Thursday, April 9, 2020


We are two weeks into the three week lockdown in South Africa, and people are already starting to wonder what will happen this time next week. It’s gone fairly well so far, except for some people who seem intrinsically unable to follow rules, and some overzealous police actions. You can read an unbiased report HERE from the BBC.

In reality, the huge concern here is the economy. We have no lashings of government money to see people through. (What reserves we had were squandered and stolen by the previous president’s kleptocracy.) We started with a high unemployment rate, which is now blowing out of sight, and few people have any significant savings. People are crammed together in informal settlements, although the government is belatedly trying to address some of the issues there.

I'm not really cooped up...
Spotted eagle owl
A couple often pop over at night
So against that backdrop, I’m feeling incredibly lucky to be able to enjoy a wonderful location, still have a couple who come over at night to keep me company, have a regular income, and Stan and I are doing well with our new book. And while feeling so lucky, I received two emails that addressed the other side of the coin.

One is a South African group that is arranging food for schoolkids. The children get lunch at school, and in really poor areas, it may be their only square meal of the day. So with schools closed because of the virus, several groups have sprung up to try to help, jumped in, and tried to fill the gap. One is Frontiers: Youth Serving Youth. Cheslyn Steenberg, the founder of the non-profit, talks about the stream of kids who spot his car arriving piled with sandwiches:
"One child will multiply into hundreds of kids," he says. "I'm telling you, it's like a veld fire." When the food is finished, "there could be 50 odd kids still looking at you and saying silently with their eyes: 'Where's mine?'"

The government is making funds available, but that’s only half the battle. It takes ordinary people to get things done.

How many cheetah?
The other email is from much farther afield—actually in Annamaria’s territory. The Nashulai Maasai conservancy is a remarkable project, conceived, created, and operated by the people themselves. Realising that they lived on a corridor of the migration in the Maasai Mara Serengeti complex in Kenya, the people decided to embrace the wildlife and use it for their livelihoods, not by hunting or fencing it out, but by exploiting the wonderful tourist potential of this globally important ecosystem. It’s a private conservancy of 5,000 acres. Dickson Kaelo, CEO of the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association, says: “Nashulai is the missing link in the puzzle… the most critical connecting corridor for elephants, lions and other migrating Mara Serengeti wildlife.” Their mission is to conserve wildlife, preserve their culture, and reverse poverty.
You can read more about Nashulai HERE.

It was a big ask to get all the local Maasai to buy into the idea, and an even bigger ask to get it off the ground, but they achieved it. The payoff was tourism, and that became the main focus. But with the Covid-19 epidemic, that dried up—not over a period of time but instantly. So now there are no resources for the people or to protect the animals. We tend to think of the impact of the virus on tourism in terms of huge cruise ships packed to the gills, or airlines moving (what seemed like) half the world around. But there are many small operations like Nashulai that are facing the end of their existence.

We can only hope things will improve and help where we can...


  1. Since writing this in the morning, we've been told that the lockdown will extend a further two weeks until the end of April. I still feel lucky...

  2. Oh, Michael, what a yen I now have to go this minute to the Masaai Mara. I hope the Nashulai effort survives. I want to be one of their first guests as soon as we all get our Get-out-of-jail free cards.