As part of its Conservation Heroes COVID-relief drive, Wilderness Safaris Botswana is distributing a further 1 300 food hampers to vulnerable families in over 10 communities during September 2021. Since the start of the campaign in April 2020, the company has distributed more than 224 tonnes of food to 12 different settlements and communities across Botswana, positively impacting over 28 000 people.

The September food distribution takes place within the Okavango Community Trust (OCT) villages, as well as Sankoyo, Shorobe, Matsaudi, Tubu and Habu, and the Matlapana ward in Maun. This follows generous donations to Eretsha Village in July, as well as previous donations throughout 2020 and early 2021 in an effort to support families hard-hit by the pandemic.

“We are extremely grateful for the unstinting support from our Chairman’s Foundation, international guests, donors and local partners. They have enabled us to make such an important contribution to our community partners during this time, positively impacting thousands of people who have been severely affected by the loss of tourism revenue caused by COVID-19”, noted Moalosi Lebekwe, Children in the Wilderness Botswana Programme Coordinator. 

To date, Wilderness Safaris Botswana has spent over USD250 000 on supplies; however, taking into account all other in-kind contributions – for instance, transportation provided free-of-charge by OTL in Maun, and lodging and meals for all the volunteers covered by the company – the total value of the relief operation is now close to USD350 000.

“With the livelihoods of whole communities – reliant on the travel industry as their sole source of revenue – affected by the pandemic, we did not hesitate to engage them and see how best we could support them during this difficult time”, explained Lesh Moiteela, Wilderness Safaris Botswana Cultural Ambassador and Community Relationship Manager. “It is critical that the rural communities understand the importance of conservation, its relevance in their lives, and the benefits it delivers, even when the travel industry is going through its biggest crisis”.

As well as food hampers, Wilderness has made a number of instrumental community investments aimed at creating sustainable income-generating streams. In 2020 the company contributed BWP800 000 to a local conservation farming project, aiming to mitigate human-wildlife conflict, in the OCT around Vumbura. In the Shorobe community, two boreholes were repaired for community use, and a 10 000-litre water tank was donated to the community of Sexaxa, where there had been minimal water resources for daily use. Wilderness Safaris’ non-profit partner, Children in the Wilderness, has also been assisting schools with stationery and equipment needed to ensure their post-pandemic operational readiness.

“With the pandemic’s impact far from over, we are firmly committed to supporting and engaging with our community partners for the long term, and are doing everything possible to encourage the return of travel to our beautiful country. We are inspired to see so many of our staff receiving vaccinations, and to note an upward trend in bookings. With stringent health and safety, and COVID-specific, protocols in place, our guests can rest assured that they will be taken care of every step of the way – from the minute they touch our business, and throughout their journey; knowing that just by travelling with us, they are making a positive difference”, concluded Lesh.  

Renowned Olympus photographer and judge in Wilderness’ 2021 Africa in Focus Photographic Competition, Brooke Bartleson, was privileged to attend the food handover at Eretsha in July.

Watch this short video highlighting her experience.

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