Ngamiland residents have pleaded for the revised management plan of the Okavango Delta to be centered around developing the social-economic livelihoods of local communities living within and around the area.
It surfaced recently at a consultative kgotla meeting in Maun meant for the reviewing of the 2008 Okavango Delta Management Plan (ODMP) that the locals continue to be marginalized while foreigners have taken control of Botswana’s prestigious wetland resource. Those living in the delta complain that declaring Okavango Delta as a Ramsar Site and as a World Heritage Site has negatively impacted on their social-economic livelihoods.
Among the aggrieved is a Xaxaba resident, Mokobelang Monnawapula, who revealed that not only are they not allowed to practice fishing and farming, but their movement in the delta is also being restricted. This, he explains, is because of many foreign owned private camps which have been constructed close to their villages and settlements without any consultation. Monnawapula said as a result they are not able to easily access essential necessities such as water and health. The frustrated resident has even suggested for the withdrawal of the delta from being a Ramsar Site since the status according to him only benefits foreigners.
Another tribal elder in Maun, Keith Diako added that it is true that there are locals in the delta who continue to be relocated from their place of residence to pave way for the expansion of wildlife management areas. Diako advised that the management plan of the delta should not destroy the economic livelihood of people who have been living in the area but it should rather explore how the residents can be developed for their livelihoods to fit into the general management plan. “The plan should include the economic lifestyle of people who have been living in the delta, not for people to be stopped practicing farming which has for years been their means for survival,” Diako advised.
Meanwhile other residents believe it is the government system which is failing them and this has consequently led to locals turning into servants of foreigners in their own delta. The residents accuse government through Tawana Land Board for refusing to allocate them land which were owned by their forefathers. They complain that it is however easy and simple for the Board to allocate the same land to foreigners. “We are supposed to be the one owning these prime tourism lands and foreigners seeking to do partnerships with us, but our government is failing to facilitate for this to happen,” a distressed Ditshiping resident, Lekopanye Ngwananoka lamented as he picture how wealthy they would become had that been the case.
He concurred with the former Legislature, Gilson Saleshando who is disturbed by a contradictory study which indicates that despite Ngamiland being rated as the second richest district in the country, the district is also at the same time ranked among the poorest region in Botswana. Saleshando decried that the country’s high-value, low-volume tourism strategy did not benefit any of the local communities in Ngamiland. The idea of the strategy was to develop sustainable tourism while at the same time also maximizing its social-economic benefits.
Another concern that also cropped up at the meeting was exploitation of locals by foreign owned Safari Camps operating in the delta. The locals especially the youth are reportedly subjected to harsh working conditions and long working hours for a monthly pay of as low as P1500.