Supporting Botswana Community Partners During COVID-19 Lockdown

Further to their core commitment to driving community empowerment in Botswana, Wilderness Safaris and Wilderness Air have donated essential supplies worth P33 000 to its long-term Vumbura Concession partners, the Okavango Community Trust (OCT), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. Wilderness Safaris also donated food hampers and hand sanitisers worth P27 000 to 80 families in the Sankoyo community last week, with both donations greatly assisting their neighbours around the Vumbura and Santawani concessions during this difficult time.

“These significant donations from part of our commitment to our long-term community partners, and to help where we can and where the need is. During these uncertain times, it is vital to work closely together to combat COVID-19, and to assist our Government partners in their efforts to ensure that our communities are safe, healthy and receiving the support required to get through this lockdown and beyond”, notes Kim Nixon, Wilderness Safaris Botswana MD.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, community leaders and other individuals, the COVID-19 Committee of Seronga compiled a list of essentials for the OCT, including items such as toilet paper, tissues, detergents, sanitisers, rubber gloves, as well as antibacterial body- and hand soaps. Wilderness Safaris then purchased these materials, and was assisted with a generous donation from Project Sanitise Maun – a small committee that has secured funding from the Maun community to procure and distribute sanitiser within the local region. Wilderness Air donated the flights and use of two aircraft, valued at about P22 000, to deliver these much-needed items to this remote corner of the Delta. The donations will be distributed to residents of the villages that form the OCT: Seronga, Eretsha, Beetsha, Gudigwa and Gunotsoga.

Wilderness Safaris Kwedi Concession Manager Johan von Backstrom, and Kago Paul, Wilderness Air’s Accountable Manager, attended the official handover, which took place at Seronga village on 29 April. According to Johan, “It was a privilege to meet with the Seronga Kgosi, Chairman of the COVID-19 Committee for Seronga and OCT leaders. Our collective efforts were well received, and being able to support our community partners, who we at Vumbura call our family, was a truly humbling experience. We all agreed that we need to stand together to rise up on the other side, and the only way that we can do this is by our continued collaboration between Government, Wilderness Safaris and OCT”.

“We remain inspired by the incredible work being done by Government, front line and essential staff, local organising committees and community leadership to protect our nation. Against this background and our long-standing closeness to the people and communities of Botswana, we wanted to get involved in further relief efforts to the best of our ability”, Kago added. “We thank all who were involved in the distribution of these supplies, including the OCT. Now is a time of unity, support and ‘botho’, which means a deep recognition of another’s humanity and the interconnectedness of all our lives in Setswana”.

With a number of communities affected by COVID-19, Wilderness Safaris Botswana also donated food hampers and hand sanitisers to the Sankoyo community on the 24th of April. With support from Orezone Drilling, the team was able to transport the much-needed supplies to the 80 families in the village, which neighbours the Santawani Concession in the south-eastern Okavango Delta, where Wilderness Safaris’ Gomoti and Santawani camps are situated. This partnership has spanned more than a decade, with Wilderness Safaris paying lease fees to the community via the Sankuyo Tshwaragano Management Trust.

Neil Steedman, Wilderness Safaris Botswana Operations Manager, who attended this handover, commented that the donations were accepted with open arms and will go a long way to ensuring the communities are able to stay safe and at home during this difficult period. “We are all looking forward to a continued partnership in the uncertainty of a post-coronavirus world, and are proud to offer our ongoing support to our valued partners in conservation”, he concludes.