Botswana: Drying Up of Thamakalane River Hinders Nkashi Festival

Maun — The impact of the drying up of Thamakalane River continues to be felt by both humans and animals.

Among those affected are Mekoro polers could not participate in this year's Nkashi Classic festival due to lack of water.

Nkashi Classic is an annual event organised by Botswana Wild Bird Trust aimed to celebrate the importance of mokoro as another reliable and safe mode of transport.

This year's event was held on August 24 at Okavango River Lodge.

The mekoro challenge race, which is one of the festival's highlights did not take place due to the drying up of the river.

The event features exhibitions, music, dancing, kids corner, and attendants were treated to traditional food, poetry and many more.

This year the event featured conservation education, music, storytelling, games, virtual reality experience, research information and the dance production by the Magic Bean Company.

The attendants were also treated to an open air screening of the into the Okavango documentary and fire dancing.

In an interview, one of the mekoro operators, Gobonamang Kgetho of Seronga said the drying of the river negatively affected their businesses and denied them an opportunity to take part in the Nkashi challenge race.

He the river was their only source of income adding this year's Nkashi activity did not benefit them as they could not ply their trade.

The operator said many polers across the Ngamiland district had warmly welcomed the initiative as it was adding value to their businesses.

Last year, he said many participated in the activity because the river was flowing.

Kgetho said the activity which had attracted a lot of attention boosted their business while assuring the public that mokoro was a good mode of transport.

"This activity was also giving assurance to our customers to appreciate that mokoro is a business and it is safe to use it," he added. He appreciated that despite the challenge of water level, the organizers held the activity and added more components to attract the crowd.

One of the organisers, Koketso Mookodi also the managing director of Botswana Wild Bird Trust said the event was a success even though they were unable to hold mokoro challenge race.

She appreciated that many people turned up for the event to learn, interact as the day was connecting science, community and conservation.

"I am impressed with the turn up of the community as many brought their families including the youngsters. This is a sign that the activity was growing in leaps and bounds," she added.

Mookodi explained that the Nkashi Classic was launched in 2015 as a celebration of the mokoro and the nkashi which is used to propel it.

The activity, she said was an initiative by the community as they felt mekoro was traditional activity for Ngamiland people hence they should celebrate it and showcase their skills.

"Botswana Wild Bird Trust in partnership with Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) decided to hold the event annually as a celebration of our tradition," she added.

Mookodi said they were contemplating to relocate the activity to Seronga where there is water.

She thanked BTO for their support towards the success of the event.

Source: BOPA

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