Are All Kilimanjaro Crews Treated Fairly?

We are quite proud of our Kilimanjaro staff.

Our guides are experts on the mountain and do everything in their power to help you achieve your dreams while keeping you safe. Our mountain cooks make incredible meals to keep you strong and well fed throughout the expedition. Our porters carry all the food and supplies, set up and break down the campsites, and fetch water.

These hardworking people make up your all star support crew, so all you need to do on Kilimanjaro is simply enjoy your time there. And you can enjoy it with a clear conscience, knowing that the friendly staff who make your trip possible have been and always will be treated well.

What is KPAP?

The Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) is an initiative of the International Mountain Explorers Connection (IMEC). It was established in 2003 to improve the working conditions of the mountain crews on Kilimanjaro.

Most customers do not know the importance of being a KPAP member. They assume that all operators treat their staff fairly. They would be wrong in that assumption.

IMEC, a US nonprofit organization, was founded by Scott Dimetrosky after returning from a six-month trip climbing the Himalyas in Pakistan, India and Nepal. He was disturbed by the negative environmental and cultural impacts of the tourism he saw. So he created IMEC in 1996 to promote responsible and sustainable tourism in Tanzania and Nepal.

Kilimanjaro companies who are members of KPAP are continuously monitored by the independent organization to ensure fair and ethical treatment of their crews. The areas that are assessed for KPAP partner companies include: fair wages, transparent gratuities, sufficient nutrition, quality accommodaitons, and pack weight limits.

Ultimate Kilimanjaro® is one of only 14 U.S.-based Kilimanjaro operators who are members of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP).

What is Required of KPAP Companies?

In order to be a partner, companies must meet the Guidelines for Proper Porter Treatment, which are evaluated on an ongoing basis (a KPAP representative accompanies every single climb led by Ultimate Kilimanjaro® from beginning to end).

Criteria for membership include detailed provisions that ensure fair treatment for the company’s crew and compliance with the proper treatment guidelines.

These guidelines include:

  • Porters should not carry loads heavier than 20 kgs (44 pounds).
  • Porters receive the full amount of tips intended for them.
  • Porters are outfitted with proper clothing and equipment.
  • Porters have proper shelter and proper sleeping equipment. Tents should be good quality with a ground sheet provided.
  • Porters are provided at least two meals per day and access to water.
  • Sick or injured porters are properly cared for.

What is the Difference Between a KPAP and Non-KPAP Company?

Unfortunately, many Kilimanjaro companies, including both luxury operators and budget operators, have chosen to opt out of KPAP’s efforts to make life better for Tanzanian guides, porters and cooks. We assume that having the oversight of KPAP may be a problem for their usual operations.

KPAP has found significant differences in how porters are treated by member companies and non-member companies. In 2014, members paid porters an average of $5.91 per day, compared to $4.49 per day paid by non-members. Non-members had porters carrying bags that weighed 45.9 pounds on average, which was about 1.5 pounds heavier than members.  Porters have told the KPAP that a few non-members make them carry bags ranging from 48.5 to 66 pounds.

96% of porters received two or more meals per day from members, compared to 71% by non-members (Ultimate Kilimanjaro® staff receive three meals per day). In 2009, just 52% received two or more meals from members, compared to 28% by non-members.

Since June 2015, partner companies have been paying porters at least $6.80 per day and guides $13.60 per day, according to IMEC (Ultimate Kilimanjaro® porters earn more than these figures).

An IMEC-KPAP report released in June 2015, looking at data from 2009-2014, found that things have gotten much better for Kilimanjaro workers during that time.

“Fair treatment practices have become very important to the climbing public,” the report concluded. “Clients and overseas tour operators are seeking to climb Kilimanjaro with climbing companies employing responsible practices toward the crew. Significant improvements in treatment practices are being noted on Kilimanjaro and the stakeholders should be proud of their achievements.”

Why You Should Support KPAP Partner Companies

Climbing with KPAP Companies is almost certainly going to be more expensive for tourists. In order for partner companies to comply with the Guidelines for Proper Porter Treatment, there are greater expenses for wages, food, equipment, and administrative costs. However, we believe it is well worth the price for the guarantee that your crew is treated well.

Kilimanjaro climbing does a lot of great things for Tanzania.

It generates about $50 million a year in revenue for touring companies, of which the majority goes to the government for park fees. About $13 million is paid directly to guides, porters and cooks, according to a World Bank report, “Tourism in Africa: Harnessing Tourism for Growth and Improved Livelihoods.” The report concluded that tourism is an important way for countries such as Tanzania to alleviate poverty.

The revenue from the park supports about 400 guides, according to the report, 10,000 porters, 500 cooks and constitutes about 13% of the country’s gross domestic product. Data on what these people are paid vary, but its far more than $2 a day that Tanzanian farmers make, for work that require some muscle and physical fitness but no training, the World Bank report found.

Volcanic soil around the mountain is fertile for growing a wide variety of crops, including bananas, coffee, fruits, vegetables and cereals, but the climbing industry provides an important complement to farmers’ income. As a result, the area around the mountain has the nation’s highest school enrollment rate (100 percent) and highest adult literacy rate (85%).

We hope that once you are aware of the issues surrounding porter mistreatment, you will only support Kilimanjaro operators that demonstrate their commitment to porter welfare.

KPAP member companies, like Ultimate Kilimanjaro®, are leading the industry to improve working conditions for all porters on Mount Kilimanjaro.