Western Ngamiland update:
In March we undertook a routine visit to our NG3 wildlife borehole project areas and the communities in NG3 and NG2 engaged in maintaining and monitoring those areas - but this time with the additional urgent imperative of alerting the communities to the dangers posed by the coronavirus (Covid-19) and how to prepare for its potentially devastating impacts.
Awareness of Covid-19 is relatively poor in remote areas. In engaging them on this topic we covered the basic preventative measures and emphasized the critical need to avoid contact with settlement areas during the national lockdown period. By implementing localised livelihood support projects (e.g. wildlife monitoring, tourism, craft purchases) we are helping to make it feasible for the remote communities to remain relatively isolated, deep within their traditional territorial lands - and to avoid the need for regular contact with large settlements to seek employment and essential supplies / services. Our protocol has always been to bring supplies and services to where the remote communities prefer to live, which is ideally suited to the current Covid-19 isolation / lockdown strategy, and we will endeavour to continue doing so regardless of the future outcome with this virus. More follow-up work is planned to ensure they will have adequate medical and supplementary food supplies during the months to come.
During our routine visits to the NG3 borehole areas, our work usually involves: rotating assigned staff (who work in shifts of up to 8 weeks at a time), resupplying them with consumables and facilitating wage payments (partly in cash and partly in ordered goods); acquiring and assessing wildlife monitoring data; overseeing the maintenance of the sites and borehole equipment. In the case of the Eastern borehole, additional pumping is done using a generator in the dry season to cope with increased water demand from elephants. The community managed boreholes are proving to be extremely useful in terms of:
1. Generating livelihood income for local communities in a remote, undeveloped region where unemployment is rife.
2. Fostering a sense of pride in local custodianship over natural resources and the development of positive attitudes towards wildlife.
3. Reducing human-wildlife conflict through alternative water provision for wildlife in remote areas and building up prey base populations for predators (thus reducing the need for them to venture into livestock areas).
4. Facilitating wildlife dispersal across the western Ngamiland landscape and across the border between Botswana and Namibia: this helps to alleviate wildlife pressure on habitats in increasingly constrained conservation areas in Namibia whilst at the same time rehabilitating wildlife numbers in the vast under-populated natural habitats located inside Botswana, through the influx of wildife into Botswana from Namibia.
5. Mitigating the loss of access to dry season ranges along the Western fringes of the Okavango delta due to expanding human populations there - by providing remote and safe alternative areas where migratory wildlife can access drinking water in the dry season (April to December). Zebra and roan in particular have benefited from this, as have predator populations (wild dog, hyena, leopard etc).
6. Buffering the risk of wildife die-off in drought periods: the boreholes were a life-saver not only for water sensitive species such as zebra, roan and kudu but also for arid-adapted species such as gemsbok which were also suffering acute dehydration stress in 2019 due to successive back to back droughts which led to their forage being extremely low in moisture content.
7. Improving and semi-habituating the wildlife resource base, which is essential to the development of viable and marketable community based tourism initiatoves across the Western Ngamiland region.
We would like to thank the Kalahari Peoples Fund, Mike McCune and Karen Smith-McCune for their recent donations towards the costs of our community support work in Western Ngamiland. Paul Sheller kindly assisted us by carrying out vital resupply trips to staff at the NG3 boreholes in December 2019 and January 2020.
Western Ngamiland March 22nd to 28th photo gallery - Click on each photo for caption:
Central Kalahari Game Reserve update:
Further to our previous post containing images from the first leg of the CKGR portable rainharvester (PRH) installation phase, here are some images from the final trip ending in late March. In all we successfully installed 10 new PRH devices - two in each of the main CKGR villages (Molapo, Metsiamanong, Mothomelo, Gope and Gugamma). The devices were extremely well received now that the communities have had first hand experience in the operation and importance of these "strange" contraptions since we installed the original 5 units in April last year. The provision the additional (new) 10 units has made it possible to allocate at least one PRH device to each of the main family groupings in each CKGR village, thereby reducing the potential for political tensions between different ethnic groups in accessing them. We also used our time in the CKGR to promote awareness of Covid-19 prevention measures and the need for the communities to avoid visiting the settlements outside the Reserve during the current high risk period.
We would like to thank De Beers for kindly covering our costs in manufacturing, supplying and installing these 10 new PRH devices in the CKGR. This is a very meaningful and practical intervention with multiple long terms benefits, including but not limited to:
1. Improved access to clean drinking water supplies, thereby reducing the time and effort normally expended by communities.
2. Improved access to areas with nutritious supplies of wild plant foods (good for self-sufficiency and healthy immune systems) - access to which is normally compromised by lack of water.
3. Reducing dependency on unreliable (temporary and generally unavailable) natural surface water and artificial water supplies (boreholes).
4. Alleviation of the burden on Government through supplementation of water supplies usually trucked to the villages each month over vast distances and at great cost.
5. Reduced environmental impact related to water provision: reduced need for bulk water transportation and/or drilling of new boreholes (and associated carbon foot print).
6. Provision of an ideal climate change coping mechanism under conditions of increasing solar evaporation and increasingly unpredictable rainfall regimes where all rainfall must be efficiently captured and safely protected from evaporation.