Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Leopards, Lions and Cheetahs, Oh My!

By Jimmy D.
On Sunday March 4th we had just returned from our homestay in Katutrua, which means “The place where people do not live”. To me it was quite the opposite. My family was welcoming and helpful in teaching me their culture. We had just attended Church and returned back to the house for our last meal before they had to drop me back at CGEE. My family did not want to drop me off, and I didn’t want to go either. After spending a week in their home we had built a good relationship that I hope to expand on during my time here by visiting them often and joining them for dinner.  After being gone for a week it was strange being back at CGEE, but then transition went well, it was nice to all be eating dinner as a group again and talking about our experiences in our homestay, considering we all had vastly different conversations and interactions it was very interesting to compare and contrast our week away from each other.
           On Monday we started our regular schedule again which consists of breakfast, class, internship, and then returning for dinner. During class on Monday we talked about Small Medium Enterprises (SME’s) and their potential, especially in Africa, at increasing the economy and lifting people out of poverty. Our speaker, Forrest Branch went into great detail on how this is possible. But it’s important for investors to notice the potential of SME’s. A barrier to SME’s is funding, which can be difficult to obtain in Namibia. Most banks will not give a loan without collateral that may be hard to obtain due to varying circumstances. A majority of SME’s will use their own savings to start a business; the next group relies on friends and family for the funding to start their business. This causes challenges on many fronts. One issue I see is expansion, for example if your business is doing well, but you still haven’t made back your initial investment, it is hard to invest more money in increasing your stock or staff, even if your business is doing well, the capital isn’t there to expand. There are a few ways to support SME’s. First is to go to the business and support them by using their services or buying their products. The second option is to invest small amounts of money much like a microloan, where you and the business operator can establish a timeline and action plan, and once the return is made the investor will get their initial investment back with a small percentage of return. The power of microloans comes from many people investing small amounts of money at once so this will overall make up a medium to large loan, but the risks are small because the individual will only lose their small investment, rather than a bank or large investor having to take the full impact of losing a large investment.
N/a'ankuse Lodge and Wilderness Sanctuary main entrance
 
           The most notable part of my week was visiting N/a’ankuse Lodge & Wildlife Sanctuary. During our Environmental Connections class we had the pleasure of traveling out to N/a’ankuse to go on a feeding tour to see lions, cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs, baboons and caracal. It is sad to see animals in cages instead of being able to roam the wild but there are reasons for the work N/a’ankuse does. All of the animals there are either orphaned and would not be able to survive alone in the wild, injured by traps and the damage cannot be fixed to the point where they can be released, or conflict animals, which are animals that attack livestock and pose problems for farmers. If they are not removed they would either be shot or have the potential to injure or kill humans. N/a’ankuse also provides the animals with much more space than a typical zoo in the USA would, each enclosure has about 5 hectors of land. Lastly we talked to a researcher who works at N/a’ankuse, he explained some of the research projects taking place and how interns have been coming up with some innovative ideas to combat wildlife conflict such as using lion scat to deter other animals from approaching livestock. He also talked about how hard it is to keep count of the animals in the wild to produce reliable numbers about how many are left. As of now there are only around 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild, but in 1900 it was believed that there was 100,000 cheetahs in the wild, so in 100 years the cheetah population has plummeted due to a lack of conversation efforts and this issue is only starting to be addressed. This is why the work N/a’ankuse does is so important because they not only protect animals that are endangered, they also do research to better animal populations and increase conversation.
Lion at N/a'ankuse

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