The Covid-19 pandemic has been especially harsh on those countries that have poor economies and struggling health systems. Many of the developing countries in which we operate (largely Africa and Nepal), moved immediately into extreme isolation, shutting down business and borders to protect vulnerable populations who don’t share the privileges of medical infrastructures that we do.
As you know, tourism is the heartbeat of the destinations Epic travellers visit.
To set the scene, Epic’s great supporter and TV personality here in Australia, Simon Reeve, has put together a short video.
Tourism builds local capacity and employment, empowering local communities to help provide food, shelter, educate children and overcome the constant threat of poverty. Tragically with the global shut down of the tourism sector, many of the staff in the lodges and camps, their families and wider communities dependent on the tourism industry, are on minimal, if any, income. Safari operators are doing their utmost under dire circumstances, but with little clarity on the timeframe of recovery, this situation will become desperate in the months ahead. Unlike developed economies, where governments are providing a degree of financial assistance, employees in many developing countries have no such safety net.
In addition, the conservation of wilderness areas is heavily dependent upon the empowerment of local communities and ensuring the security and management of these habitats. The people, their culture and these unique natural environments are facing the gravest peril. As I write, rhino poaching incidents in Botswana and South Africa have increased in the last month, the bush meat trade is escalating and according to my old friend Map Ives, founder of the nonprofit organisation, Rhino Conservation Botswana … “It’s a bloody calamity. It’s an absolute crisis.” It has been reported that 35 rhino have been poached in recent times from the central region of the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
Now more than ever, we need to ensure ongoing conservation efforts. Having “eyes and ears” on the environment is crucial, but this comes at a cost. Dark forces are at play to take advantage of the Covid crisis.
With this in mind, Epic is seeking your help.
Many of you will be familiar with the places and operators we are supporting. Indeed, many of you have visited these areas and camps and hence have first-hand experience. This makes this appeal all the more personal.
This appeal focuses on two key outcomes:
To support conservation efforts in these wild areas through funding wildlife monitoring and anti-poaching efforts.
To assist the staff and families of our key suppliers. In developing countries, the impact of reduced income to one employee directly affects their extended family.
Every dollar donated will make a difference and as always we are very grateful for your support. Importantly all donations are guaranteed in full, to reach those in need.
Many of our partners have social and conservation programs already in place with the communities in the areas they operate. They’ve recently directed these programs to focus on the complex issues arising out of Covid 19. You will find a detailed description of how your donation can make a difference, including links to company websites, foundations and newsletters, at the bottom of the page, or click here to go directly there.
Importantly, a number of these organisations have tax exemption status in United States (US registered 501c3 charity) and the United Kingdom.
If you would prefer Epic to manage your donation, you can deposit funds into our account and we will process it from there. Please reference your payment ‘Epic Covid’.
If you wish to donate in AUD $ please pay by electronic transfer to:
Account name: Epic Expeditions Pty Ltd Trust Account
Bank: Westpac Banking Corporation
Branch code: 034013 – 89-91 Boundary St, West End QLD 4101
Account No: 178719
Swift Code: WPACAU2SXXX
If you wish to donate in USD $ please pay by electronic transfer to:
Account name: Epic Expeditions Pty Ltd USD Account
Bank: Westpac Banking Corporation
Branch code: 034702 – 80 George Street, Parramatta NSW 2150 Australia
Account No: 411416
Swift Code: WPACAU2SXXX
Please let us know the details of your donation via email to Brad Horn (firstname.lastname@example.org) so that we can ensure your donation goes to the initiative you wish to support.
Feel free to contact Brad direct by phone +61 415348697 or email if you have any questions regarding the appeal.
I want to say a very big thank you for your support.
As ever, I am very grateful.
See below for an update on how the donations have made a difference. For further information on individual companies and how you can donate please scroll down to the bottom of the page.
COVID APPEAL UPDATE
The impact of Covid has been profound – particularly on rural communities dependent on tourism and on wildlife conservation. Generous donations to Epic’s Covid Appeal have made a big difference in Africa and Nepal in the following ways:
- Food hampers and other essentials such as blankets
- Supporting anti-poaching teams – helicopter and vehicle surveillance
- Mobilisation of extra de-snaring teams who also keep a critical presence in unpatrolled areas
- Supporting small sustainable businesses – cooperative farms
- Sanitation and water supplies – water storage tanks and boreholes
- Assisting government and working with the local village leadership to deliver support
- Development and distribution of education material to reduce the spread of Covid
Every single contribution, no matter how big or small, makes a significant difference.
Here is a video LINK for an update of the situation in Botswana and the impact of the food hampers to date.
Kim Nixon, Managing Director of Wilderness Safaris Botswana, describes ‘an increasing scale of hardship’ witnessed in his team’s ongoing outreach to villages surrounding the Okavango Delta, and Bushman families within the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). All have been seriously impacted by the fallout associated with Covid-19.
‘The bottom line is that the works have literally changed a heap of lives and the food hampers do have a huge effect influencing food security in the positive.’
People in these rural, extremely remote villages are either unemployed, doing subsistence farming (livestock or food staples), or working in jobs related to tourism or government. With the onset of Covid-19 and lockdown, people are staying at home on reduced or no salaries. Supplies in many of these villages are extremely limited. Botswana’s government, through local village leadership, began reaching out to Wilderness for assistance, to add to government’s already significant efforts. By the time December arrives, the people’s stored grains will be long gone and ploughing will only have just commenced. A further 6 month State of Emergency in the country which precludes international traveller arrivals means tourism remains on its’ knees. The plan is to reach and exceed over 2000 food hampers to the rural villages, to really ensure deep support to help see the families through the Christmas period.
Wilderness contributes directly to the communities, where they have long-term commitments, partnerships, and alliances, and many of their colleagues hail from. The hampers contain staples such as beans, maize, rice, sorghum; soap and washing powder; toothpaste and toothbrushes; corned beef; matches; sugar; tea; cooking oil, blankets, and a few other items – enough to feed a family of four to six for one month. Staff utilise Wilderness Safari’s vehicles to deliver the hampers to families under the guidance of local leadership. The goods are handed over in a ceremony to the chief (and/ or the District Commissioner/ representative) of each village and donors are acknowledged. Getting the food to the neediest, has presented a host of challenges. ‘It took us 11 hours to drive 500 km to Seronga’, Kim says. ‘Tiring and testing roads, with potholes deep as a donkey standing’.
Since mid-April, the team has delivered:
- 2757 food hampers to the most vulnerable families in the deep rural villages and settlements of Botswana.
- 19 individual food runs, spanning Ngamiland and the Central district, deep in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. This included five Bushman settlements (all 83 families within the Central Kalahari Game Reserve), who also received two blankets per family to survive the plummeting night-time temperatures in the Kalahari.
- All trucking is donated for the deliveries, including 10-12 Wilderness staff on for the food run with 3-4 cruisers to absolutely ensure all food is personally delivered and guaranteed to get to the vulnerable.
To date Wilderness has distributed around 85 tons of food aid. This represents a meaningful contribution to food security in a portion of the country almost entirely reliant upon tourism revenues, currently non-existent.
The Village Development Committees and Social Workers, in conjunction with the village leadership (Dikgosi) highlighted the need for drinking water storage tanks and for food hampers. Wilderness Safaris responded by giving a 10,000 litre tank for the Sexaxa Community (where they had no running potable water) in addition to raising funds for food hampers. These were to donated to the community leaders to distribute to their most vulnerable people.
Wilderness – Antipoaching
Antipoaching activities include monitoring of concession areas via game drive vehicle to deter and check evidence of poaching activity in the Linyanti (Kings Pool Camp, Duma Tau Camp, Savuti Camp, Linyanti Tented Camp), Vumbura (Vumbura Plains Camp, Little Vumbura Camp) and Mombo areas (Mombo Camp, Little Mombo Camp). Vehicles cover on average between 73km and 130km per day.
Surveillance and mapping of the Linyanti area via helicopter has been undertaken to assess any damage caused by poachers that may have infiltrated beyond the areas patrolled by the Botswana Defence Force into the tourism concession areas. Surveillance covered most areas historically poaching targets and found no new poached carcasses of elephant in the Linyanti area.
NATURAL SELECTION – Covid-19 Village Support Programme.
The COVID-19 Village Support Program is transporting food parcels to remote villages in Botswana and Namibia to improve nourishment of communities in the face of this unprecedented viral threat. Additionally, the Feed-a-Child Program will continue regardless of school closings and the Elephant Express buses will be on the road in the northern Okavango Delta assisting people with access to clinics via dangerous elephant corridors and with school transport as and when schools reopen.
Donations have helped us provide monthly food to well over 3,500 people living alongside wildlife areas. The food parcels have had a huge positive impact on families and potentially on the prevention of bushmeat hunting in wildlife areas. Now that Botswana has extended its State of Emergency for another 6 months, we are grateful to have such donations that help us to continue to the end of 2020 and are busy preparing auctions to raise additional funds. We are looking forward to hosting Nigel Amos (Botswana Olympic runner) who will be assisting with our next food delivery on 24 Oct 2020.
The fund also helped develop and distribute important health pamphlets in both the local language and English to educate families about reducing the spread of Coronavirus virus. Click here to view the pamphlet.
NOMAD EMPLOYEE FUND – TANZANIA
Through this fund Nomad have supported 145 staff with funds to help them address some of their most pressing needs:
- 49 individuals to pay their house rent;
- 43 received a contribution for their children’s school fees;
- 27 supported their family and general home expenses; and
- 70 staff to buy food for themselves and their dependants.
The situation Covid in Tanzania was further compounded by severe floods that destroyed a lot of people’s farms and crops, that they were relying on for food or income.
‘We are proud to have partners like yourselves who really rally support in times of need. Asante Sana from all of us.’
BUSHCAMP COMPANY – ZAMBIA
Commit to Clean Water Initiative
Bushcamp Company’s aim has always been to improve the lives of the local people in the Mfuwe area. In 2014 we embarked upon an ambitious project to provide safe, clean water to villages in the local community. Most of us take it very much for granted that, with the simple act of turning on a tap, clean, safe water will always be available. But we are the lucky ones, around half of the world’s population lacks this most basic of life’s necessities. In the Luangwa valley, local communities are growing rapidly in size, and most villagers still have no convenient access to safe, clean water.
Safe, clean water is available, but it is stored underground. To reach it, deep boreholes need to be drilled and central pumps provided. This is not a difficult task, but requires funding and organisation. The Bushcamp Company, in conjunction with generous donors, has already embarked on an ambitious project to provide several boreholes in various village locations. Each borehole costs around US$7000 to construct, including hand pump and drain. With continuing donor support, we plan to extend this project to other needy areas.
By the end of 2019 we had provided 115 new boreholes, with 20 more already planned for 2020. Each borehole benefits over 300 people per day by providing safe, convenient access to clean water.
This is a project that we consider to be vital to the wellbeing of our local communities, providing tangible benefits to thousands of people.
The Epic donations funded one of the bores. For more information on the commit to clean water initiative click here.
SUMMITS AFRICA COOPERATIVE FARM TANZANIA
The Summits Africa Cooperative Farm has been set up to generate alternative income for the climbing and trekking guides and porters whose work has come to a standstill during Covid – 19. Summits Africa staff (camp attendants, guides, porters) are running the farm and preparing the land for planting. They are growing a range of produce: onions, tomatoes, chives, peppers, beans, and maize. They have also built fishponds to grow tilapia and use the water to fertilise the crops from the fish waste. The long-term visionary plan is for the farm to provide fresh local produce to Summits Africa’s climbs and treks and other tourism businesses in the area. This diversification means they will have a means to support their families and the broader community.
ALEX WALKER SERIAN TANZANIA- MISSION POSSIBLE DE-SNARING TEAM
(images by Zanne Labuschagne)
‘Every snare they remove equals another animal saved… Thank you for helping us.’
Alex Walker’s Serian Company have built on a highly successful Serengeti National Park de-snaring programme the “Serengeti Mission Possible” Campaign originally developed by the Frankfurt Zoological Society. In coordination with the Tanzanian National Park Management staff, the Campaign utilises the now unemployed tourism workforce. Provision of employment to these individuals, can prevent a return to illegal activity. Donations have enabled mobilisation of extra de-snaring teams who also keep a critical law enforcement presence in areas that would be otherwise unpatrolled as tourism continues to lag and budget shortages hit.
Currently there are 4 teams operating in the local area, north and south of the Mara River. Historically wildebeest herds, numbering in the region of 1.6 million, traverse the 300 km migratory routes of the Serengeti Ngorongoro ecosystem.
The teams work on shifts of 6 weeks on 2 weeks off. Setting out at 6 pm for all night anti-poaching patrols, they use binoculars and other simple night vision optics to spot poacher’s torchlight, often apprehending individuals in the act of laying snares. After a short break they return to the field again to areas of suspected activity and conduct foot patrols in search of recently laid snares. It is a long day’s work (16 hours), for minimal salary in dangerous conditions.
The teams have removed 2,926 snares, arrested 36 meat poachers, and destroyed 18 poacher camps. Whilst they found 129 animals dead in the snares including 3 lions, they were able to release 40 animals. This included wildebeest, zebra and two elephants requiring sedation as snares were removed from their trunks.
The work is continual, on-going, and effective. Donations help to keep these teams active and engaged in the field by providing basic salaries, food, vehicle running costs and waterproof ranger’s coats.
SHANGRI –LA NEPAL TREK P. LTD
(SNT staff last season at Everest Base Camp and more recently at their Office in Kathmandu)
With no work available during the Covid pandemic, many of the trek and climb staff from Shangri-la Nepal Trek returned to their families in the rural villages of Nepal. Jiban Ghimire, Managing Director of the Company has used the donated funds to pay wages to his staff both in Kathmandu and the villages. These funds will help the families to cover at least 6 months living expenses. There is hope that international borders will open in time for the April/May 2021 season and they can go back to work.
Organisations and Donation Opportunities
Below are the Companies we are supporting and ways you can help them. Click on the plus sign beside the organisation to reveal the information.