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A mokoro poler’s cry

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With borders shut due to Covid-19 pandemic, the tourism industry has been hit hard, but a small community whose economy depended entirely on tourism in the heart of the Okavango Delta has been devastated.

Yarobi Samati, a 60- year old woman of Daonara settlement whose only source of livelihood was offering canoe rides to tourists said mokoro poling was the only skill she had ever monetized since she acquired it from her father when she was a little girl.

The mother of five who earned a living by offering canoe (mokoro) rides to tourists has been left jobless, broke and desperate in her attempt to adapt to the new normal.
“I have been a poler all my life. It is a skill that my father taught me when I was a child. I was making a living through poling and even paid for my children’s education with the proceeds of poling,” Samati narrated.

Although she started with one canoe, by the time Covid- 19 lockdown hit her business had six mekoro valued at P9000 pula each, which are now lying idle.

Pleading with the government to provide financial assistance to small businesses in the tourism industry, Samati argued that without government intervention starvation would quickly set in.

Supporting Samati’s plea, Kgosi Molathegi Wazime of Daonara confirmed that his community has indeed been affected by covid 19 pandemic more than other parts of the country.”

“The economy of Daonara is totally dependent on tourism and may people depended on poling for a living while some were on Ipelegeng Programme. There are no tourists and government has stopped Ipelegeng so we are condemned to starvation,” Wazime lamented.

“Sometimes we do small scale farming but it is of no use since the elephants always destroy our crops. We depend on government food hampers and donations from good Samaritans, “Wazime further explained.

Following the death of Daonara’s small economy, many young people have relocated to Maun in search of greener pastures because there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel for life in the delta.

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