As everywhere else, rapid changes are taking place here in Botswana as a result of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism booking cancellations have forced most safari operators to close their camps and lay off most of their staff. Community based tourism initiatives in the remoter areas have also been affected, translating to loss of valuable livelihood income.
To mitgate this impact in our project areas in the Kalahari habitat areas, it is vital for other livelihood income sources - such as that provided through KWT's wildlife monitoring program (community patrols of remote habitats in NG3), and the NG3 wildlife boreholes maintenance program - to be maintained as alternative sources of income.
Obviously it is also vital to keep these activities going for conservation reasons too, and to counter the growing threats to Ju/hoansi San territorial lands posed by land-grabbers and poaching syndicates. In that regard we are also liaising closely with the Department of Widlife and National Parks and other agencies to monitor and report on any potential threats. Community presence and activity is in itself a deterrent and does help to keep these pristine lands and their migratory wildlife populations protected.
As the rainy season draws to an end, the NG3 boreholes will again become increasingly critical as alternative water sources for migratory wildife, as this wildlife runs an increasingly risky gaunlet in trying to find water in the populated areas long the periphery of the Western Okavango Delta.
Needless to say, the alternative water supplies in NG3 are also vital to elephants under increasing pressure in surrounding areas from poachers, licensed hunters (covid-19 providing some respite by delaying their arrival), and conflict with farmers over water sources in the populated areas. So we simply have to keep these boreholes operational with the active support and involvement of the local communities in NG3. Donor support for these activities is now in critical need, so any donations no matter how small will be welcome and we have opened a USD account to make this easy and cheap to do if you are based outside of Botswana (to donate please click here).
The San and Kgalagadi communities are amongst the most vulnerable to COVID-19 due to the elders in particular having in many instances already compromised respiratory systems. The elders also possess most of the surviving ancient hunter-gatherer knowledge. So we have to act really fast to help protect them and their communities. As part of our preparation efforts we will be assisting the more remote communities in geographically isolating themselves from the main settlements where the virus has the potential to rapidly spread.
The portable rain harvesters we are setting up in remote areas rich in wild plant foods (CKGR and Western Ngamiland in particular NG3) has the added advantage of promoting self-sufficiency and access to good nutrition (to help strengthen immune systems). Also, by disbursing payments for project activities locally where they live, and in goods they have specifically requested, the need to visit the settlements to try to find employment and/or purchase goods using cash (thus exposing them to high risk of infection), is also dramatically reduced. But we need to act fast on this and again, donations are also need to support these efforts.
Lastly, for your interest here are some photos of work currently underway inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve where we are busy installing Portable Rain Harvesters at all the San / Kgalagadi villages. These will become increasingly important in ensuring more reliable supplies of clean drinking water, as climate change and economic slow-down increasingly compromises existing water supplies from boreholes (only one currently exists in the CKGR and its yield is declining) and from the monthly water deliveries by Council water bowsers, which transport water over vast distances at huge cost.