Botswana government’s recent decision to allow local subsistence farmers to use their fields for game farming has left researchers startled as expert advice to allocate communities suitable for the industry in Boteti and Okavango areas have been ignored over the years.
A consultant-Landflow Solutions advised in their report that cabinet adopted in 2009 about the need for allocating residents land for game ranching along the eastern buffer to Central Kalahari game Reserve CKGR and south and west buffer of Okavango Delta while Food Agriculture Organisation(FAO) made similar advise in 2013.
Political unwillingness has been linked to government move to play deaf on recommendations that cabinet approved years back to allocate game ranches along the eastern buffer of Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Boteti and along the buffalo fence buffer in the south and west buffer of Okavango Delta.
Researchers at University of Botswana, Okavango Research Institute (ORI) were hopeful that President Mokgweetsi Masisi will dust off the report and implement the recommendations of the report titled,” Review of the National Land Use Map” as government move to roll out game ranching industry to citizens.
A report that was adopted by cabinet in 2009 during President Ian Khama reign is yet to gather dust under president Masisi. Under President Masisi, tgovernment came up with new game farming guidelines that will allow few individuals to do game ranching in their fields.
ORI Director, Professor Joseph Mbaiwa said it is surprising that the recommendations that have long been suggested to government to allocate land along the buffalo fence buffer along Okavango Delta and in the eastern buffer of CKGR have so far been ignored. “Someone somewhere is not doing their job. What is actually stopping them to implement,” said Mbaiwa.
He was not shy to posit that there was lack of political willingness to avail land that was found to be suitable for game ranching. Mbaiwa said: “If one is not implementing the report recommendations in the high office and no one is taking action against such an individual that clearly tells that lack of political will is at play ,”.
In their report, Landflow Solutions which was engaged by the government stated that communities attitudes towards wildlife are negative as they gain little direct benefit from the delta’s proximity.
The report stated that direct benefit from game ranches had potential to reduce poaching incidents that were on increase every year.
Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) corroborated the report views in a research paper titled “Illegal Bushmeat Hunting in the Okavango Delta, Botswana ” that was submitted to the government to set up game ranching along the buffalo fence.
“Game ranching can boost employment create economic output comparable to livestock farming.It can 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 bushmeat in Ngamiland and generate more value per kilogram of game meat than hunting, especially if Department of Wildlife and National Parks consider allowing trophy hunting within the ranch,” the report reads.
The report also notes that there is a need for government to help farmers to set up game farms along CKGR and along Okavango Delta since game farming was expensive. The report stated that incidents of poaching is likely to go down when communities feel they had direct benefit from wildlife species.
ORI Landscape Ecologist, Dr Gaseitsiwe Masunga is not privy to why the government has not considered implementing recommendations relating to game ranches.
“Allocating game ranches along the eastern buffer to CKGR in Boteti was possible since there is no movement of wildlife species out of the CKGR. “Considerations for large wildlife corridors should be a priority when establishing game ranches along the South and western buffer of buffalo fence. The corridors will allow wildlife species to migrate to dry areas outside the delta. I wouldn’t know why government has put the recommendations aside. Government should consider adopting the recommendations,” said Masunga.
Last year, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks launched guideline for keeping wildlife in Masimo. According to the department the initiative was intended to get Batswana into game farming.
The department has launched a pilot project where the department will capture animals in the wild and avail them to farmers. The wild animals that will be availed to farmers are impala, gemsbok, zebra and warthog.