The passion for tourism projects by the University of Botswana and Birdlife Botswana has brought the two institutions together over the years. This has even motivated them to engage a third party for further expertise advice.
This came to light last week when the two institutions co-hosted a public lecture at the university’s center for continuous education, facilitated by Professor Rosemary Black of Charles Sturt University, Australia.
Head of Department, Environmental Sciences at the University, Professor Julius Atlhopheng, said in a brief interview after the event that their role as the university on the tourism industry is to teach and research.
This helps in engaging various stakeholders to take research-informed decisions. Research, he said also informs policy.
He said that Botswana’s Millennium Development Goal talks a lot about environmental sustainability and as an educational institution the university has the obligation to disseminate educate on it.
Goal seven of the said MDG states that Botswana has one of the highest measures of population with access to improved water sources, at 96.2 percent in 2008 which is higher than the average for middle income countries which stands at 93 percent. Similarly, good progress has been made on access to improved sanitation as 79 percent of the population has access to improved sanitation in 2007.
It however points out that, “The country has become more susceptible to seasonal variations that contribute to harsh weather conditions such as drought, sporadic floods and frost bite. These often have adverse effects on crops which result in reduced yields. Rainfall has become more unreliable over the years, greatly affecting the inflows into the dams and other water sources especially in Southern Botswana.”
Consequently, every year Government spends substantial resources on drought relief measures. The water demand on the other hand, is expected to increase with the growing population and urbanization.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism continues to engage in wider stakeholder consultations in order to minimize the long standing conflict between population and wildlife, particularly in areas that border the wildlife protection areas of northern, north-western as well as eastern Botswana.
The Ministry is also in the process of developing the National Climate Change Strategy and the National Strategy for Sustainable Development in line with Botswana’s position with regards to the RIO+20 outcomes.
Director of Birdlife Botswana, Dr Kabelo Senyatso, said as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) they have the responsibility to ensure protected areas such as those indicated in the goal seven above are given the care they deserve.
“We promote bird tourism since it has the potential to be a good revenue spinner in our country. It is capable of bringing billions into the state’s coffers and we need some expertise advice time and again. For instance the university has better researched data. This helps keep us on track,” said Senyatso.
He said the engagement of Professor Black worked wonders for them in that her expertise in the field of tour guiding brought in-depth on requirements of sustainable tourism. He said his organization’s initiative of training of tour guides has been empowered by her advices.