Iringa — Iringa District is one of the country's sleeping giants that need quick interventions in promoting its tourist attractions.
Despite being endowed with historical cultural background and numerous tourist attractions; they are yet to be fully tapped.
According to the 2012 population census, Iringa District had a population of 405,377 consisting mainly of the indigenous Hehe tribe.
According to the Bank of Tanzania's 2013 report, Iringa fell behind in contributing to the GDP after Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Mbeya, Shinyanga.
This is despite its potential , and in view of this, a non-governmental organisation Fahari Yetu in collaboration with the European Union under the European Development Fund in Tanzania have embarked on a project to promote cultural heritage and tourism for sustainable development in the Southern Highlands.
Fahari Yetu assistant project manager Jimson Sanga, who is also a University of Iringa lecturer in tourism and culture, said the Fahari Yetu project was started three years ago with the aim of promoting tourism in the Southern Highlands."Our first project is Iringa, and we started by educating the people on the importance of preserving culture and identifying tourist attractions and also preserving them from ruin, " he said.
He said Fahari Yetu first project includes the restoration of the regional commissioner's office into the district museum that will house the district cultural heritages.
According to him, the building which was built by the Germans in the early 1990s was dilapidated and therefore earmarked for demolition.
However after negotiations, the local government agreed to hand it over for restoration and turn it into the districts museum and tourist attraction for both local and international tourists.
"We started the renovation about three years ago with mostly planning, but the actual renovation started about a year ago," he said. He explained that so far the renovations total cost was Sh240 million and was expected to be finalized anytime soon before the actual launch, June 25, this year.
"We expect the minister for Home Affairs to officiate at the launch of the building, " he said.
He noted that after the launch they will be performing archive activities curation and exhibiting culture and heritage material. Adding that, they will also be identifying and interpreting cultural heritage assets, to preserve and foster cultural awareness as well ad market tourism attractions. He said that they also aim to promote other tourist attractions in the district including Gangilonga, Igeleke Rocks and paintings.
hanging area including Chief Mkwawa's remains.
In another development Fahari Yetu project manager Mr Jan Kuever said that they museum will not only be a tourist attraction but will also be a cultural educational programme.
"Our students lack practical learning experience, but with the museum they will be able to learn practically the history of the past history of the Hehe starting during the colonial era to the death of Chief Mkwawa leading to his successors," he said.
Meanwhile National Museum of Tanzania curator in charge Mr Mawazo Ramadhani said that he has been in the project since it started three years ago.
According to him, he is lending expertise from the NMT to ensure the exhibitions go well.