip you are able to pay them.
The very people who ensures all the climbers achieving their goals should not be treated this way. The climbers finally having their goal of their dreams within reach should not have this experience stained by unknowingly being part of this oppressing system.
If only there was a Tanzanian company who would treat their workers fair, Jacob said.
Let’s create one! – Jacob and Helena said simultaneously laughing