A Motswana who has worked in parks for four years, three of which were at management level will take off to Sydney on the 12th of November to join more than 3000 other experts from over 160 countries in a 2014 World Parks Congress. The congress is scheduled to end on the 18th of November.
During their stay in Australia, Motshereganyi Virat Kootsositse and others will reflect on proven approaches for protected area governance and management, to inspire people from all sectors to build a much deeper connection to nature, and shape and guide the implementation of innovative solutions to people and protected areas to the next decade and beyond.
“It is my first time to attend the congress which has been held every ten years; having started in 1962. We will have the opportunity as African experts to strategize our presentations when we get to the congress. I am going to make three presentations on behalf of Botswana. I am going to highlight on the project we are currently working on at Makgadikgadi,”revealed the Project Manager at Birdlife Botswana in an interview.
The congress’ objectives include: articulating the vital role of protected areas in conserving nature while delivering essential ecosystem services; positioning protected areas within goals of economic and community well being, and demonstrating how this can be achieved in practice.
“For parks, it will strengthen conservation targets whilst engaging a varied audience from government to general members of society who care about the health of our planet. For people, it will engage with development sectors and inspire citizens to connect with nature. For the planet, it will demonstrate nature-based solutions to global challenges such as climate change, health, and supporting human life,” he said.
He added that for the first time the congress will collate and communicate the most compelling and inspiring solutions to global challenges. It will help create new sustainable commitments for protected areas across the conservation, development and business sectors.
Kootsositse points out that though Botswana’s park management is one of the best, there are challenges that the conservation society is tackling with. Firstly, there is snail pace progress in park developments caused by financial budgeting.
“Distribution of funds within government departments makes it impossible to implement projects at parks. From the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning the funds go to the Ministry of environment Wildlife and Tourism whereupon they are sent to the Department of Wildlife and national Parks which in turn distributes funds to various districts. At district level priority is applied as funds are meant for national use. Consequently the budget that a manager could have proposed, for whatever project, is not enough,” explained Kootsositse. He appreciates the fact that the government’s budget caters for the whole nation but projects suffer.
Secondly the beneficiation of communities surrounding parks is in limited proportions. He said Moremi and Chobe national parks are examples of parks where communities benefit. The same however cannot be said about the CKGR, KTP or the Makgadikgadi. This has led to the communities’ reluctance to partake in development of neighboring parks and sustainable development.
Thirdly, Kootsositse said the erection of fences in a bid to curb human-wildlife conflicts has affected migration of animal species. One such example he said, is the one erected at Makgadikgadi. Be that as it may, Botswana as a country has done a lot in managing protected areas by combating poaching over the years.
“Wildlife and National Park department has been doing well and the introduction of Botswana Tourism Organization has led to increased influx of tourists into Botswana,” he said.
He said as Non Governmental Organizations, they have influence in what is happening in parks, hence his sponsorship by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to attend. He and other 70 African countries’ experts are sponsored by the IUCN.
He said the Union’s initiative was informed by the fact that it was realized that for years the African countries’ voice was unknown.