The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism conceded this week in parliament that funds reserved for compensating farmers for damages caused by wild animals is not adequate, and even with revised figures, the figures still fall short.
Minister Tshekedi Khama told parliament that compensation given to farmers is not enough to cover some damages caused by wild animals, especially for crop farmers who suffer great losses. The minister said for this year’s budget, the figure was revised upwards to P19 million, doubling up from previous allocations.
Still, the minister said the money will not be enough as part of it will be used to pay outstanding payments to farmers, while also keeping some for future claims. Khama estimates that his ministry needs a minimum of P30 million reserved for farmers’ compensation arising from wild animals’ infringement.
Farmers in the Northern parts of the country have for years complained about damages caused by wild animals, particularly elephants that ransack their ploughing fields leaving destruction in their wake. Farmers also complain of the paltry payments, and the lengthy process to be assisted.
With close to 200, 000 elephants in Botswana, the country has more elephants than any other country in Africa, and also the highest concentration of elephants per square kilometre, putting pressure on the environment. In Botswana, elephants have found a safe haven compared to other countries where they are killed by poachers for ivory. Known for their intelligence, elephants have now restricted their movements and now limit them to within Botswana, instead of cross border movements.
The country has strict conservation policies; culling is banned, anti-poaching measures enforced, and farmers are not allowed to kill animals unless their lives are in danger. While the elephants might have escaped horrors from other countries, seeking refugee and sanctuary in Botswana, their growing numbers have put them in conflict with farmers, who are at the mercy of the majestic beasts.