After six months of lockdown, the Namibian government ended travel restrictions and curfews, in light of a drop in new COVID-19 cases. Namibia’s economy during the COVID times has taken a major hit on wildlife tourism. Communal conservancies play an important role in sustainable development in Namibia.
People who live on conservancy land are granted rights to utilize wildlife sustainably which benefits wildlife management and tourism and has less incentive to trade illegally in animal parts. The conservancies protect and even recover wildlife supported by the UN Development Programme built back the population of animals lost to poachers. This success now risks being undermined by COVID-19 as Namibia’s Ministry of Tourism is expecting zero tourist arrivals for the entirety of 2020.
The conservancies alone bring in $3.2 million in income supposedly. Due to the pandemic, tens of thousands of conservancy jobs are left in jeopardy. With many people more desperate for food and income than before, poaching is expected to increase, yielding valuable products for local consumption.
“Namibia is facing three challenges at once,” explains Alka Bhatia, UNDP Namibia Resident Representative. In response, UNDP and the WHO are supporting the government by procuring medical supplies. UNDP also collaborated with the UNIC in the capital, and WHO on health education initiatives, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“For the long-term health of the Namibian economy, the communal conservancies must survive,” says Ms Bhatia. “The conservancies are one of the biggest tent poles holding up the national economy. If they fall, then a lot more will collapse around them.”The loss of natural areas, as well as the poaching and consumption of wildlife, increase the chance that viruses will jump from animals to humans which leads to more economic crises, more poverty, more hunger.