The COVID-19 pandemic has swept through countries and continents causing untold human suffering, social upheaval and economic damage. The pandemic is a human health crisis and now more than ever, we need to stand in solidarity as a global community for humanity.
In Namibia, there has been a countrywide lockdown since 27 March in order to decrease the spread of the virus. Like many other countries, this directly affected the tourism industry and all the conservation efforts that depend on it. The lockdown has also impacted the daily activities of many support services towards conservation. Field based NGOs within the CBNRM programme, such as Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), continue as far as possible with essential services to communal conservancies and other community-based organisations.
IRDNC and other field-based organisations such as Namibia Nature Foundation are working with national and regional structures to provide operational and logistical support in the regions in an effort to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst taking maximum precautionary measures for both staff and other stakeholders that they engage with. Support includes distribution of awareness materials and demonstrations to communities on how to use disinfectants to clean hands properly, and other safety measures. IRDNC is also assisting with the distribution of sanitary detergents and awareness posters on COVID-19 and has procured and distributed tippy taps to conservancies and communities. The Namibia Chamber of Environment provided funding for the awareness posters.
Activities such as anti-poaching patrols, human wildlife conflict mitigation and drought relief activities will be maintained. Game guards are taking precautionary measure to protect themselves by wearing protective gloves during patrols.
With the tourism industry being one of the most impacted due to travel restrictions, IRDNC will be assisting conservancies and Joint Venture partners in renegotiating agreements where necessary and assist conservancies in reviewing their budgets to ensure they are in a position to cover salaries and essential activities under the current working conditions.
The Drought Relief Cash-for-Work Project funded by B2Gold mine in Namibia through NCE, was set up as a temporary employment option. The idea is that local residents are contracted to work on a number of community-identified projects, such as clearing of tourism access tracks, potential picnic and campsites as well as clearing routes utilized for wildlife road counts. To date, over 100 community members across 16 sites within 5 conservancies had taken part, earning roughly NAD 294,000 in direct cash payments for their work. More work and cash benefits are expected to be undertaken in the coming months. IRDNC is prioritizing this programme during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist communities and conservancies whose jobs and income are in jeopardy due to the pandemic.
IRDNC attended a Regional Disaster Risk Management meeting regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, in Katima Mulilo. The meeting was led by Honourable Beaven Munali, the Zambezi Regional Council’s Chairperson. IRDNC’s Assistant Director, Dominic Meuma, forms part of the region’s Communication Mobilization Committee on COVID-19 and gave feedback IRDNC’s activities in the fight against the pandemic.
The Communication’s team has and will continue distributing awareness material on coronavirus in Katima Mulilo and communal conservancies. Some materials will be translated into the local language, Silozi. The Governor of Zambezi Region, Honourable Lawrence Sampofu, will further communicate via Silozi Radio and spread awareness against the spread of the virus. This is done in collaborations with the Ministry of Health and Social Services as well as the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, to ensure that correct information about the virus is shared. The Communication Team will schedule meetings with the Traditional Authorities to discuss engagements with communities.
The new novel Covid-19 has not only brought about a health crisis, but it is also hampering global and national economies. Many countries across the globe have introduced lockdowns to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, but this is only a temporary solution.
If there is one thing, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about the much-needed awareness about nature and the interrelation between the environment and the human species. Covid-19 is giving us a lesson and a warning about our environment. Scientists tell us that the virus originated from bats, spread to pangolins through to humans- this remains only a hypothesis still to be proven.
Several studies around the world have proven that the lockdowns have given mother nature a chance to recover from detrimental environmental impacts posed by humans. Scientists are witnessing a big difference in air quality with reduced carbon dioxide, and animals roaming city streets. In just few months, we have seen evidence that it is possible to have clean air, clean water, and clean soil. According to a study done in Chile’s capital Santiago, by the university´s Antarctic Research Group, pollution levels analysis between March 15 and April 14 with the same period in 2019 found contamination fell as much as 30%. In other news, two giant pandas in a Hong Kong theme park have mated for the first time after trying for over ten years during the park's coronavirus closure.
The virus has triggered the much needed thought provoking solutions amongst academics, scientists, organisations and the general public, on how to prevent future outbreaks and to go about moving forward. Everyone seems to have an answer. One thing that echoes around is that, we need to protect our environment-our planet earth. WWF has come up with some fun and engaging apps that will help you learn about climate change, endangered animals, sustainable seafood, how to be more eco-friendly, and give you some tricks on how to do your part to minimise your carbon footprint and more.
As we move forward, hopefully we take the lessons learned from this global pandemic to prevent future environmental pandemics, and that we can take some measure of comfort in the fact that we have power over our future, how we plan to protect our environment, and how that in turn will protect our health.
When it comes to our planet, we really are all in this together.