By Calistus Bosaletswe
A specialised agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger – the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has linked the upsurge on illegal hunting in the Okavango Delta, Botswana to trophy hunting ban.
As such, FAO also warned that the absence of trophy hunting has forced communities to engage in illegal hunting since most of them have no direct benefit from the wildlife species.
The FAO research paper titled “Illegal Bush meat hunting in the Okavango Delta, Botswana” corroborates other pundits’ assertion that communities tend to guard against poaching incidents only when they benefit from wildlife through controlled hunting.
The FAO research paper has warmed that illegal hunting will not be resolved under conditions where communities have no relationship with wildlife. FAO research paper come at a time when Botswana is mulling over possibilities of lifting hunting ban.
The report indicated that Illegal bush meat hunting which is widespread and persistent across the Okavango Delta was primarily for home consumption.
“Syndicate-level hunting does occur and accounts for a large portion of the bush meat off take, especially from buffalo and giraffe. Bush meat hunting, in conjunction with retaliatory or pre-emptive killings of large carnivores, results in wildlife off take at a scale that likely affects ecosystem dynamics in large portions of the Okavango Delta,’ state the report.
The report has placed a blame of bush meat hunting to negative attitudes towards wildlife among communities residing within the Okavango Basin.
It further pointed out that primarily hunting is an economic opportunity for many communities who are not directly benefiting from wildlife species.
It also state that in the absence of communities benefiting from wildlife species there are syndicated hunters who harvest meat from different species in a bid to sell the meat.
To the communities hunting is lucrative and is an opportunity to save their household resources for other needs state the report.
The report also noted that there is conclusion among communities that hunting enables households to grow livestock herds by providing an alternative source of food and income.
It also state that unemployment in the periphery of the delta has also been shown as a driver of illegal bush meat hunting despite that communities have sufficient livestock and crop production to provide enough food for the household.
“Consuming bush meat and conserving livestock is one way to increase purchasing power and meet basic needs simultaneously by exploiting a public resource that has minimal production costs. The proximity of most hunters to wildlife populations indicates that hunters are seizing a local advantage and that resource availability plays a major role,” state the report.
The paper further argues that these attitudes suggest a need for more opportunities for local residents to become stakeholders in wildlife-based enterprises.
The report also noted that there were divergent on respondents who interviewed who believe tourism benefits their community .
Empower communities to benefit through legal wildlife use .The strategy revolves around empowering communities to benefit from legal wildlife use. Policy should facilitate opportunities for communities to maximize benefits from legal wildlife use while simultaneously creating disincentives for illegal wildlife use through strict laws and effective enforcement.
The report further recommended for expansion of tourism with strong community linkages especially in the western delta and developing a legislative framework that allows for wildlife-based land uses owned by and implicitly involving communities.
The paper also noted that generating legal benefits from wildlife given the current ban on trophy hunting may be challenging.
FAO advised the government of Botswana to reconsider that decision or alternatively to look seriously at alternative options for communities to benefit from conserving wildlife such as through payments for environmental services.
“Game ranching can boost employment create economic output comparable to livestock farming produce large quantities of legal and sustainable game meat and lead to an increase in wildlife populations. It could meet some of the demand for bush meat in Ngamiland and generate more value per kilogram of game meat than hunting, especially if DWNP reconsidered allowing trophy hunting within the ranch,” added the report.