The minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila, has defended the allocation of a large chunk of land for the sole usage of wildlife at the expense of the local people.
He fended off the criticism, saying the decision to allocate land for these animals was necessary to cater for the ecological requirements of the many species that inhabit the areas.
“Without this it is likely that many such species would not survive now, particularly taking into account the impacts of illegal off-take, habitat loss and climate change,” Mokaila said in parliament.
He parried suggestions that land allocation for wildlife was not fully utilized, arguing that government’s stance in putting aside approximately 37 percent of Botswana’s land area for wildlife and forest conservation and management was borne from a sound mind.
“These areas primarily serve as refuge for wildlife and other forms of biodiversity. Sufficient large pieces of land are needed to cater for the ecological requirements of many of the species which inhabit these areas.
Although well aware of the many other competing needs for natural resources, including land, Mokaila is adamant wildlife conservation and management cannot be divorced from these conflicting needs vis-├á-vis those of the people, insisting that considerable efforts have been made to ensure that Batswana benefit from the country’s biodiversity through its sustainable utilization.
Citing the community-based Natural Resources Management, which has been extended to the communities residing in areas adjacent to protected areas so that they benefit from such resources, Mokaila maintained this was an explicit testimony to “my ministry’s commitment towards people-centered development”.
“As recently as 2008, my ministry lobbied effectively for the country to be allowed to sell 43.8 tons of elephant ivory, which amounted to almost P50 million. This money is being used for community development through the Conservation Trust Fund,” he said, adding that, in addition, it must be noted that the use of wildlife areas for tourism brings significant income to the country’s economy.
“This also provides employment to many of our people. Therefore, wildlife provides for the people. The conservation of biodiversity and natural heritage should therefore not be seen as being done at the expense of the people,” he declared, saying, instead, “our well-known initiatives for sustainable utilization of natural resources contribute in a big way towards people-centered development”.
Mokaila asserted his ministry would continue to develop and implement policies, which elevate conservation of biodiversity and protection of environment to their rightful places on the national agenda.
Mokaila was answering questions posed by the Nata/Gweta MP, Rayner Makosha.