Saturday, July 31, 2021

Human wildlife conflict drives Batswana into poverty

A study by Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) has revealed that authorities are turning Batswana living in areas with abundance of wildlife into paupers. 

The policy brief which was based on a national tracer survey covering 66 villages in Botswana also shows that local people exposed to life threatening wildlife attacks express fear and animosity towards wild animals.

According to the study, scores of Batswana in wildlife infested areas, also feel rejected and disappointed by a fragmented government service delivery system.

The study has shown that Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) “is increasingly transforming rural livelihoods from dependence on arable production and livestock keeping towards dependence on government aided destitute programs and other unstable sources of livelihoods.”

“Even so, respondents in this study revealed that it is not always easy to access social safety and/or government aided destitute programs even for qualifying victims of HWC, since potential beneficiaries are often subjected to winding, frustrating and sometimes painful rejection experience due to conflicting policies and fragmented service provision between wildlife officials, medical doctors and social welfare officers,” the report says.

Sometimes a medical doctor would advise and recommend that certain HWC victims, based on the nature and severity of injuries sustained, should not engage in manual labour, but only for such victims to be turned down by social services department (social workers).

Even though part of the ex-gratia compensation money is aimed at assisting bereaved families to bury their loved ones, the study found that almost all (80%+) families of victims receive their ex-gratia compensation weeks after the funeral has taken place

Only in exceptional circumstances especially with intervention from higher offices that families would receive their compensation timely. In some instances, families would have already incurred debts, and or been assisted by the Department of Social Protection under Ministries of Local Government and Rural Development. The funeral assistance being a form of double dipping as a result of misaligned government policies.

The ineptly one-page guide to implementation of ex-gratia does not include loss of reasonable income and associated disability care which should have formed the core of the ex-gratia objectives of effectively assisting HWC victims following wildlife attacks. Neither has the current Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act (WNPA) of 1992 been amended or repealed to give legal standing of the coming of ex-gratia payment into force.

Thus, the WNPA of 1992 (section 87) precludes a sense of obligation on the part of government for injuries and loss of life caused by wildlife even though government is the custodian of all wildlife in the country whether in private or public areas.

The report shows that most victims were injured by leopards (35 percent) and elephants (26 percent), elephants are responsible most (65 percent) loss of human life in instances where HWC ensues.  Botswana is one of the few remaining reserves in the world that harbor a diversity of dangerous wildlife species which include predators in large populations.

The report advises that major policy recommendations to be considered by government and other stakeholders should include provision of comprehensive therapeutic rehabilitation and reconstructive surgery to human wildlife conflict (HWC) victims, comprehensive compensation according to the severity of injuries sustained and establishment of an Ex-Gratia Scheme or Ex Gratia Tribunal.

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