Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Australia injects over P28m on fire management in Botswana

The government of Botswana in collaboration with the government of Australia, will under 2018/19 financial year initiate a new project on Indigenous Community Fire  Management funded to the tune of AUD3.8 million (P28.3m) for a period of 3 years.

Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama revealed this to Parliament last week as he was presenting on the Committee of Supply for his Ministry.

“The 2018/19 funds will be used to continue with fire management, development of the forest regulations, development of the Forestry Master Plan and Agro Forestry Strategy as well as the establishment of a Desert Park in Kgalagadi.”

Various initiatives had been put in place in 2017/18 to protect forests and range resources. These initiatives mainly focused on capacitating communities and relevant stakeholders on issues of fire management and importance of conserving natural resources. Some of these initiatives include the development and implementation of Districts Bushfire Risk Management Plans as well as maintenance of firebreaks.

According to Tshekedi’s revelation, these played a great role in the reduction of the area burnt by 38 per cent from 3 386 830 hectares in 2014 to 2 101 950 hectares in 2017 taking into account that 2014 had similar conditions as 2017.

“In an effort to continue improving fire management, the ministry has acquired 15 trucks as well as firefighting equipment. Through collaboration with the Government of Australia, six fire engines have also been donated to Botswana. Furthermore, capacity building was extended to community members on organisational governance. To date, a total of 6231 being 2181 community members and 4050 Government employees from various ministries and departments have been trained on fire management,” said Khama.

However, the Ministry continues with efforts on landscape restoration through tree planting and structural land rehabilitation as well as creation of awareness on conservation and sustainable management of forest resources.

Khama encouraged communities and other stakeholders to

plant trees to combat environmental degradation and contribute to enhancement of forest carbon stock.

He went onto highlight the challenge faced with the management of Prosopis, commonly known as Sexanana and is highly found in Kgalagadi and Ghanzi areas. This is a very highly prolific species which is easily dispersed by livestock.

The 2009 study indicates that the area covered by prosopis was 5109 ha. The Minister has however noted that its inventory will be conducted during 2018/19 to assess the extent of spread.

The efforts made are overshadowed by the rate at which the species spread. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the prosopis plant is in communal land but complete eradication would entail a change in land use practices, which is a challenge as livestock is the core source of livelihood in the affected districts. “Despite this, my ministry has developed a strategy on the management of prosopis, and will continue to engage other stakeholders to address the matter as well as tree planting,” so he added.

Meanwhile, The Telegraph understands that the Forest Bill was supposed to go through Parliament during 2017, but failed as it was delayed by the need to incorporate emerging issues such as community intellectual property rights and the powers of the Chiefs to preside over forest management offences at community level.

Khama has since last week indicated that, the Bill is expected to be presented to Parliament during 2018.

On other forest conservation related matters, the use of veldt products especially phane is increasingly becoming significant, and have become important sources of livelihoods that contribute to food security and poverty reduction at household level. However, this has led to environmental challenges such as sanitation, which the ministry continues to address.

To ensure sustainability of the resources, the department engages in management and monitoring activities of the resources through conducting pre-harvesting, harvesting and post harvesting assessment activities in the harvesting areas. The department also continues to put regulatory measures through the existing legislations to avoid overexploitation of the resources.

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