10 October 2006

Botswana: Minister Gaolathe And U.S. Ambassador Sign Forest Conservation Agreement

Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Baledzi Gaolathe and U.S. Ambassador to Botswana, Katherine Canavan, have signed a Tropical Forest Conservation agreement and a Debt Reduction Agreement on behalf of their respective governments.

Botswana has become the first country on the African continent to sign such an Agreement with the United States Under U.S. legislation known as the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA).

Under TFCA Money owed to the United States goes instead to a special fund managed by the national government of the debtor country, which uses it for in-country forest conservation activities identified in the Act.

Of the two agreements signed today, the first will reduce Botswana's debt payments to the United States by approximately USD 7 million (approx. BWP 42 million). In the second agreement, the government of Botswana will commit these funds over the next ten years to strengthen civil society by disbursing small grants to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local communities to conserve, protect, restore, and sustainably manage Botswana's forest resources.

These include the riverine forests and dry acacia forest found in the Okavango Delta and the Chobe National Park, which are home to numerous unique wildlife and birdlife species.

The U.S. government created the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) programme in 1998, because it recognised that deforestation and external debt are serious and debilitating problems for many countries.

By combining the two through a debt-for-conservation swap, the United States is alleviating the pressure of both problems.

Although other agreements have been signed between the United States and countries in Asia and Latin America, Botswana is paving the way for other African countries by taking advantage of such an arrangement.

Botswana actively supports regional natural resource management efforts, such as efforts to improve the management of water resources in the Okavango River Basin.

The United States supports Botswana in this initiative, and the TFCA agreements reinforce the cooperation between the U.S. and Botswana in managing ecosystems and biodiversity of the Southern African region.

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