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Gloria Mwenge Bitomwa (DRC)

Wildlife conservation is one of the key areas where much efforts need to be invested with if we truly love this planet yet it’s the forgotten aspect of daily management of a country until it’s too late and we all have to start screaming ‘save the planet’. What does save our planet mean? For some suggest that we organize big forums and gather influencers, leaders and politics, others think that it’s not their concerns they prefer living on daily basis yet face the consequences of the climate change. With current pandemic we all have witnessed how fragile life can be, all of a sudden everything collapsed! Formulas, sciences, methods were not effective at all to try and save our planet.

I am one of the few females in the wildlife conservation industry, I’m black I should mention this, and my parents are not millionaires. My passion was nurtured by my dad, a man who loves the nature and who’s devoted to teach young generation the importance of nature preservation. Working to protect the last remaining Eastern Lowland Gorillas on earth has changed my life. Each time I’m in contact with a family of gorillas at Kahuzi Biega National I’m eager to learn more about their behavior, etc. During the so-called lockdown, poachers were freely entering the protected area and therefore sabotaged efforts of 4 generations. Technology has made it easier for some people to work remotely, wow what a nice improvement! Think about it, how do we apply this in wildlife conservation? As for me I think I know it’s not possible if communities surrounding protected areas are still putting pressure. In 2016, we conducted a survey on local value and culture towards conservation, the aim to understand and establish new methods of educating communities on the issue of wild conservation and break the cycle of illegal activities. Surprising was our emotions when we found out that some cultures even believe that their God is a wild animal (Leopard) and nobody is allowed to poach it. Another culture alongside Kahuzi Biega National Park; Rega have a spirit which closes the forest sometimes to allow wild animals to generate. These are only few findings among others, our conclusion was that the economic situation of communities surrounding protected areas is critical, in search for a living they find themselves violating their beliefs and values to feed their homes.

In this field, many have lost their lives, others have given up, only the stronger ones still believe and love their wildlife conservation job. Financial insecurity is a key issue in the management of the wildland everywhere in the world, we depend 80% on donations and grants. Trust me, asking or applying for grants or donations is one of the worst processes while managing an organization. It hurts, each time I send an email explaining why we need to the money for and nobody bothers to answer, I wish I was white and could send that email to fellow white folks in the world as this could bring a different response.

In Africa when we talk about conservation, the first idea in mind is that it’s a white folk field, or it’s a male field. It’s time to learn financial resiliency in wildlife conservation management, most protected areas apart from grants and donations rely on tourism services to generate revenue. Borders are closed, travel restrictions among others have severely affected the tourism industry. As our example, we haven’t been paid our allowances since February 2020 due to lack of funds. One question, what is needed to apply financial resiliency in conservation management? Do we need to teach resiliency courses? Or do we need to create a secured fund to secure and sustain the management of the wildlife services? Or is it a tax that has to be paid to act as a secured source of revenue?

Yes, it’s time to start planning before it’s too late, the conservation job is disappearing. Old rangers need the young and fresh generation to come and learn from their past mistakes with an aim to improve things. Wildlife is valuable both to maintaining ecosystems and economically. Forests and other ecosystems maintained by wildlife are crucial to absorbing carbon, protecting watersheds, soil fertility and more. What is really needed for the long-term survival of Africa’s wildlife is the development of policies and partnerships, which foster as well as recognize communities’ rights and needs as well as investing in sustainable projects around protected areas to create jobs and alternative sources of revenue. Covid 19 has opened our mind and helped us push our mind far, let’s unite for a common cause, put our egos in the pocket and change the wildlife management in Africa.

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Chifundo Chibaka(Malawi)

Recently CorpsAfrica partnered with MasterCard Foundation and as a CorpsAfrica volunteer I was presented with an opportunity to design and work on a Covid- 19 project with the people in my site. The generous grant that was made available was meant to support vulnerable groups of individuals to protect themselves from the pandemic.

I decided to work with the youth in sharing Covid-19 related information in 15 villages within my site. These meetings focused on sharing information and tips on how they can protect themselves, identifying signs and symptoms, effective hand washing practices, making of hand sanitisers and face masks using socks and proper usage and disposal of masks among others. Together with the youth club we managed to share this information plus and 1,300 bars of hand washing soap to over 860 people in their respective villages.

The community meetings were an eye opener for me since I was able to get feedback on the fears the people had and their knowledge about the pandemic. It was encouraging to see others coming to these meetings with face masks and observing social distance without asking them to. It was also an opportunity to clear out some misconceptions that the people had the major one being use of kachasu (locally brewed spirits) to cure the disease.

In addition to that, 5 foot operated hand washing stations were purchased and installed at the local primary and secondary school as well as the local health centre. These hand washing stations will serve an estimated population of over 6000 people (students, teachers, health and patients) who use these facilities.

After noticing the need for teachers to protect themselves as well as the students , a training was also done with the help of a local nurse to train them in making hand sanitiser using methylated spirit and glycerine and start up materials were donated to both schools. This is to complement government efforts since teachers, mother groups and school commitee members were trained in sewing face masks. The support helped the community better prepare against this microscopic enemy that has disrupted our way of living and I doubt if we will go back to it.

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Tshepo Ntokozo Hlope (Kingdom of Eswatini)

Where cases of COVID 19 were reported, there was sealing off of that geographic area, banning entry and exit of population from the containment area, there was closure of schools, offices and banning public gatherings, all suspected cases were isolated, any building including, trade centers were designated as a containment unit for the isolation of the cases.

Nobody was prepared for the Novel Corona Virus, therefore every person shall take steps to prevent the spread of COVID 19 as stipulated by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization. Every Homo sapiens experienced a paradigm shift, who would have thought a shop teller and a petrol attendant would be considered as essential service providers by the Government compared to the civil servants who are well educated. Indeed we were humbled beyond our imaginations, our lives changed within a twinkle of an eye.

In the midst of the lockdown in the Kingdom of eSwatini we discovered that working from home doable, zoom-meetings were effective where public gatherings were banned. A lot of Africans if not everyone started to question the purpose of their existence, people began to realize that our 9-5 jobs were the main of cracks developing in their relationships with their families, spouses and friends. Parents spent quality time with their children, cases of domestic violence were on the rise in society.

If there’s anything we have learnt in the year of 2020 as “Africans” is “humbleness”. Nobody is going to take gatherings for granted, meetings for granted, and paying your last respect to your loved for granted. None.

Email: tshepohlope14@gmail.com

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Puleng Zacharia (South Africa)

August 2020, I have lost count of the number of days that have passed by since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the country-wide lockdown. I live alone with my furball Bambi, but in the first week of August I made a decision to acquire another furbaby, a pure-bred husky with heterochromia eye condition. Why? because Bambi seemed lonely having to watch me work from home yet barely had time to play fetch with her. It must seem strange for her that I was home but never truly available for playtime. I hoped that getting Tyson will help as she has someone to play with while I focused on my work, teaching online and tried in desperation to make headway with my thesis.

See, I teach at one of the well-known institutions and unfortunately with the lock-down, the students have had so many assignments that I find myself almost always having to stay on my laptop to moderate their submissions. If I’m not marking I’m trying to work on my thesis which was proving to be a bit of a headache as I had decided to design my own project instead of having one assigned to me (big mistake I have come to realise!).

I haven’t seen any friends for fear of catching the virus, and like the rest of the country, I was hopeful that the first 21 day lock-down would prove sufficient to contain the spread. Boy, was I wrong! I miss my friends, going to the movies or simply driving home, which is what I would do whenever I felt stressed. I did try once to go to Maseru, drove all the way to the border under the guise that I had some urgent business I needed to conduct in Masianokeng, they wouldn’t let me into the country. On the bright side though, that was a long overdue and quite fulfilling drive.

We are now in level 2 lock-down, I have found a way to go home but I’m too scared to risk it as Lesotho’s numbers are steadily rising. We seem to be stuck on a perpetual game of Russian Roulette_die of the COVID19 infection or depression due to lack of our usual coping mechanisms…. I choose death by exposure to the night’s cold as house training a 2 month old puppy requires one to be outside every 2 hours or so for potty-training.

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Christina Van Hooreweghe Ngoy (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

The new coronavirus 2019, or COVID-19, is an infectious disease that has created a catastrophic global public health crisis. In Africa, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in February 2020 in Egypt. Since then, the pandemic has spread to 53 of 54 African countries. In DRC, the end of the state of health emergency has been announced by the President of the Republic; this implies the normal resumption of social-economic, cultural and educational activities by August 15, 2020, as well as the resumption of inter-provincial travel and the reopening of national borders. Although the end of the state of health emergency has been announced, the coronavirus pandemic remains. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in DRC, official government statistics updated on July 26, 2020, show 8844 confirmed cases, 5700 cured, 2936 active cases and 208 deaths. In the face of this large-scale health crisis, for several months rumours have been circulating in communities with false information about the Coronavirus, its symptoms, its mode of transmission and even its treatment.

For me as a journalist this situation is extremely difficult, because in this context the work of the journalist is not enough to reach the greatest number of people in the community, classical journalism is threatened by informal journalism (community members sharing information by word of mouth or through social networks, regardless of their accuracy, veracity or balance). Furthermore, as activists and change agents, most of our capacity building and training activities for vulnerable groups are limited and others are being stopped to limit the spread of the pandemic through mass activities. The coronavirus pandemic is a situation that handicaps the daily life of many people, including mine, and everyone is trying to adapt and get out as best they can while trying to protect themselves from this disease. In this context, as an activist and journalist I am doubly involved in order to contribute to the implementation of strategies and means of sharing reliable, accurate and balanced information on the fight against the coronavirus and the post-Covid-19 period for communities through women and young people.

I’m a journalist who addresses gender and sexual based violence through media in the Eastern part of DRC. I’m actually working with a thematic radio station called MAMA RADIO where I’m journalist, redactor in chief of the young journalist and trainer.
I’m also an active member of the Congolese Women Media Association, AFEM that aims to promote of women’s rights. And I’m a member of Future Hope Africa where work in the promotion and development of young girls, as well as in the preservation of the environment.
In 2017, some young people from the African Great Lakes region and I proceed with a creation of a non governmental development organization and which I’m currently lead as president. Our organization ComChaMa (Let’s start the change now) is committed to the defense of human rights, health, and the promotion of entrepreneurship among vulnerable people and democratic values.

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Sesséa Lidwine Ganmavo (Benin)

So many first times, and still you have to dare!

Cloth mask turned into clothing pageant washed every morning simultaneously with my personal belonging! Monthly budgeting of Artemisia (plant of the family of sagebrush, real bomb against malaria I’ve been told, and maybe in herbal medicine, a cure for this virus). Although the systematic washing of hands, with water and soap with or without bleach, throughout the day was part of my routine, I could not imagine that I would wash my hands when I went into a supermarket, a pharmacy even less in a bank, the hairdresser, in front of an ATM, in short after each activity or after exchanging an object with a third person. I was not before this pandemic, neither a woman who enjoyed the crowd baths, nor a partygoer but today, the little fun activities I had is reduced to the whole desert! The list of restrictions is so long! But basically, what has changed in my daily life? I was a sports fanatic, now I do not go to the gym anymore, I can’t do group sports anymore, I just walk 10 to 12 kms on Saturday and Sunday mornings. My body has changed, and I gained weight, because accustomed to many more exercises and movements. Some friends tell me I’m very pretty as well, but this body is not mine! An accounting manager by definition, I got out of traditional accounting at an early age and chose the Management aspect of my work. I am An Administrative Manager, Assistant in Organisation and Management in a project funded by the European Union. Unfortunately, this is the kind of job that doesn’t really allow you to consider a career plan beyond assistance. But imagine that with the COVID-19 pandemic, the whole world realized that it was possible to work from anywhere on earth and be productive! And since, the project in which I work, is composed of international experts who during this period of health watch, preferred to return to their families, this created a boon for me to replace ‘assistance’ to the ‘coordination’ of the project. My superiors did not expressly tell me but tacitly I took the reins! Do you know how this happened? THE FEAR OF LOSING MY JOB! That’s what happened What is the use of an Assistant if there is no one to attend! I started to take initiatives, coordinate the actions of the Technical Assistants working from their respective countries, from the headquarters in Paris, and the beneficiaries to this project remained satistified. Professionally, I have gained a lot of experience, responsibilities and leadership since the beginning of this pandemic and today, I plan as soon as I have the opportunity, to do small training and certifications that will allow me later to consider evolving my career and apply why not for a position of project coordinator. I once told a friend that on the day of the great divide, I would say, ”I have no regrets”! My life at 40, is perpetuated by so many “first times” that the impact of the pandemic on my life is only a logical continuation of an astral plan!

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Hugues Lokossa(Benin)

COVID19 has become the bedrock for social entrepreneurship in Benin.

I had already made my decision to leave my former employer because I wanted a new challenge that would put me on the frontline of the difficulties my country faces, but I did not know that I was going to experience uncertainty in this dimension. I left a long-term contract for a 6-month consultation. I was going to become a consultant in the health sector for the first time in my career. My collegues thought it was reckless, a risk to leave a comfortable position when there is no guarantee what’s so ever to get another job after 6 months. But for me it was a matter of getting up every morning knowing that I was going to work to make a difference in the life of the Beninese. I felt I had a responsibility and, beyond that, an opportunity.

The trigger came after President Barack OBAMA’s speech during his visit to Accra, Ghana, in which he said, among other things, that Africa had enough strongmen and now needs strong institutions. And while I was thinking more concretely about how to implement this, COVID19 began to wreak havoc, sow terror and challenge all ecosystems. It took only a few weeks for the future to become uncertain even for people like me whose future seemed still guaranteed. This pandemic put each country before its responsibilities and gave more weight to the charter of social entrepreneurship that I had drafted and set out to adopt.

Indeed, In this first consultancy, I work for the platform of all private sector actors working in the health sector in Benin. My official mandate is to develop activities that will allow this platform to generate resources and gradually increase its overall self-financing capacity and this suited me perfectly because it goes in line with my aspirations. My personal mandate is to build the kind of structures that would live longer than their founders and I still think that this is really the kind of initiative that my country needs.

Unlike traditional businesses, social entrepreneurship focuses on maximizing gains in social satisfaction, rather than maximizing profit gains. Today, in the face of COVID-19, developing countries must adopt social entrepreneurship, the only way that combines profit and social development together as one and the same entity to foster growth. In the health sector for example, there is opportunity for the private sector to get together and manufacture or produce goods and services they traditionally buy overseas, thus creating more resources for their growth and to face pandemics like COVID19 through their association.

I know today even more than yesterday that the purpose of my existence is to make social entrepreneurship the engine for the development of my country and I thank COVID-19 for this boost. Nevertheless, without the barrier gestures all this will be futile. So, do me a favor and to stay alive to be living witnesses to the result. Yes, I am talking to you.

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Allan Nasoro (Malawi)

The perilous Covid-19 pandemic is a revolutionary multifaceted health problem that has affected every country across the globe. According to the World Health Organization the pandemic has affected over 5 million people and has claimed over 362 Thousand lives globally as of 30th May 2020. Malawi is no exception as it has 279 confirmed cases and 4 deaths, with this seemingly small statistic it is easy for one to say we are lucky when compared to other countries.

If you ask me, the multifaceted nature of the pandemic in terms of its colossal effects, has made it a difficult threat to tackle, even for the brilliant of experts in all sectors of society. Covid-19 has not only affected the already stifled health systems in Malawi, but also those who struggle for survival on the streets, business owners, security systems and the daily lives of individuals like you and me.

Of all these effects, one which is profound from my lenses, is the uncertainty that comes with the pandemic that has caused us to reflect and question our ways of living which we have historically considered normal in our cultural, business and professional contexts.

Before the pandemic it was tempting to believe that leaders exclusively controlled the fate of their constituents based on cumulative decisions and activities made on a daily basis. However, I came to a quick realization that this exclusivity notion is false and leaders cannot control every aspect of their environment and some things are beyond human control. As evidenced through the reality Covid-19 which kicked in by the president’s declaration of a national disaster on 20th March 2020, which was followed by a proposed three week national lock down from 18th April to 9th May 2020. Even though the lockdown was challenged, there and then I knew that my common opinion that Covid-19 pandemic would have little influence on our daily lives and business was off the mark, the pandemic has in fact caused life as we know it to radically shift in important ways that will still be felt in the days to come.

Numerous examples from world history document the long term effects of phenomena in the redefinition of cultures. Our way of living as I know it was changing right before my nose. Suddenly I could no longer shake hands with friends willy-nilly, washing hands before carrying out any task was quickly becoming the new norm, hand sanitizers were the new house hold favorite, whispering in a friend’s ear was quickly becoming a taboo all in the name of social distance, travel plans were deterred.

As hopeless and as redefining the situation may seem, Covid-19 has given us an opportunity to have introspective discussions with ourselves about our global view of life. As we are maneuvering through these difficult times it will be essential to embrace the change it brings in our personal and professional lives. Most importantly let us remain hopeful, for hope is the only way we are going to sustain ourselves and edify others.

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Dr. Kopano N. Mokale (South Africa)

Day 55 of South Africa’s lockdown and I am in my private study with a cup of rooibos tea, while Lo-Fi jazz sets the mood. As one of three public clinicians serving the community of Pampierstad, South Africa, this is a far-cry from what I have been bracing myself for, or what I would normally be doing. Seeing that I am not only a Rural Medical Doctor, but a Reiki Practitioner, Philosopher, Artist, and passionate advocate for Mental Healthcare, I tend to keep a busy schedule. Nonetheless, in a time of global crisis I am having a cup of tea.

I have been tracking this virus since January 2020, witnessing how its devastation was mushrooming all over the globe. Terrified, I would lay awake at night ruminating on how to be ready for something so rare yet so devastating. In addition to that, I had to consider how this would affect the fledgling project I had undertaken with my brother, Vincent “Chicco” de Koker. Thus, my story goes far beyond just being a doctor during a pandemic. Vincent “Chicco” de Koker, is an actor, writer, director, and a Khoi San activist, we had teamed up to produce content in rural Hartswater. We worked with other local artists and film school graduates, some with a history of Mood Disorders and some with substance dependency. We had set out to create content exploring issues experienced by the local youth and to bring Mental Healthcare in Rural Areas into the Overton Window. Our content is still available for free consumption on YouTube on the Barweng Television channel.

We were about to conclude the first phase of our project, where we were creating short pieces of work sporadically while learning how to balance group dynamics and the production process. We had set out this year to do two major pieces. The first being a full-length feature film set around livestock theft. Our second piece being “Siek Manne” is a solo piece for the stage; being an adaptation from a piece I wrote in 2016, from my anthology Vertical Slits (or Words Made from Letters), it is a tale exploring gender-based violence from the abuser’s point of view. However, with the pandemic looming we cannot commence with our projects. Our projects have operatives and stakeholders spanning three provinces, and with the lockdown in place…. Everything has come to a stop.

Yet, I assure you that I am not complaining. I live in an area where the first few cases in South Africa were concentrated, and through the efforts and wisdom of my colleagues, we have managed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and avoid mortality. So, what! My schedule has gone from a frantic crusade for improving the Human Experience to a mild philosophical pause; COVID-19 is still an ongoing threat. Thus, we all need to exercise patience and do what is asked of us to spare human life.

Humanity will prevail!

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Thakane Rethabile Shale (Lesotho)

Lessons while in Lockdown

By Thakane Rethabile Shale

Kingdom of Lesotho.

Ecclesiastes 3 verse 1-8 says ” There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens: A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal”… and also apparently due to Covid-19, a time to sit at home and twiddle our thumbs in an existential crisis suffered as a collective.

I met the news that there was an outbreak of a new virus in Wuhan China with pity for my fellowmen; liberally so as I imagined that the tangible stuff of the disaster would never knock on my door; the virus would not affect me. In our remote corner of Africa, undiscovered by most of the world and spared by disaster, we had lived through Swine Flu and Ebola virus and come out the other side in tip top condition. I was confident that in a short time this too would be contained. I had never been more wrong. The virus was declared a pandemic on March 11 2020.

Indeed, we would see the other side but I would be in questionable condition. Almost three weeks after the outbreak I was retrenched due to markets crashing and my employer having to halt a capital raise we had put most of our hopes on. Three weeks after I had generously bestowed pity on the Chinese, I required that I have a little of it myself. I was on lockdown, unemployed, panicked and unable to go for a walk to clear my head and think things through.

The first few days of the lockdown were the scariest days I have ever experienced. I had no income to depend on. I was in a country landlocked by another whose confirmed cases were rapidly increasing and it seemed only a matter of time before the virus would come for me. My mind wondered to entertain thoughts of mass graves filling the countryside. The capacity of our health systems was in question as those of developed countries crumbled under the Covid- 19 weight. This was Lesotho; fear was amplified and contained within impassable South African borders, echoing back and forth, and I waited to die.

A few days later while going through Facebook, I saw a post from an acquaintance offering to deliver people’s groceries for a cheap fee. I ordered a few things because I was not about to go outside and risk the Rona catching me. Then there was a second post of a young woman selling maize, then another selling potatoes, and on and on it went with young people selling fresh produce, meat and hand sewn facemasks. Social media became a trading post and orders reaching their owners was a communal effort. The seller’s relative who lived next to a buyer’s neighbour would move orders along and so on and on it went. Those unacquainted with mobile money services quickly learned. Life continued on.

For the first time people were religiously buying from young local farmers. Within our collective fear we found something else to bring us together, collectively supporting our own. Whenever someone posted on social media that they had a certain food to sell not only did we buy but we also shared the post till it reached thousands of people. I loved it. This camaraderie brought us a sense of purpose, we calmed down, we were a little less distressed – happier! Sure, jobs were being lost and that was painful but there was a certain hope that came with being united in supporting young people; like we were collectively nurturing our hope. Let it not go unmentioned that their produce was organic!

Personally I was able to finish Tolstoy’s War and Peace. A friend who used to work for the brewery brewed her own cider due to the fact that we could not buy alcohol. People learned to cook. Health and fitness was prioritized and many started exercise routines. We discovered passions long forgotten due to time constraints. Families kept in touch, broken friendship were mended and we fixed relationships with ourselves. As we prepared to die we learned to prioritize life and started to live it authentically.

As we waited for news each day an emerging trend started to appear, yes Africa had cases climbing but not as bad as the world had predicted. The mass graves littering the streets of Africa were nowhere to be found. As a continent we were not at all the hardest hit. With no western ountry coming up with a solution we had begun to find our own solutions, we sewed our own masks, we fashioned running water taps with whatever rudimentary objects we could find, we bought from our own local farmers, we revolutionized the cleanliness of our taxi industry and the crowning feather in our cap, Madagascar; they came up with a cure for the virus. Yes, there are many that doubt the efficacy of the medicine but their cases have declined and other countries, in and outside of Africa ordered their cure. Africa rose to the challenge and while the crisis is far from over we can say we found solutions. We did it together and we are a little more confident in our abilities. collectively and individually!