BOTSWANA NEW WILDLIFE RESOURCES LAW COMING SOON TO
BENEFIT RURAL COMMUNITIES
BY EMMANUEL KORO
Johannesburg, 6 October 2022
For Botswana, it’s high time that hunting communities start to meaningfully benefit from their natural resources, including wildlife through international hunting.
A new law called the Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) Act will soon be introduced.
“After close to three decades of unfruitful attempts to have a CBNRM legislation and practitioners’ manual for Botswana, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has joined forces with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to assist the Botswana government with drafting a CBNRM Bill and CBNRM practitioners manual,” said a recent statement issued by the Botswana UNDP Office.
The CBNRM Bill aims to ensure that local communities “don’t get a bad deal from hunting contracts.”
“Government will look at the agreements to ensure that communities are not getting a bad deal,” said Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), Dr Kabelo Senyatso delivering a presentation at the recent Africa Wildlife Consultative Forum held in Kasane. “We discovered some of the communities did not get a fair share in some of the 2021 hunting agreements. The DWNP reserves the right to determine whether or not the agreement between the community and the safari operator is fair or not.”
Months later, excitement is mounting in Botswana that the Bill can be debated in Parliament soon.
“Government will look at the agreements to ensure that communities are not getting a bad deal,” said the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), Dr Kabelo Senyatso. “We discovered some of the communities did not get a fair share in some of the 2021 hunting agreements. The DWNP reserves the right to determine whether or not the agreement between the community and the safari operator is fair or not.”
Consultations of relevant stakeholders across the country were recently held, resulting in a commonly shared position by the majority of stakeholders that CBNRM legislation has long been overdue.
“The legislation will provide guidance on how community-based organisations (CBOs) can establish business arrangements and how to terminate business arrangements if they are not fruitful, it will also look at benefit-sharing between government and the CBOs. This will ensure that there is rural development and communities benefit from the natural resources around them,” said FAO Legal Consultant Dr Emma Chitsove.
The General Manager at Okavango Kopano Mokoro Community Trust (OKMCT) Seikaneng Moepedi welcomed the development noting that the legislation has long been overdue hence the need to finalise and implement it soon.
“The new legislation will give Trusts (Community Trusts) the power to control the pricing of wildlife during the hunting season, pricing of photographing rights in their concessions. It will also prevent the embezzlement of funds by CBO managers and give the community a fair chance of benefitting from their natural resources. We hope the legislation could be put in place soon because we want to take control of the resources in our areas and assist our communities,” said Moepedi.
International hunting revenue has already brought significant conservation and socio-economic benefits to Botswana hunting communities. The income from hunting has among other things been used for wildlife conservation involving the employment of community game scouts who conduct regular anti-poaching patrols. The Chobe Enclave Community which is next to the Chobe National Park with the world’s biggest elephant population in a single national park, they have used hunting revenue to establish community stores, lodges, and capacity-building. They have hundreds of thousands of Pulas (Botswana’s local currency) in their bank account. Their books are audited by professional auditing firms.
The move to introduce the Botswana CBNRM Bill comes at a time when the Southern African hunting communities are increasingly making demands for win-win benefits from international hunting by removing the middlemen. The middlemen for international hunting are the local and foreign safari hunting companies that market southern Africa as a must-visit international hunting destination; where the big five are hunted.
In a recent discussion at the African Wildlife Consultative Forum held in Kasane, Botswana, representatives of Botswana hunting communities said that to receive more benefits from hunting they intend to remove the middlemen of international hunting. These hunting companies buy the international wildlife hunting quotas from SADC hunting communities then sell the huntable wildlife to international hunters and also handle their hunts in Africa.
Despite acknowledging that they receive payment from the safari hunting companies, the Botswana hunting communities that own the wildlife think they should be getting paid more than what they are currently receiving. Hence their call to remove the middlemen.
However, the representatives of the Botswana hunting communities have admitted that the displacement of the middlemen might take time because currently, they lack the skills to market their areas as attractive international hunting destinations. They also don’t have skilled professional hunters to handle hunting for international hunters when they come to Africa.
Therefore, the hunting communities ironically need the safari hunting companies that they would like to remove as middlemen; to first train them to market their hunts overseas and also to help them train professional hunters who would in the future handle the hunts of international hunters who come to Africa.
“We think this is the right time to remove the middleman and let communities market their own natural resources,” said a member of SADC Community Leaders Network (SCLN) and CEO Ngamiland NGOs, Mr Siyoka Simasiku. “Communities should not be stakeholders but shareholders.”
However, Mr Siyoka said that this transition from middlemen to hunting community self-marketing will take time as “there is need for capacity building.”
Meanwhile, Chief Timex Maolosi of Botswana’s Samunkuyo Trust said that all the community trusts in Botswana met in Maun recently and recommended the need for capacity building of hunting communities to enable them to market their wildlife to preferred markets.
“Communities should become shareholders or owners of the hunting industry in their localities,” said Chief Maolosi. “There is a need to do away with middlemen in the hunting industry but it will take time to achieve capacity building.”
About the writer: Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning independent environmental journalist who writes extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.