The Tesfa Community Tourism treks are a network of community owned and run guest houses that allows visitors to trek through stunning countryside as guests of the communities. These guest houses and treks have been developed over many years to give a unique experience that will, in the words of Manchán Magan: “enrich your life and that you will likely look back on from your deathbed with a smile.” (Irish Times 2009).
In 2012 the Tesfa communities asked that Tesfa Tours manage the bookings and handled the marketing for the Tesfa Community Tourism. Tesfa Tours is a company set up by Mark Chapman in 2010 to support the community tourism with which he has been involved since its inception in 1999.
Mark Chapman started working on this community tourism project in 1999 in Meket woreda near Lalibela as part of an SOS Sahel project. In 2003 he helped to set up TESFA (Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives) as a non-profit, local Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO)/charity in Ethiopia. Mark led TESFA’s efforts to develop the community tourism in Meket. TESFA developed the concept of a network of community run tourism enterprises that would allow tourists to trek across the remarkable landscape, getting closer to the real culture of the Ethiopian highlands, and at the same time put precious money into the local communities for whom farming is becoming ever more precarious a livelihood.
TESFA initially operated as part of a Save the Children (UK) project to develop rural livelihoods in the area with funding the Royal Netherlands Embassy. The project which began in 2004, ran up to April 2008. From 2006-2011, TESFA received grants from the Irish Embassy/Irish Aid which enabled the development of the Guiding Enterprise in Lalibela and the Technical Support Unit in Addis and the construction of additional community guest houses and treks both in Tigray and in Wollo.
Over the years other donors have included the British Embassy, the German Embassy, responsibletravel.com, the Tresillian Trust, ICAP, the Embassy Wives fund and numerous clients and supporters. This generous support enabled TESFA to extend the network of community tourism sites in Meket Woreda to expand it to neighbouring areas including onto Abuna Yoseph where TESFA have worked together with Frankfurt Zoological Society to help conserve the fragile environment on this mountain home to the theatened and endemic Ethiopia Wolf.This expansion most recently has taken TESFA into Tigray. A big thank you to everyone who has contributed.
In 2012 TESFA finally ceased operation, and the whole operation of the Tesfa Community Tourism has moved into the private sector, with the communities running their facilities as cooperatives, the guides setting up their own business and Tesfa Tours, based out of Addis providing the marketing element.
In North Wollo, close to Lalibela, the Tesfa community treks stretch into three woredas. Furthest to the south west , in Meket there are six community guest houses, along with six community lunch stops, where another community provide lunch for the passing trekkers. In Lasta, the province of Lalibela there are four more community guest houses going up on to Abuna Yoseph, and in Gidan there is one community guest house, just to the east of those in Meket.
In Tigray, in the mountains near Adigrat, there are a further four community guest houses in operation with three more about to start.