Communities living around the Okavango Delta have been told to appreciate the fact that nomination and listing of the delta will change their lives in many ways. Speaking at an event to celebrate the listing at Maun main kgotla on Friday, National Museum and Monuments Director Gaogakwe Phorano said because the delta has now gained the World Heritage Status, it will make it easier for Botswana to negotiate additional funding, additional protection and all the needed expertise. He said so far the Tsodilo Hills, which are also a heritage site, have managed to source funding from Diamond Fund for a community project which has to date created jobs for hundreds of communities living in its locality.
Because of the nature of discrepancy in the delta, some Ngamiland people, particularly Basarwa in the settlements of Khwai, Mababe, Sankoyo to mention but a few, had raised concern that Tawana Land board now sees them as squatters in their own land. The confusion was however clarified at a panel discussion a day prior to the celebrations by Program Coordinator at the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) Sekgowa Motsumi who said the planning team took time to engage communities, particularly the Basarwa because UNESCO stands with UN convention on indigenous people to safeguard their rights and ensure that their rights are not decided by other people.
“The government is duty bound to ensure transboundary management of this shared resource and its people. But one of the current problems is that the delta is now becoming a closed system. Issues like connectivity of wildlife in concessions of NG 42,43 and many others will also have to be dealt with in due time. Moving forward, we will also have to ensure that communities are captured enough to derive benefits. In Angola, which was badly affected by war for example, they use delta for subsistence agriculture such as fishing. But there is need to make sure that as we improve livelihoods, we do it without compromising the integrity of the basin,” he said, adding that Namibia on the other hand is working on a feasibility study that will help them to be on toe. He noted that the expectation is that Namibia will follow the SADC protocol of notifying other countries, should they have enough information. However as it stands now, Sekgowa said Namibians are greatly challenged as they have not gathered any information to share.
Meantime Namibia and Angola are also said to be working on doing a serial listing of the Okavango Delta from their side, something which will also assist the three countries to protect the delta more than ever before. Should things go according to plan, Botswana will also extend the site with Chobe Linyanti.
Officiating at the celebrations, Assistant Minister of Education Moiseraela Goya said no mining will be allowed in the delta core anymore. He also made mention that as the largest Ramsar site and the only mega inland delta in Sub Saharan Africa, the Okavango Delta stands out globally in terms of natural processes as it is also an important bird area, with 24 threatened bird species and 33 water bird species that exceed the 0.5 global population. He promised that no evictions will be made to communities who live in the delta environs and that there will be no loss of rights.