Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Government has no clear natural resources management strategy

Findings of an audit conducted by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) has revealed the existence of discordant systems in the coordination of the departments responsible for overseeing the profitable use of Botswana’s natural resources by the communities resident in those areas.

There is an absence of a centralized database showing the number of community based organizations (CBOs) involved in conservation and commercial activities based on locally identified resources.
As a result, there is no credible way to either control or track the growth, effectiveness and relevance of existing CBOs.

“The overall coordination of the delivery of the mandates of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), Department of Forestry and Range Resources (DFRR) and the Botswana Tourism Board (BTB), now known as Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO), was minimal and was found wanting in some aspects,” read part of the audit report.

It was observed by the Auditor General that the anomaly derived largely from the lack of coordination at a ministerial level.

This was despite the fact that the main reason the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism was established has always from the onset been the placement of all the environmental issues under one roof, for better coordination of policies, strategies and programmes.

As such, there was lack of integrated planning amongst the DWNP, DFRR and BTO in so far as planning and coordination of projects was concerned.

It transpired that each agency was planning on its own, based on the nature of the natural resources being utilized and projects undertaken under each agency’s respective area of jurisdiction.

For instance, the DWNP would mostly plan and be involved with wildlife-based CBNRM whereas the DFRR was largely concerned about forestry-based projects.

“The three agencies could not even act much on the understanding that though they had different mandates, the natural resources upon which the communities relied were not independent of each other,” lamented the Auditor General.

On account of this, it was further noted that each of these agencies ended up developing their plans according to their own unrelated criteria and priorities.

For instance, the BTO believed, according to the Audit report, it would rather deal or target a few specified projects or trusts as the case may be, until they each reached a certain level of maturity, then they could pick on another set after others showed potential for self sustenance.
“The approach adopted by BTO ran parallel to what the DWNP and DFRR comprehended, as the latter two were not targeting any specific number of trusts, and rather worked with all registered trusts in the country,” posited the Auditor general.

A 2009 Report, authored by a certain Steven Johnson on “Internal CBNRM institutional capacity assessment and strengthening”, concluded that partly as a result of this discordant arrangement , CBOs were sprouting all over the place, so much that government was caught in a maze of trying to assist everything and everybody.

Interestingly, Steven Johnson made brilliant recommendations regarding the need for an integrated approach, yet there continues to be a “plethora of conflicting programmes since there were many players assisting communities and CBOs”.

“The MEWT should have a clearly written and communicated procedure on how different stakeholders interested in working with communities may assist including financially,” it was recommended.
In this respect the Auditor General expressed the view that the MEWT would do well to create a level of executive authority that would be responsible for coordinating the delivery of mandates of the involved departments and the parastatal.

From that premises, it is supposed that a platform that would bring various stakeholders together would certainly spare the parties a great deal of costs.

Such an inter-agency forum which would mainly include the Ministry’s departments and the BTO would ensure an easy-going or at least a collective and cordial relationship in Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) planning and implementation.

The absence of an integrated coordinating authority has apparently translated into transfer of duty to either the Minister or the Office of the President, through directive after directive without regard to the implications for the qualitative effect of the decisions on the affected communities.

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