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Assisting Communities during Covid-19

Posted on Thu May 7, 2020.

Our latest round-up of articles and initiatives that focus on assisting communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A rather sobering read comes from The Guardian. An article titled Conservation in crisis: ecotourism collapse threatens communities and wildlife outlines the impact that the pandemic is having on conservation and communities, raising concern about increased poaching, deforestation and increased human/wildlife conflict.

In the article, WWF UK’s executive director of science and conservation, Mike Barrett, says, “It’s right that the global focus now is on protecting human lives in this devastating pandemic. However, in the places we work, we are already witnessing its economic impact, particularly in areas where communities rely heavily on ecotourism for their livelihoods.

“It could be years before these places can fully recover, increasing the risk that people come to rely on other activities to make a living, putting unsustainable pressure on natural resources,” Bartlett says. Definitely worth a read.

In a similar vein, Jennifer Flowers writes on the AFAR magazine website about how the coronavirus is impacting conservation efforts in Africa. In her article titled The Future of Africa’s Wild Places – and Why Safaris Matter, she asks (but doesn’t answer) the big question all of us in the travel/tourism and development industries should be asking:

 “…what happens when tourism stops—and what must happen for conservation to continue when those visitors are no longer coming?”

The luxury tourist’s travel bible, Conde Nast Traveller, recently published an article titled With Safari Tourism on Hold, Locals and Animals Are at Risk. Writer Mary Holland interviewed Hamza Raza, northern head guide at Asilia Africa (among other industry voices), who said:  “In communities, there’s a huge impact—not only for people working in the camps and hotels but also those who have curio shops within or outside the parks. Now there is no business for them.”

The impact is widespread, and the domino effect will continue for an extended period as communities battle with the disappearance of the tourism dollar. Holland mentions a number of excellent initiatives and programmes on the continent where readers or companies can donate to worthy causes.

The Africa Foundation (in partnership with andBeyond) is doing great work during these trying times. Its Building Community Resilience Covid-19 appeal has gone towards implementing initiatives in communities, including repairing of boreholes and pipes to ensure access to water at clinics; medical supplies and PPE to clinics; food relief for the most needy households; and Hippo water rollers for households in water-scarce communities. Read all about their excellent work on The Africa Foundation website.

In Southern and East African Tourism Update, Boitumelo Masihleho asks:  Post-COVID recovery: could intra-Africa travel be the answer? The article gives some interesting insights from the industry, although respondents said that price definitely needs to be considered going forward.