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BY CALISTUS BOSALETSWE
Qhaa Qhing Conservation Trust (QQCT) - a community based organization in Zutshwa sandwiched between Central Kalahari Game Reserve and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park has thrived against all odds.
The trust owned by Kalahari San community who survive on government handouts relied on hunting quotas prior to the hunting ban which came into effect during President Khama’s reign in 2013.
As the government moved towards the hunting ban other community trusts collapsed in Kgalagadi while QQCT only managed to survive with the assistant of Swiss conservation NGO – Comanis. The Swiss NGO is said to have assisted QQCT during tough economic times.
Reports indicate that Comanis came to QQCT’s rescue when the trust had no legal rights to operate non-consumptive tourism when their leases for hunting quota in KD2 Wildlife Management Area came to a halt as result of hunting ban.
The community had to thrive under various challenges such as the absence of lease to keep their business going since the trust was operating under a hunting quota lease agreement.
Looked to as a good Samaritan –Comanis is a Swiss NGO registered in Botswana with the specific purpose of entering into partnerships with CBOs in order to facilitate wilderness-based ecotourism development that simultaneously addresses poverty alleviation and wildlife conservation.
QQCT’s hopes came to realization when Comanis-Tanate started renovating a house that belong to the trust and converting it to a guest house.
The NGO prides itself for coming up with innovative non-hunting tourism projects jointly with remote area communities as business partners which is the first of its kind to happen in any of Botswana's semi-arid Kalahari.
QQCT, Chairman ,Mothusi Sento stated that the most disheartening issue was that the communities could not be granted lease to operate non consumptive tourism even when showing signs of commitment to continue running a tourism business.
“For a long time we have approached the government to assist us with a lease agreement but we have never been assisted even when we are no longer hunting. Unlike other trusts in the area that gave up following hunting ban we persisted with our dream but with no support from government”, said Sento.
Sento indicated that if Comanis never came onboard the Zutshwa community trust could not be in existence.
He said that after Comanis assisted them they tried to convince the government that as a disadvantage community with no financial resources they were able to cope with the hunting ban.
“We are now intending to meet the president over the issue of this lease because we also want investors who can assist us to run a business”, said Sento
Sento further noted that another dimension to their business which has kept their business going was the introduction of “Pay and Rent” where tourists pay to camp in the concession areas with abundant wildlife species.
“The little that we get from tourists has managed us to push ahead and we are not going back. We were afraid that since we didn’t have legal rights over the land we were going to close shop if the government finds out. We have approached the government about the issue of lease and they have not yet responded to our plea to renew the lease”, said Sento.