The Luangwa is one of the last free flowing rivers in Zambia. Last year, plans to build a hydropower dam on the Luangwa River were halted. This saved a lot of wildlife as well as community livelihoods. In the South Luangwa National Park, home to many species of wildlife, Mfuwe town is the starting point for trips and safaris. Most of the population survives through tourism related business or employment.
All bookings cancelled
“Covid-19 has affected a large percentage of our population”, explains Carlos B. Mulenga, CEO of the Community Talent Foundation. “For instance, those working as safari guides, waiters, drivers or receptionists, they all are employed by tourism operators or businesses. In some lodges, all bookings for 2020 were cancelled. Many people were laid off. This has resulted in an increase in poaching as an alternative way to earning a living.” Unfortunately, this problem doesn’t only occur in Zambia, as shown by an article in National Geographic.
During the corona crisis, civil society organisations like the Community Talent Foundation are trying to help wherever they can. “We informed the community about the effects of the virus and the necessary safety measures. In addition, through the help of a grocery store based in Mfuwe, we donated handwashing products and sanitizers to two health clinics.”
Anxiety and a feeling of uncertainty
But it’s uncertain how the community will deal with this in the long term and how organisations as Community Talent Foundation can continue their work. As an earlier unofficial survey among Zambian civil society organisations at the end of March indicated, there is anxiety and a feeling of uncertainty amongst staff. More than 70% of the activities already came to a standstill (source: Zambian Governance Foundation).
Support each other
“For the South Luangwa National Park, Covid-19 has its merits and demerits”, Mr Mulenga adds. “During this pandemic, nature has been given a chance to flourish and regenerate freely, as human activities have drastically reduced. However, tourism is the main source of income here. It's now more important than ever that we as civil society organisations support each other. Because we are fighting an enemy without a face.”