Botswana is the African darling of the international community, praised for its success as a progressive society with a multi-party democracy. This thriving economy is also an environmentally-responsible tourism destination. In fact, Lonely Planet named Botswana its top travel destination in 2016, giving the country one more reason to celebrate its 50 years of independence.
There is no denying Botswana’s impressive rags-to-riches story. The tale centers around its achievement in building an industry that appeals to tourists’ desires for uninhibited encounters with wildlife, environmental preservation and unparalleled luxury. Sadly, many who call this land home have not shared in the country’s success. Paradoxically, it is those who have lived here for millennia who now seem cursed by the bountiful blessings reaped in their homeland.
The San – who are locally referred to as Basarwa but prefer the term Bushmen — are widely believed to be the world’s oldest people. They are direct decedents of the first homo sapiens, having inhabited the Kalahari desert as hunters and gatherers for more than 30,000 years. You might think that a people and culture who attract such foreign intrigue would fit perfectly into a nation renowned for its leadership in ecotourism.
Instead, despite their long-held claim to the land, the San’s recent history is full of displacement and tragedy. Over the past several centuries, they’ve been kicked around Southern Africa, first by the Bantu tribes of the north, then European colonists, and finally their own government — into ever shrinking plots of land in the name of wildlife conservation and mineral excavation.
In Botswana’s quest to preserve its wildlife and environment as the focal point of its tourism industry, the government forcibly removed San communities from its richest wildlife reserves and mining territories. More recently, in the early 1980s, diamonds were discovered in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, resulting in further displacements of more than 5,000 San from their ancestral lands. Losing their homes, schools, traditional health posts, water supply and access to game hunting, they were relegated to resettlement camps outside of the reserve and left to depend on meager government handouts.
The plight of the San has been described with terms such as ethnocide. What once numbered the planet’s largest population for tens of thousands of years has been decimated to well under 100,000 today. This tragedy is perhaps best summed up by one of the most horrific laws ever adopted. As recently as 1936, it was actually legal — and even encouraged — to hunt the San people. That’s right, less than a century ago, the world’s oldest people were dehumanized by their own government to the value of overpopulated wild game!
In 2006, the Bushmen finally tasted a slice of victory when judges ruled that they should reclaim their right to live within their ancestral territories and access the boreholes of which they have been deprived. The court described the plight of the Bushmen as a “harrowing story of human suffering and despair.”
In response, the government has ramped up their support of San living on the reservations, introducing free education and health care, food-for-work programs, old-age pensions, drought aid, free food for AIDS orphans, and free antiretrovirals for people with HIV/AIDS. However, this very support has fostered a deeply unhealthy dependency. Today, an overwhelming proportion of Botswana’s San are gripped by alcoholism, prostitution, depression, and diseases including HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis. “The government gives but does not empower,” explains Alice Mogwe, head of Ditshwanelo, the Botswana Centre for Human Rights. “Its progress is based on dependency.”
While Botswana still issues permits for big game hunting, the San have recently been denied the right to hunt – a devastating blow to their central livelihood.
The plight of the San raises the question: Is there a place for an ancient people and culture in today’s world? Despite their incredible resourcefulness, recent history’s answer seems to be no. Yet, is there not an opportunity for Botswana’s people to preserve their culture and lifestyle through tourism? A number of responsible tour operators are determined to find an answer to this question.
Adventure travel leader G Adventures is working to improve the relationship between the tourism industry and local communities through partnerships with impact-driven local organizations. “As G Africa unfolds, we are working toward ensuring that every stop is locally owned and supports the community,” explains CEO (chief experience officer), Farai Chigwada.
Most Botswana tour itineraries have not ventured far beyond its game parks, but G Adventures guides its small groups on weeklong overland treks that make multiple stops. It aims to facilitate opportunities for authentic engagement with local communities across the region, from guides of Chobe National Park to the poler captains who sail mokoro canoes through the Okavango Delta.
The Lando, G Adventures’ new bright purple all-terrain, WiFi-enabled overland vehicle, also stops in Ghanzi, a town in Western Botswana, which boasts one of the region’s largest communities of Bushmen. There, they introduce travelers to San culture through authentic interaction in the form of campfire dances and survival skills training, offered by partners like Ghanzi Trailblazers Camp. “We help youngsters learn about their own culture so they can pass it to their children,” explains Robert Camm.
G Adventures (and others) also direct travelers to the nearby Kuru Cultural Center. This Dutch-supported initiative boasts an adult language and vocational training center, a preschool, and various cultural programs serving Bushmen communities in D’Kar, Botswana. In addition to operating a museum and library, Kuru hosts an annual cultural festival, well known across Botswana. The Kuru Art Project supports local Bushman artists to revive the role of art as an expressive outlet for their traditions and recent life experiences, as their ancestors had done in the rock paintings all over Southern Africa. Finally, Kuru has incubated Dqae Qare, the region’s only lodge owned by the San themselves.
Still, as G Adventures and others have found, organizations that are in fact owned and operated by Bushmen are virtually nonexistent outside of foreign-backed Kuru. Many local tour operators offer cultural tours, yet their impacts on the San are at best limited. “They are almost always designed and imposed by foreign owners who reap the majority of the benefits,” explains Mogwe of the human rights center. A prime example is the wildly popular Bushmen painting tours in the caves of Tsodilo and elsewhere across Southern Africa, hardly any of which are guided by today’s decedents of the original Bushmen artists.
Incidentally, interest in interacting with the San and other local communities has never been more palpable. As Botswana enjoys a tourist boom, an increasing percentage of travelers crave a more educational, authentic and impactful experience. “The past couple of decades, people spent huge amounts of money to come to Africa to see wildlife,” explains Chigwada of G Adventures. But today, travelers are increasingly asking for opportunities to engage with local people and culture.
Time ticks by as the rapidly dwindling community of San await an answer to the question that will determine their future: Will Botswana finally embrace its rich history as it seeks to build one of the world’s great tourist destinations? Or will this nation’s history be forever tainted by the haunting ghosts of the world’s first people as they slip into extinction just like many of the wild beasts that once inhabited this land?
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Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated nations in the world, a country the size of France but with just over 2 million people.
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Gaborone – The International Tourism Bourse (ITB-Berlin) has described Botswana as “Africa’s best kept secret” and selected the country to be the first-ever Southern African official partner of the 2017 ITB travel and trade show set to take place in the German capital next year.
According to the ITB-Berlin, the agreement to make Botswana the 2017 official partner of the world’s leading travel and trade show was signed in Berlin on March 9 between Botswana Tourism minister Tshekedi Khama and ITB-Berlin chief executive officer of Messe Berlin.
In a statement released after the signing ceremony, ITB-Berlin head David Ruetz said Botswana was selected because of its successful implementation of sustainable tourism initiatives, and would benefit from the show by being placed on the spotlight as a leading global tourism destination.
“Botswana is Africa’s best-kept secret. Two contrasting natural features characterise this country: the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Basin with its many animal species, large forests, and innumerable streams that empty into small lakes. Particularly during the rainy season, visitors on trips and safaris can marvel at the unique fauna and flora.
“The diverse cultural heritage of the country, the warm hospitality shown by its people, as well as sustainable tourism make Botswana an unrivalled holiday destination in southern Africa.
“The fact that almost 40 percent of the country’s surface area has been declared a national park, wildlife or nature reserve is testimony to the exemplary efforts undertaken to actively preserve nature,” Ruetz said.
In his remarks, Khama said as the country’s premier tourism marketing authority, the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) would seize the opportunity offered by the country’s prestigious status as the official partner of ITB-Berlin 2017 to share its nature conservation achievements and consolidate the country’s position as a top global tourism destination.
“The Botswana Tourism Organisation has taken the opportunity to become the partner country of ITB Berlin 2017 in order to share Botswana’s nature conservation achievements with the rest of the world and to raise general awareness of this country.
Botswana’s role as the partner country of the world’s largest travel trade show will ensure the long-term attention of the global tourism industry.
“It will not only place the spotlight on Botswana’s tourism successes but will also focus attention worldwide on our potential for economic development. In the past Botswana has achieved great success that has remained largely unnoticed around the world. Botswana will also benefit from this year’s fiftieth anniversary of ITB Berlin.
“Numerous activities and events will give us the opportunity to market and promote our country as a tourism destination and to improve our returns on investment,” Khama said.
In 2015 a total of 10 096 companies and organisations from 186 countries across the globe exhibited their products and services to 175 000 visitors at ITB-Berlin.
Of these, 115 000 were trade visitors. The annual showcase routinely include a trade exhibition that is run concurrently with networking and business conferences.
Botswana participated at the just-ended 2016 showcase, which was the 50th edition of ITB-Berlin.
The Bushcamp Company was also featured in this awards. In SA, Grootbos was named alongside two other proudly South African lodges.
London – Set on a private concession in the northern reaches of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, the six-tent Duba Plains camp is remote even by this region’s standards.
Interlaced by fine channels, which make the flat, dusty landscape look like a cracked crème brulee, it’s only accessible by light aircraft, and there’s no phone or wifi connection.
Leopards are seen here, but the most common cats are lions. National Geographic explorers and filmmakers Beverly and Dereck Joubert, co-owners of Great Plains Conservation (responsible for managing the camp), documented the resident pride who skilfully honed buffalo hunting techniques to feed their swelling number and have also learned to swim through the Delta’s waterways.
It was a soap opera story of turf wars, power struggles and cruel infanticide, but these days the pride has fractured and signs indicate that another group may soon take over.
Judging by the muscular physique of the lions I encounter – arguably the largest in Africa – it will be an almighty battle.
This year, there’s talk of reintroducing cheetahs into the concession and even rumblings of white rhino as part of The Great Plains/&Beyond joint initiative, Rhino Without Borders, to translocate threatened rhino from South Africa to the Delta. Their exact whereabouts though, is carefully guarded.
Botswana’s commitment to conservation and a successful anti-poaching strategy account for a big part of the country’s appeal. This is one of the most expensive safari destinations in Africa, but also one of the most and popular.
Another draw is the wealth of luxury accommodation on offer, including several options from the Belmond group where mod cons include hairdryers, air-con and fluffy white bath towels. Yet comfort isn’t at the expense of an authentic wildlife experience, as I discover during my stay at the Khwai River Lodge bordering the Moremi Game Reserve.
According to the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) there are an estimated 3,000 wild dogs remaining and one of the best places to observe the endangered species is Botswana. Unlike national parks, there are no restrictions on start times in community-owned land so we set off before dawn to beat an influx of self-drivers and tourists from nearby campsites.
It’s notoriously difficult to keep pace with wild dogs, but we give it our best shot when we find a pack chasing mpala. Hurtling off road through leadwood forest we chase the dogs, whose hunting strategy involves splintering into smaller groups and even rolling around in elephant dung to disguise their scent. Their stamina is outstanding, and even with a powerful engine we can’t keep up.
Much easier to track are the slow and graceful elephants who come in 100-strong herds to bath and drink in the Chobe River, bordering Namibia, during dry season (May to October). Operating a mobile camp that moves every five days, &Beyond offer an opportunity to avoid the crowds descending on Chobe National Park.
After a night spent camping beneath a canopy of acacia trees, we find a lion pride at the river which has reached it’s lowest level in 25 years. A young cub with a terrible wound in his leg is lagging woefully behind. His mother pauses and looks back at him, then continues into the thickets.
Not every story has a happy ending, even in paradise.
By Ludo Chube
Kasane — Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT), Mr Elias Magosi has called upon the tourism industry to ensure responsible tourism development with particular reference to environment sustainable practices.
Speaking at the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) annual conference in Kasane recently, Mr Magosi challenged tour operators to have strategies and encompassing development plans for running their tourism facilities and their surroundings with environmental considerations in mind.
He indicated that as a ministry, they had always tried to find the balance decisions for environmental integrity and assured them of the ministry role to do its part in policy reviews and assessments. “We will continue to look at efforts to facilitate liberalisation of our policies and regulations for long term economic development,” he noted.
He added that it was important to introspect on many of the policies that the ministry had and identify those that can enable businesses in the industry to improve.
Mr Magosi acknowledged that he was aware of the industry’s discomfort with the new guiding license requirements. He explained that the review of the licensing was brought about to ensure Botswana’s competitiveness in the region with regards to the quality of the safari experience as well as provide guides with a career path. He assured them that the situation was being addressed between the ministry and Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA).
He explained that the Chobe Riverfront decongestion strategy whose purpose was to protect the environment was in practice and asked for patience in rolling out the strategy. “At this stage it is premature to make judgments on its impact so we plead with you to be patient and participation in implementing this strategy,” he noted.
With that in mind, he noted that prospects for growth remained robust and encouraging. He however decried lack of tourism data which he said made it difficult to determine how much the industry contributed to the economy. “The last statistics we have were updated in 2010 and for a crucial sector like ours, this is remiss as we need these statistics for planning purposes and mapping a way forward,” he said.
Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) research fellow, Mr Johnson Maiketso also decried the lack of readily available national tourism data. He noted that the tourism policy that was in place was 25 years old and as such outdated. “It is no longer relevant and so on what basis do we then evaluate the sector?” he said.
Regarding the outdated policy, the Director of Tourism Department, Ms Kelebone Maselesele explained that since 2008 the policy had been under review but never finalised which was why the industry continued to run with a policy that was developed in 1990.
In explaining the lack of data, she said Statistics Botswana was said to be experiencing a backlog since 2011 hence the insufficient updated data in the tourism industry.
Source: All Africa
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As the ICT sector grows in Botswana, government is already grappling with e-waste management and has put out calls to influence disposal e-waste safely.
The Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) and Department of Waste Management and Pollution Control (DWMPC) are spearheading government’s initiative to promote safe disposing of e-waste.
Through collaboration with Pretoria-based Africa Institute, an international NGO for sound management of hazardous waste and other chemicals, DWMPC has produced a video expected to promote safe disposing of waste.
According to DWMPC the video shows the situation of e-waste in Botswana, the private sector and public institution initiatives and recycling of e-waste in South Africa and Namibia.
“It is hoped this video will create awareness on the potential dangers of poor handling and disposal of e-waste in our society and stimulate private sector efforts towards resource recovery and recycling of this waste,” said Frank Molaletsi from DWMPC, waste management department.
In 1998 Botswana’s legislators promulgated the country’s Waste Management Act, and the piece of legislation is silent on issues of e-waste.
And in another initiative DWMPC has put out a tender to engage a consultancy to develop an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Policy to address the shortcomings and gaps in the existing waste management legislation including the sound management of e-Waste.
“Funds have been secured for this exercise. This policy will pave way for the development of an overarching legislation that will address waste management issues holistically,” said Molaletsi.
Adding sentiments to issues of e-waste Mphoeng Tamasiga, Deputy Chief Executive at BOCRA said; “The reality is that once our communications gadgets reach the end of their useful life they become waste, not just any waste but electronic waste or e-waste.”
Tamasiga said electronic waste is currently regarded as the largest growing waste stream, posing the most diverse challenges, including environmental, economic and social aspects because of its hazardous and complex nature.
Everyday millions of litres of wastewater flow past the villages of Oodi, Matebele, Mochudi and others along the Notwane River. The perennial current weaves its way past villages and cattle posts, over a distance of nearly 300 kilometres.
Far away in South Africa’s Limpopo Province, Notwane empties into the Limpopo River near Thabazimbi.
Here it settles into Notwane Dam, an 18,800,000 cubic metres reservoir largely used by South Africans for irrigation purposes.
The perennial flow’s source can be traced back to the bathrooms and kitchens of both the Greater Gaborone and the city’s nearly 500,000 residents.
It would have emptied into the Gaborone Water Treatment Plant by way of sewers, or transported by effluence tankers to the Gaborone Sewage Farm or treatment plant.
After it is treated the water is released into lagoons or stabilisation ponds. Some of it flows into a wetland in the Gaborone Game Reserve and into the Notwane River.
It is an unceasing, gurgling flow of millions of cubic metres of a liquid that elsewhere on planet Earth is considered more precious than any mineral.
Yet, the value of this effluent water has been greatly ignored in Botswana. For instance, of the hundreds of farms along the Notwane River in the villages of Oodi, Matebele and Mochudi that Mmegi saw, less than 20 were putting the water to use.
Most are small gardens leased to Zimbabweans. The immigrants, most of whom are poor and illegal, cannot afford to plant bigger pieces of land for fear they could be deported anytime, or because the people who lease the farms to them may come just as their crop matures and demand their farms back.
“It is a chance we have no choice but to take,” says Tidings Dumbo who has just over 3,000 rape plants.
He pumps water from the Notwane River and allows it to flow into trenches. “From here to the river it is less than 100 metres, so I just use a water pump to bring the water to the plants,” he says.
Many of the nearby one-hectare farms along the river are, however, bereft of activity.
“Some of the owners will neither lease nor cultivate the fields, and many of them have been sitting like this for many years.” Dumbo argues there is a scarcity of vegetables in Botswana which could be offset by adequate use of Notwane River waters. He currently has paprika, and green pepper, which he says sell well.
“Whoever wants to buy green pepper will want to buy paprika. You can’t go wrong with these,” he says.
His countryman Jonston Sibanda, who like Dumbo operates solo from a rented field says he is able to put bread on the table from his vegetable garden.
He also pumps water from the Notwane River and uses trenches.
About 400 metres from Sibanda’s farm sits a bigger farm with better infrastructure.
A half dozen men and women stop working as we disembark our vehicle.
One of them is the owner. He trudges towards us in his muddy gumboots and only when he is closer do we realise he is Asian, Chinese really.
“Englis ton’t know, speak berry litel,” he declares in a good mannered way after learning what our mission is, namely, to see how much residents make use of the Notwane River flow.
He introduces himself as Cheng and calls one of his workers, Thabo, to field questions on his behalf.
Altogether he has five hectares of farmland that sit less than a hundred metres from the river.
He plants various types of vegetables, including those that are in high demand among his native Chinese population. Using a combination of both sprinkler and trenching Chen remains one of the most prolific vegetable farmers in this area. An even better example of a determination to use Notwane River water is Saith Mustafa. The Bangladesh-born Mustafa has run his farm for 20 years. “I have been here for 20 years and plant all types of vegetables – from eggplant to pumpkins and all leafy vegetables such as cabbage, spinach and chomolia,” he says.
He employs over a dozen locals in his five hectare farm. Mustafa is appalled at the failure by Batswana to utilise the Notwane River water. “You could practically export vegetables to other countries. “Diamonds may lose value. The Chinese and Russians are already making artificial diamonds.
“The hope of this nation is in agriculture. That beef’s contribution to the GDP has declined, it is necessary to build other aspects of agriculture such as horticultural farming, both to feed the nation and diversify the economy,” he says. He believes government should play a more proactive role in ensuring farms along such useful rivers as Notwane are put to good use.
“There is so much potential. Agriculture could be Botswana’s next diamond.”
Mustafa believes the country also has enough underground water to sustain irrigation. “Some parts of the country such as certain areas of Lobatse, all the way to the Mahalapye area have adequate underground water to build irrigation farming.
“Even the desert areas, which have far more underground water than the rest of the country can become thriving agricultural farms.” He gives the example of Israel, which he says utilises ‘every drop’ to turn their deserts into green pastures.
“It is possible,” he says. With regard to planting along the Notwane River, Mustafa says it comes with a lot of benefits. “You use very little or no fertiliser as the water is rich in those.” It appears however, that without government playing a more proactive role towards ensuring adequate use of the Notwane waters, the country’s food security shall remain questionable. If iclined though, government must first deal with the many challenges around usage of waste water.
Among the challenges noted by this publication are attitudes and perceptions about the use of effluent water. It is a problem many nations that chose to make use of their treated waste water have had to grapple with. However once the people have been disabused of those perceptions, and effectively assured that dangerous toxins and algae would have been removed during treatment of the water, many may start warming towards the idea of using it.
According to experts, Botswana could add up to 16 percent more water to the country’s available resources and demand, by adequately treating and availing wastewater such as that of the Notwane River. This present a wonderful hope for a country grappling with an acute shortage of water.
Source: Mmegi online
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When Albert Ndereki first worked at Chobe Game Lodge in 1971, beers were a mere US$ 0.04 cents each and guests were expected to wear formal attire at dinner in the evening. Guests flew directly into Chobe National Park with Botswana Airways (now Air Botswana), landing at Serondela Airstrip by the Chobe River and continued to the lodge on a well-graded road.
Today, he invites us on one of the first Ecotours now offered by Chobe Game Lodge.
From being born in the village of Satau in Northern Botswana to watching Richard Burton serenade Elizabeth Taylor in their private suite after their second wedding, Albert can tell you the stories of how he’s watched Botswana evolve from simple beginnings into the premier destination for safari goers around the world.
Albert talks about how challenging it was to establish Chobe Game Lodge, the first 5-star lodge of its kind in Botswana. “Things were very different then, many of the chefs, waiters, managers and other such people came from places like Zimbabwe, South Africa and overseas because there were no trained Batswana to employ” explains Albert.
“You know for the food waste at the lodge we used to dispose of it in a hole at the back of the lodge which we buried. During the Chobe River sunset cruises we used to tie reeds to fish so the guests could see the fish eagles fly down in front of them and take the floating fish.”
Albert noticed how the African Fish Eagle spent its days watching the boat waiting for its meal and quickly understood that the lodge had a responsibility to the environment and dreamed of changing how things were done.
The lodge now actively works towards benefitting the environment and boosting the local Chobe community. Albert now oversees the ecotourism initiatives at Chobe Game Lodge, inviting guests to explore the lodge on an ecotour and discover what goes on behind the scenes.
During the ecotour, Albert spends time talking about the community, what he calls the most important asset at Chobe Game Lodge, and how the lodge has invested in empowering Batswana from the region. More than 170 local youngsters have been trained and qualified through the Youth Trainee Development Programme initiated by the lodge in 2006. 18 of the graduates took up positions within Chobe Game Lodge while the others went on to further their career in the tourism industry.
“Our company medic ‘Doc B’ visits regularly to give us check-ups and provide any medicine we may need or even counselling and advice. Every year when the company makes a profit our director calls us together to talk about the year and how we all worked as a team to make it successful. We also receive dividends through the company share scheme. So really for us working at Chobe Game Lodge, it is like being part of a big family community rather than just an employee” says Albert.
On the tour, Albert then introduces us to the ecotourism projects taking place at the lodge. Food waste is now processed in a large biogas plant which produces methane for cooking gas in the staff kitchens. Waste water is treated above ground with new technology that ensures all the grey water is safely recycled into irrigation. In fact, through processes involved in the reduction of rubbish, reusing of materials and recycling initiatives in place, less than 5% of the lodge’s waste ends up in the Kasane refuse facility.
Albert shows guests the first silent CO2 emission free electric game-drive vehicles and safari boats operating in Botswana. Travellers can now move silently through the Chobe National Park observing wildlife in their natural environment, undisturbed by the rumble of a diesel motor. A far cry from guests waiting on a boat for the Fish Eagle to be fed!
But it doesn’t stop there. There are so many fascinating initiatives in place that help keep the lodge environment pristine and natural. It’s incredible to see what can be achieved with a committed approach to responsible tourism and the ecotour is certainly a refreshing look into the future of safari lodges in Africa.
Albert tells us, “If I think back to when I was first offered the job at Chobe Game Lodge in 1971 to what we have now, I am extremely proud and happy to be a part of this place – so much care and attention goes into every part and I really enjoy sharing this with our guests.”
What a privileged to have such a passionate individual like Albert on a team.
Source: Travel News
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