Some three years ago Wildlife conservationists- United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Birdlife Botswana and government departments embarked on a land management project with view to save biodiversity-Sustainable Land Management (SLM).
The Project’s Manager Virat Kootsositse reasoned there was excessive flow of applications for tourism related businesses in the Makgadikgadi area which proved difficult for land managers-Land board to handle. Biodiversity was at risk, given that Makagdikgadi is important bird area.
“Botswana’s Makgadikgadi ecosystem are likely to compromise the continued flow of ecosystem goods and services from the savannah ecosystem that are necessary to sustain the national economy, livelihoods and the rich fauna and flora diversity. Local communities need to participate meaningfully in mainstreaming SLM principles into rangeland management and governance in order to secure the ecosystem goods and services necessary for current and future development and maintenance of biodiversity,” wrote Kootsositse in his report.
One of the outputs that the project came with was that Improved range management and mixed livelihood systems are piloted in line with the land use plans. Also, 100 farmers enrolled for participation in the project, through the farmers associations.
Fast forward, three years down the line; tongues are wagging over loss of cash flow, loss of employment, and downfall of the tourism industry due to Coronavirus. Botswana’s neighbour, South Africa; from which the country imports a lot of stuff; including food stuff started ‘shut down’ the past Thursday and the action is hovering over Botswana. The pandemic and subsequent effects are already being felt on the economy.
While a twitter tweets that ‘Nature appears to be “doing a hard reset”, a Conservationist from Cheetah Conservation Botswana (CCB), Jane Horgan highlights that, ”The biodiversity that exists on this planet is so complex and the interactions between individual elements so elaborate that it shouldn’t surprise us that we are now at the mercy of a natural disease when it has been us that has been merciless in our destruction of the delicate balance of nature for so long.”
She says human activities have been responsible for a litany of diseases and plagues throughout history — and wonders whether this pandemic will be enough for human beings to learn from their mistakes. She observed that Tourism has all but entirely ceased in the country, leaving wildlife peacefully undisturbed in tourist-heavy areas for the foreseeable future.
Horgan highlights that, especially in those areas and households most dependent on tourism. But it will likely have its own positive effects on our wildlife and environment.