Monday, May 27, 2024

Current obsession with wildlife preservation is not sustainable

An honest public debate about the long term sustainability of Botswana’s current wildlife policy is long overdue.

Such a debate should be free from sentimental generalizations.

For it to be of any value, the debate should be shorn of emotional blackmail that we was so much a portent tool when a blanket hunting ban was introduced.

It should be guided by empirical science based evidence.

More importantly such a debate should have at its centre the possibility of co-existence between people and wildlife.

Some people inside our Government have accused the American President of racism, simply on account of the fact that he is white and they are black.

Yet a closer examination of what situation obtains on the ground reveals ample evidence that our government is held hostage by subtle racists that use their access to those in power to drive their policy inclinations that that have racist sentiments as underlying tools.

Nowhere is evidence of such racism more glaring than Botswana Government policies on tourism and indeed wildlife.

An impression has been created for example that all native Batswana are potential poachers.

Such a racist view is no worse applied to any tribal grouping than is the case to Basarwa, especially in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

A short visit to the Okavango reveals how powerful settler interests with close connection to those with political and economic power have carved for themselves, at no cost huge chunks of land, dispossessing natives under the guises that they were conservationists.

This is not sustainable.

In fact it is a legitimate source of hatred, envy, disaffection and future social unrest.

We call on these settler communities to show empathy to the landless people they have disposed, who they have now driven into the clutches of poverty.

Already there is evidence of simmering resentment between these two communities.

The staggering economic disparities should send chilling signals to those who have taken away land from its rightful owners.

There is still room for an inclusive wildlife conservation policy in this country.

There is clearly something wrong with a policy that allows foe a near all white ownership of lucrative and pristine lands at the Okavango which is part of a black majority country.

There is something wrong with a policy that allows for such squalor and poverty to exist adjacent to obscene wealth as is the case in the Okavango.

There is something aslant with a policy that sees nothing wrong with such high numbers of natives being spectators in an economy that has spun out of the lands previously owned and traversed by their forefathers.

Yet that is what is the situation in both the Chobe and Okavango enclaves.

Admittedly there is a lot of poaching happening.

It is mainly a scion of international operations.

Whatever few Batswana participate in it are put into it either by poverty or a failed policy that has failed to make them owners and beneficiaries of wildlife.

Unless citizens are enlisted in the fight against poaching, the fight will be lost.

Citizens can only come on board if there is tangible proof that they are beneficiaries of wildlife and anti poaching efforts.

That will include education but also economic enabling.

We call on those in power to open the debate that will usher a totally new paradigm on both tourism and conservation.

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