Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The concomitant human, nature conflict persists

Environment Minister Philda Kereng has revealed that plants and animal species at the risk of extinction contained in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list occurring in Botswana remained unchanged at 37.

She revealed this when presenting her ministry’s paper on Sustainable Environment Sectoral Chapter during the National Development Plan (NDP)11,

“The total number of animals poached during 2019/20 is 117 against a target of 94. Currently poaching of rhinos is of grave concern. It is evident that measures to reduce human wildlife conflict (HWC) are required given that there were at least 8,879 HWC cases in 2017, increasing to 9,280 in 2019. The number of human fatalities from wildlife attacks has also increased from 15 in 2017 to 20 in 2019,” said Minister Kereng.

She indicated that to reduce HWC the government has put some strategies in place; among them elephant management plan and Human Wildlife Co-Existence Strategy.  

Due to its relatively robust conservation approach, Botswana holds significantly large numbers of elephants and is considered a stronghold for elephant populations who seek refuge from poaching and civil wars in some neighboring countries. According to British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Botswana is home to around 130,000 elephants, Africa’s highest population of the animals. Botswana’s elephants have expanded their range and are repopulating historic ranges, where elephants have not been seen for many years. This is the case in Boteti sub-district where Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) has become increasingly challenging due to the recent influx in elephant populations.

The past week the Boteti Rural Development Trust, through its project: Human-Wildlife mitigation through Community based sustainable livelihoods methods hosted a workshop in the village of Rakops.

Birdlife Botswana (BLB) and other stakeholders like the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) organized the event. BLB Project Manager Kefentse Mogwera revealed in a brief interview after the two-day workshop, that the workshop was a success.

“Different stakeholders including researchers came together and shared ideas on how to co-exist with elephants. The workshop was specifically on the subject of Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) and it brought together Community Based Organizations, government departments, community leaders, farmers and researchers,” said Mogwera

The stakeholders discussed the various methods used to scare away elephants. One of the common methods is use of chillis. Elephant dung is mixed with crushed chillies and is burnt. This method is called chilly block. As the elephants approach the source of the smoke and inhale the chilly smoke they start coughing and they back off.

Another method that was discussed, still on use of chillies was where a piece of cloth is dampened with oil containing chillies. The cloth is also burnt and as they approach and inhale the chilly air they back off.

“These methods, it turned out, are labor intensive. Users of the methods should stay in the area where the elephants are troublesome. They should be cautious of where the wind is blowing. Another issue is that elephants are very wise animals, capable of adapting to challenges and learning from past mistakes. Therefore, you should keep changing methods if you are to deal successfully with them. They cause serious damage as they might finish crops in a plowing field in one night,” he said.

Vice Chairperson of Boteti Rural Development Trust- covering Rakops, Mmadikola, Xhumu and Toromoja, Salome Maswikiti, expressed delight over the breakthrough they have had for hosting the workshop.    

“The workshop was fruitful and I thought had we used previous funds for workshops like this we could be far by now. We now know that chillies methods are usable; only they have to be interchanged because of the wisdom of the elephants. They are so clever they have even learnt how to deal with electric fences,” said Maswikiti.

National Coordinator of Global Environment Facility /Small Grants Program (GEF/SGP)-funders of the workshop, Abigail Engleton highlighted that to address the complexities of HEC, there is a necessity for institutional linkages between local and national stakeholders in order to make more consensual decisions through consultation and negotiation at the conflict zone level. “Local participation is vital and best as part of Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) program. In an effort to identify and trial HEC mitigation in the area BRDT hosted a HEC mitigation resolution workshop. The workshop was organized in partnership the BRDT, TAC and BLB. The workshop is one of the activities under BRDT funded by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) through the GEF/SGP,” she concluded.

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