Haunted by ghastly water shortages in the early 1990s prompting government to contemplate the dredging of Tlhamalakane River, Maun is now poised to play a leading role in the government’s plans to exploit northwest Botswana’s potential for tourism.
A week ago, travelers reported a handsome gush of rainfall at Motopi on the way to the veterinary border of Makalamabedi coming off the road, most of it now tarred.
Alarmingly, there was no sign of the generous outpouring of the rain clouds at the border fence that kept out lung disease infected cattle that had to be culled by burning, leaving a good number of the cattle rearing community of Ngamiland tottering towards certain impoverishment.
The farmers consoled themselves by uninhibited spending of the money they received as compensation for their destroyed cows.
Thieves, and legitimate traders alike, preyed on the reckless appetites of the despairing farmers for reckless spending.
They sold them cars, furniture, booze, love and every other thing that could be bought with money.
Now, the Tlhamalakane exposes patches of water allowing pedestrians to traverse it from west to east. Some explore the shallow river for fish and ‘tswii’, a lily bulb that the river people fish from under the riverbed.
There appears to be enough water to carry out the ongoing construction work that has enveloped development at the airport, the center of town and the residential centers that exhibit a mixed folk and modern architecture as difficult to define as the difference between the black and white notes on a piano.
The grass by the river bank at Riley’s shows no sign that there has ever been a moratorium on watering the garden or filling the swimming pools.
Water, you might say, is the lifeblood of the river people; a source of tubas, fish and a human temperament that can only be found among water people.
For years the peoples of Maun and the whole of Ngamiland have survived the scorching sun, dry sands and faltering water supplies without much of a comprehensive development plan to assist their natural instincts.
The government administrators, faced with the formidable challenges of settlements of less than 250 spread out over large tracts were compelled to devise a strategy that would recognize the comparative advantage of the region in tourism and harness the natural heritage of Ngamiland for purposeful development.
The Ngamiland District Settlement Strategy was formulated to look 24 years into the future, covering the years 2003-2027.
The strategy wants a comprehensive land use plan, preservation and conservation of wildlife, plants, rivers and natural resources.
It also advocates for the development of roads and communication infrastructure, establishment of institutions to foster the goals of the strategy, training of personnel and prioritization of development projects.
The broad goals of the strategy are: –
* To create an enabling district environment, in which widespread economic growth thrives, and infrastructure and services are equitably distributed among the district settlements.
The objectives include the assessment of resource endowment of the various settlements in the district, the promotion of prioritization of development projects and the promotion of development and growth in the agricultural and industrial sectors.
* To establish a settlement hierarchy for the district in accordance with NSP criteria. The objectives: The rank ordering of settlements into primary, secondary and tertiary hierarchical levels based on their present population sizes; economic potentials and employment generation capacities; natural resource availability, especially water to sustain the settlements and the identification of settlements with high growth potentials and the promotion of the growth of such settlements as central places through the provision of higher order services, in order to achieve a “trickle down” effect, and for them to serve as service centers catering for their catchment areas.
* To establish broad land use zones/agro-ecological zones in the district for various uses and determine how they could be rationally and sustainably utilised in the next 6,12,18 and 24 years. The objectives: The zoning of all land in the district, for various land use activities taking into account soils, environmental sensitivity and the formulation of a logical phasing arrangement for the rational and sustainable development of land in the district in the next 6, 12, 18 and 24 years.
Further goals would be to boost and diversify the economy of Ngamiland District and increase employment creation opportunities with the objective of the economic empowerment of the residents of communities in the district through the Government’s economic empowerment programmes such as the Citizens Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA), whereby they could be assisted in setting up businesses both in commerce and industry.
There would be provision of enough and adequately serviced industrial and commercial plots in identified and selected growth centers to attract investments and industries to enhance employment creation.
Residents would be encouraged to engage in all forms of agricultural production, including livestock and arable farming as well as fisheries production through the formulation of an attractive pricing policy for agricultural products.
The strategy also wants to strengthen the promotion of the tourism industry in the district, and the encouragement of communities to form community trusts in order to go into joint ventures with established tourism companies in the areas of granting of concession rights, photographic safaris and curio marketing, in order for the communities to meaningfully participate in and also reap benefits from the tourism industry in the district.
The strategy further envisages the conscious establishment of vibrant primary nodes in identified settlements in the district by way of developing Central Business Districts (CBDs) to serve as central focus areas across the district.
Goal 5 is: “To protect and preserve the environment generally in the district, and sustainably utilize its natural resources”.
The objectives of this goal include “the identification of all environmentally sensitive areas in the district, including wetlands, and the institution of adequate measures for their protection with a view of preserving their bio-diversity in terms of flora and fauna, intrinsic pristine nature, potentials for recreational use and preservation of environmental and ecological balance.”
The strategy also wants to “put in place appropriate measures and programmes to stop or mitigate the occurrence of land erosion and land degradation through sand excavation in unauthorized areas.”
Preservation of the environment will also require “the institution of measures to continually monitor and control the population of livestock and wildlife in the district in order to reduce pressure on grazing land and pasture thus ensuring that their carrying capacities are maintained.”
Prevention of indiscriminate felling of trees and the encouragement of tree planting, identification of quarry sites and ensuring that their exploitation is controlled is another objective of Goal 5.
There will also be “identification of non-renewable mineral and water resources in the district and institution of measures for their sustainable utilization in the next 6, 12, 18 and 24 years.
Goal 6 aims to improve literacy levels in the district by increasing access to primary, junior and senior secondary education, as well as adult and informal education.
“To promote an efficient, functional and well structured institutional framework and administration machinery that is capable of driving the implementation of the District Settlement Strategy,” is goal 7. One of its objectives is “an increase in productivity levels in both Central Government Departments and the Local Authorities in the district through the implementation of programmes such as the Performance Management System (PMS)”.
The eighth goal is “to preserve and protect fertile arable land from settlement encroachment, and the encouragement of good agricultural practices in the district.
Its two objectives are the identification of all fertile arable land in the district, and their utilization in accordance with the recommendations of NAMPAAD regarding crop production and the provision of horticultural plots in the various settlements and the zoning of land in various parts of the district for grazing purposes.
According to Goal 9, there will be improvement of infrastructure service with the aim of upgrading and extending water supply to settlements in the district in accordance with NSP locational criteria for the provision of infrastructure and services to settlements.
“The upgrading and extension of electricity supply and telecommunications networks in the district settlements as per NSP criteria,” will be another aim in addition to “the provision of an adequate transportation network system in the district which promotes stronger linkages among the settlements and the free movement of people and goods”.
Goal 9 also envisages “the provision of all other services and facilities to the district’s settlements in accordance with NSP criteria”.