Tuesday, October 27, 2020

More land allocated to wildlife than people in Kgalagadi area

The government has allocated more land to wild animals than to people in the Kgalagadi North constituency.

Beyond the obvious oddity of such status quo, the area MP, Victor Motobake, has queried through a parliamentary question, why this land distribution scheme still holds when “wild animals have decreased in numbers in the area”.

Figures that were released by Lands and Housing Minister, Nonofo Molefhi, in parliament last week show that 63 percent of the total land area is reserved for wildlife in the form of Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and the Kalahari Transfrontier Park while 27 percent is for communal use and 7 percent is freehold. The total land area for the whole of Kgalagadi district is 106 850 square kilometers.

Although he does not have figures to back up his assertion about game numbers dwindling, Motobake told Sunday Standard that, as a resident of the Kgalagadi district, he has personally witnessed a drop in the wildlife population over the years.

“I may not have figures but when you compare the situation to 20 years ago, the wildlife population has certainly decreased. In the olden days, wildlife was plentiful but nowadays when you drive through the bush, sightings of game are very rare. I am not saying that wild animals don’t have rights to the land because they do. I’m saying that the government should recognise that people also have land rights,” the MP says.

About 22 percent of land in Botswana has been conserved as WMAs, which are seen as having unique potential for future eco-tourism. Botswana is considered one of the best safari destinations in Africa and tourism is the second largest forex earner after diamonds.

WMAs are important in wildlife migration routes and are considered buffer zones around protected areas which, in addition to veterinary fences, act as livestock disease barriers. On the other hand, WMAs are seen by farmers and rural populations as inhibiting the expansion of livestock grazing and increased arable land use and escalating wildlife conflict through greater wildlife density.

Motobake says that in his constituency, shortage of land is hindering economic activity. Some people in his constituency want to rear goats to supply what would be a lucrative local and domestic market but are unable to start such projects because of acute land shortage. He adds that this is what frustrates Young Farmers Fund applicants and is going to be a major stumbling for small farmers who want to benefit from the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD).

The MP wanted the minister to state whether he found it necessary to revise the distribution of the land in his constituency. Molefhi never got to addressing that specific point as he said that the land use maps are aligned to the district boundaries as opposed to constituency boundaries.

He added that in reaction to nationwide concerns regarding the distribution of land, his ministry has engaged a consultancy to review the National Land Map Use of Botswana whose aim is to bring about rationalisation between the different land uses. The exercise is scheduled to be completed at the end of this month.

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