These observations on the effects of the pandemic around Kasungu National Park in Malawi by Malidadi Langa, chair, Kasungu Wildlife Conservation for Community Development Association (KAWICCODA), were mirrored elsewhere in the country and on the African continent as travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 disrupted local and international tourism and trade in 2020 and 2021.
“Even before COVID-19, tourism wasn't a silver bullet for poverty reduction. It’s not like these communities were suddenly wealthy from tourism. Many were already struggling,” said Langa, explaining that the small-scale operators participating in the tourism value chain before the pandemic didn’t have the savings to weather the effects of prolonged business interruptions.
In the decade before 2020, international tourism to Malawi was steadily increasing. In 2019, the total contribution of the travel and tourism sector to the country’s GDP was 6.7 percent, and the sector provided close to 516,200 jobs. But when COVID-19 hit in 2020, tourism’s total contribution to the GDP dropped to 3.2 percent, with a loss of 167,000 jobs in the travel and tourism sector.
Launched in 2021 with USD1.9 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the platform is working with local partners in Malawi and 10 other countries to mobilise at least USD15 million in funding to support the most vulnerable COVID-19 affected communities living in and around protected areas and involved in nature-based tourism. KAWICCODA is the African Nature-Based platform’s partner in Malawi, a country with many natural attractions, like Lake Malawi, national parks, and cultural and historical attractions.
“After completing the data collection phase, the African Nature-Based Tourism Platform also supported KAWICCODA to prepare and submit a funding proposal to the BIOPAMA Medium Grants Facility for an Alternative Livelihoods Project as a direct response to the COVID-19 related collapse of tourism around Kasungu National Park. Whether KAWICCODA is awarded the grant or not, the proposal development process itself was a rare and important learning experience for which KAWICCODA remains grateful to the Platform,” said Langa.