Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Kalahari Conservation Society turns 30!

Rethinking the nexus between society and nature has facilitated the formation of safe foraging routes for northern Botswana’s estimated 150, 000 elephants into Zambia with fewer populations to spread biomass stress over a larger area, says African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) Board of Trustees Chairman, David Thomson.

Giving a keynote address at the Kalahari Conservation Society (KCS) Annual Gala Dinner Dance to celebrate its 30 years of existence held in Gaborone on October 12, Thomson said although Botswana is home to the world’s largest and robust elephant populations largely due excellent stewardship, behind every challenge there are opportunities.

He said that the most feasible way of alleviating the inherent carrying capacity pressure has been the creation of trans-border key corridors.

However, in order to ensure their safe passage through human settlements, AWF has been working with Zambia’s Sekute community to set aside 50, 000 acres for wildlife land conservation and hence the key corridors.

According to the New Zealand-born Thomson as a corporate social responsibility for the creation of the safe haven, AWF built a new primary school and teacher housing in Sekute, officially opened last winter, leading to an increase in pupil enrolment, deployment of qualified teachers by the Zambian Ministry of Education and upping in literacy levels.

“The Zambian success story is a conservation challenge turned into opportunities for both wildlife and people; wildlife getting the habitat while the children receive a better education. The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Area (KAZA), forms a prime example where good intentions must be translated first into political will and then second into concrete action,” said Thomson. “Despite the signing of a treaty emphasizing the area’s vital importance, fundraising and establishment of a secretariat, each incumbent (country) adopt hostile wildlife land use decisions specifically denigrating the elephant’s free movement from Botswana into neighbouring countries.”

He added that AWF partners with governments and local communities to achieve conservation goals. A shining example is the AWF’s Kazungula Heartland, a large conservation landscape encompassing north-eastern Botswana, northern Namibia, southern Zambia and north-west Zimbabwe, where the Fund has carried out an extensive carnivore research project, secured wildlife corridors and benefitted communities participating in environmental conservation projects.

In some of its community benefitting projects, AWF built in Botswana’s Chobe enclave, Ngoma Safari Lodge, a community-owned five-star luxury lodge, officially opened by President Ian Khama in 2011. Dollar revenues from tourists who visit the Chobe National Park are reinvested into the immediate community, he said.

Thomson said AWF had referred a Mongolian delegation led by its state President intending to harvest value from its rich mineral deposits without causing environmental degradation to learn from Botswana’s success story. The Fund made the reference because Botswana has apportioned 30 percent of its land under conservation and enforces prudent environmental management while maintain the health of the ecosystem in its mining operations. Due to the environmentally conscious political leadership coupled with a stable economy, Botswana should be used as a continental benchmarking platform.

Since establishment three decades ago, KCS has played an integral part in empowering Botswana as the best in Africa for its spectacular wildlife, diverse range of ecosystems and proactive conservation strategies.

AWF, the largest Africa-based conservation NGO, was the brain child of a young American conservationist 50 years ago who shared a vision to assist newly independent African states develop leadership conservation and wildlife management. The Fund with its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, and support office in Washington DC is active in 11 different landscape heartlands in sub-Sahara Africa including Botswana.

In his welcome remarks, KCS Chairman Neil Fitt said the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) bestowing of honorary membership of the world body to Khama as Botswana’s President, underpins the excellent relations between the government and KCS. KCS’ 2012 theme for celebrating 30 years: “The nexus between society and nature”; puts into lucid perspective sustained dialogue on environmental ‘bread and butter’ issues between the consenting parties.

Fitt said: “KCS remains a key facilitator for wildlife and conservation projects protecting the country’s biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources. Over the last 30 years, we have been confronted with challenges associated with population growth, increased mobility, human mobility & development as well the globalization of economies.”

KCS was formed from storm braining initiatives by the late Louis Nchindo and colleague Chris Adams for the need to conserve Botswana’s natural heritage for present and future generations. Initially the Society dealt with identifying pressures on the environment, wildlife and habitat; however, subsequently it adopted a diverse range of environmental issues through a strategic and holistic approach encompassing the microcosm of wildlife and biodiversity, sustainable agricultural practices, fresh and waste water resource management.

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