Tuesday, May 18, 2021

“Collecting Firewood inside Game Reserves is an offence” – official

Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Felix Monggae has warned mobile safari operators to desist from collecting firewood in National Parks and Game Reserves, lest they be mistaken for poachers or end up with accusing fingers pointing at their direction.

Monngae was responding to a request put forward by Botswana Guides Association (BOGA) chairperson Kenson Kgaga that they be allowed to fetch firewood as long as they do it wisely while conserving the environment at the same time. Kgaga was speaking at the association’s annual general meeting.

He said because of the ban, they have now resorted to buying firewood on the roadside, which is extremely expensive as they have to buy in bulk while they could be collecting themselves.

“We wouldn’t be destroying the area as you might think because we only collect dead branches which have been pulled out by animals. The ban has had a very bad impact in our businesses as we don’t know how to explain it to our clients anymore. Tourists like bonfires but the little firewood doesn’t last and expeditions are always cut short as we have to economize on the little that we would have bought. We are talking here of people who pay for services and expect the best out of it, and so we will not rest until the relevant ministry thinks otherwise”, said Kgaga.

BOGA members also decried of people doing self drives in protected areas, and requested that they be closely monitored to see if they had followed right procedures of doing so. In response, Monngae said while the request is understandable, the government cannot allow a mix bag of people traversing the park and other protected areas in search for firewood. However, he said the issue will be looked into in due course even though he couldn’t say with certainty if it will be in their favor. He commended the association for having acquired a 3.7 hectare plot in Maun which will be used as a learning centre for young Batswana willing to penetrate the tourism industry. He also called on members to always make it a point that they avail time to their employees so that they might seek medical attention whenever necessary because denying them that opportunity might translate to violation of their rights. He warned that appropriate action will be taken against non- abiding employers, most of whom never pay attention to staff welfare.

However Bigani Setume of Botswana Tourism Organization said self drives are very much appreciated. She said as a country, there is need to facilitate everything that is seen to be a tourism product, as long as the activity has an input in tourism. As BTO, she said they are obligated to facilitate self drives, adding that BTO is currently looking at other ways to ensure that there is balance. She said the exchange of ideas in the tourism industry should always be applied so that no one feels left out. She said the land use system in Ngamiland is divided into wildlife management areas, and that within these areas, there are controlled hunting areas as well as concession areas set aside for commercial purposes, the primary activity being tourism. Currently the Ministry of Environment Wildlife and Tourism is looking at optimizing all these areas for various activities.

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