Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Ecotourism, local communities’ empowerment: Bird Life Botswana’s every morning tea

This Non-Governmental Organisation’s track record says it all. When it realised the vulnerable condition of the Flamingoes and other species whose habitat is in the Makgadikgadi area they reacted both diligently and swiftly. The influx of tourism enterprises’ applications overwhelmed land boards there, then. Grumbles of human wildlife conflicts were also soaring. The NGO collaborated with other stakeholders in land management and conservation; and a three-year project – Sustainable Land Management (SLM Makgadikgadi) was born. BLB implemented/facilitated it.

Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country office to a tune of USD 792,832.00, over the period 2014 to 2017 the project’s outcomes manifest in resuscitation of community trusts, availability of Sustainable Environment Assessment(SEA) maps, adoption of new environment conserving, sustainable farming methods among others. The NGO’s thematic areas of operation: Species, Habitat, Ecological sustainability and People’s programs all ingeniously came into play.

Fast forward, and four years down the line, BLB is drawn into another tourist hub-the Chobe area or, unambiguously; the Kavango Zambezi Trans frontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) by the vulnerability of an endangered vulture species called Bateleur ‘petleke’ and others. The wildlife dispersal area (WDA) is haunted by poaching and poisoning of carcasses which culls vultures-threatening to leave the ‘environment cleansing role’ played by vultures unattended. A danger to biodiversity.

And so, BLB is taking the ‘driving seat’ of another conservation and human empowering venture.

This time around a project that covers wildlife dispersal areas in three countries is kick-starting. It is a more ambitious one and higher funding is involved. The project’s title is; “IMPROVING LIVELIHOODS OF COMMUNITIES IN THE HWANGE-KAZUMA-CHOBE WILDLIFE DISPERSAL AREA THROUGH MEANINGFUL PARTICIPATION IN TOURISM JOINT VENTURE PARTNERSHIPS”

BLB’s Director, Virat Motshereganyi Kootsositse said that the KAZA TFCA through the support from German government is funding a community development project for two years in the Pandametenga, Chobe areas (Botswana) and Hwange (Zimbabwe) for communities to venture in and ensure community based tourism (CBT) enterprises that take advantage of the tourism value chain. The project is implemented by BirdLife Botswana on behalf of communities of Pandamatenga, Lesoma and Kazungula (PALEKA) where on the Zimbabwean side community project facilitation will be done by CAMPFIRE Association. The total cost of the project is P7, 371,000.00 of which half (P3, 685,500.00) of the amount will be used in Botswana for this and the other half in Zimbabwe.”

The main objective of the project is to develop and implement a stable and resilient CBT model for local communities residing within the Hwange-Kazuma-Chobe area. This will be realised by firstly supporting CBOs within the WDA to develop a sustainable and resilient joint venture partnership (JVP) tourism enterprises with government and the private sector. PALEKA will be assisted to construct an office, capacitated with IT equipment and governance – financial/ operational trainings where some will be supported to acquire guide licences to handle and be involved in efficient JVP.

Meanwhile while launching the project, Minister of Environment – Philda Kereng highlighted that it is in line with the government’s reset agenda which emphasizes on the development of value chains in various sectors in order to open up opportunities for the locals.

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