Communities living in SADC TFCAs to benefit from COVID-19 response grants

Thousands of people living in 40 vulnerable communities near Maputo Special Reserve in Mozambique, and around two remote parks in South Africa who lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 will be temporarily employed in the parks in the two countries, thanks to relief grants recently handed over to the communities.

The COVId-19 relief grants, made available by KfW Bank and administered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Eastern and Southern African Regional Office (IUCN ESARO), offer immediate relief for loss of livelihoods as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result, people from these local communities will be employed in the parks and reserves for the next 12 months to assist with conservation activities such as maintenance of park infrastructure like buildings, roads and fences.

The COVID-19 Response Grants are part of the SADC Transfrontier Conservation Areas Financing Facility (SADC TFCA FF) €2 million COVID-19 relief package made available to SADC Members States to mitigate against the impact of COVID-19 in the TFCAs.

IUCN ESARO will disburse the grants to 10 SADC Member States. TFCAs benefiting from the COVID-19 grants include Kavango-Zambezi, Lubombo, Greater Mapungubwe, /Ais /Ais-Richtersveld, Iona-Skeleton Coast, Maloti-Drakensburg and Niassa-Selous. The COVID-19 grants will be implemented by Government entities and their partners who are currently involved in supporting the various initiatives in conserving wildlife resources in the SADC Region.

The initial phase of the SADC TFCA FF currently has investments worth €25 million from the German Government. The COVID-19 package is part of the fast-track funding mechanisms under the Financing Facility. It aims to address emergencies induced by the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures put in place to contain it.

Areas of support under this package include Protected Areas and community conservancies, tourism operations, alternative community livelihoods and related health support. The facility aims to take a demand-driven approach that will respond to emerging crises such as natural disasters and other emergencies which affect conservation operations in TFCAs.

The handover ceremony for the grants to communities near Maputo Special Reserve and the two remote parks of Richtersveld and Mapungubwe national parks in South Africa was held on 3rd May 2022 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The ceremony was attended by representatives of the SADC Secretariat Directorate for Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (FANR), IUCN-ESARO, KfW, and from SADC Member States namely Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and United Republic of Tanzania.

Partners such as the European Union Delegation to Botswana, GIZ-CRNM project, the United States of America's Embassy in Botswana, Kavango Zambezi (KAZA) Biodiverse Landscapes Fund representatives, Peace Parks Foundation and South Africa National Parks (SANPARKS) also attended.

In his speech, Mr Domingos Gove, Director of FANR in the SADC Secretariat, appreciated the flexibility demonstrated by KfW and partners to make available the € 2 million COVID-19 relief package.

Mr Nils Meyer of KfW highlighted the importance of partnerships in addressing challenges related to loss of biodiversity; destruction and fragmentation of ecosystems; and other pressures imposed on the environment by humans.

He said in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the linkage between people and nature has become more apparent and that it has become more important to come up with a funding package that provides relief to people living in TFCAs in conserving biodiversity and maintaining the integrity of SADC's important ecosystems.

Mr Meyer invited more International Cooperating Partners (ICPs) to invest in the SADC TFCA FF to reach the €100 million target and contribute towards sustainable financing mechanisms for biodiversity conservation under the SADC TFCAs.

Mr Vhalinavho Kavhagali of IUCN reiterated his organisation's commitment in supporting critical interventions to mitigate the severe threats to conservation posed by COVID-19.

Mr Miguel Gonçalves, Park Manager, Maputo Special Reserve (ANAC), said the grant will complement another COVID-19 relief mechanism in the park being supported by the World Bank and the MozBio Fund. Peace Parks Foundation (PPF) acknowledged how their partnership with ANAC in Maputo Special Reserve contributes to conservation impacts on the ground.

Acting Chief Executive Officer for SANPARKS, Mr Dumisani Dlamini, appreciated how the grants will contribute towards short-term employment creation for communities living around the two remote parks of Richtersveld and Mapungubwe National Parks, offering immediate relief for loss of livelihoods options as a result of the pandemic.

The Deputy Director General for Biodiversity Conservation in South Africa's Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), Ms Flora Mokgohloa, appreciated the COVID-19 package and reiterated the great need for more funding to unlock the potential for TFCAs to contribute towards biodiversity conservation.