What is it?
An eco-lodge is place where tourists can come for a little rest and relaxation. What makes it unique from other lodges is the “eco” concept. In this venture, we will strive to source as many of our materials as locally as possible and from sustainable sources. This will help the environment and the local economy. Construction of the lodge itself will utilize many “eco” friendly design features including solar panels, composting toilets and a permaculture garden – just to name a few! The lodge will cater to backpackers, mid-range budget tourists and families through multiple levels of accommodation including camping, dorms, self-contained units and family homes.
In my opinion, the social enterprise part is what makes it interesting and exciting. Social enterprise is a type of business model that promotes using earned income (capital gains) for social and/or environmental good. The mission of the lodge is not simply to make money, rather we’re focused on building relationships to drive community development. By being thoughtful, deliberate and inclusive in the planning and exploration process, we’ll be able to start developing a long term foundation within the community. Our approach is to support projects that are community-driven. Our goal is to become part of something bigger than ourselves – a community. (See my project Tourism, Community Development & Social Enterprise: Malawi for an example of one awesome lodge in Malawi that has this model mastered!)
Most the people who know me could probably tell you I’ve been talking about this idea of starting a lodge for well over a decade. It first began forming during my Peace Corps service in Zambia in 2007, as my bond to sub-Saharan Africa solidified itself. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel around a bit and stay at some really amazing backpackers lodges. Something in me connected with the vibe of these places and the people who frequented them. From that time, I started daydreaming about what my lodge would be like. Over the last decade, the idea was never lost, just sitting dormant, waiting for the right opportunity to emerge again.
Over the elapsed time, I was able to hone in on the skills needed and really focus in on the idea. Through working at several non-profit organizations and through my more formal academic studies in social science and international development, I began to realize that there needs to be a balance between making money and doing good. And through numerous trips back to Zambia, Malawi, Uganda & Tanzania, I really began to miss that sense of community and hospitality that my African friends exude. ‘The warm heart of Africa’ (Malawi’s motto) welcomed me with such vigor in 2016 that it was impossible for me to not think about how to make my way back more permanently.
In early 2018, I finished up my master’s degree in social science and was ready to move on to the next big thing. I jumped right into phase one that summer, the exploration process! Check out my blog for more information on the exploration and land buying process.
That brings me to the present, early 2019. The project has just entered phase two, construction and relationship building. We are a team of two and moving full speed ahead!
As is the case with most new business proposals, there is much to consider when choosing a location for a lodge, especially when financial gains are not the only bottom line (the other is social impact). Phase one (June 2018 to December 2018) was dedicated to narrowing down the exact location. If you are interested in how this process unfolded and the land we’ve chosen, please visit my blog page. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog at the bottom of this page for updates.
As mentioned previously, this project is designed to be well thought out and deliberate (with a little spontaneity thrown in or it wouldn’t be me!). For that reason, I envision it developing in phases, each with a very loose, flexible, and potentially overlapping timeline.
Phase 1: Exploration
June 2018 – December 2018
Phase 2: Construction & Relationship Building
*currently in this phase