Botswana: Natural Resources Utilisation Bills in Offing

Gaborone — The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism is currently developing three bills on forestry, access benefit sharing and community-based natural resources management.

This was revealed by the minister, Ms Philda Kereng, during commemoration of World Wildlife Day held virtually yesterday.

She said the development of a forestry bill for safeguarding and management of the country's forest resources was at finalisation stage.

Minister Kereng said the bill provided and promoted sustainable utilisation of forest resources through provision of management and usage rights to communities.

It also provided opportunities for communities to take responsibility for the management and maintenance of firebreaks in their areas, she said.

Ms Kereng said another legislation being drafted pertained to access benefit sharing which would provide for the development of biosafety protocols to protect communities against the theft of indigenous knowledge.

In a drive to promote sustainable livelihoods improvement from forests and other natural resources, she said, government was in the process of developing a community based natural resources management bill.

Its intention was to provide rights over management and utilisation of natural resources for economic gain to communities as well as to protect them against exploitation, she said.

On other activities, Minister Kereng said the ministry had identified 45 wilderness campsites at Khutse, Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve and Kgalagadi Trans Frontier Park for allocation to 100 per cent citizen companies and consortia by May.

"The allocation process of campsites is at an advanced stage and evaluation of the bids will start soon, 20 tourism sites have been identified in dams across the country, which will also be allocated to 100 per cent citizen owned companies," she said.

She further said the ministry planned to open up forest reserves for tourism development adding that sites would be identified for lodges, campsites and other tourism activities.

The minister said 70 per cent of the identified sites would be allocated to citizens and 100 per cent citizen-owned companies and consortia while 30 per cent would be available for open competition.

The arrangement, she said, was in line with government's commitment of promoting citizen participation and empowerment in the tourism sector.

In view of the benefits derived from forests and wildlife, Ms Kereng urged Batswana to report any illegal activities, including unsustainable harvesting practices of forests and range resources, illicit exploitation of wildlife, veld fires and illegal sand mining operations.

"Joint efforts in protection of forests and wildlife resource could help to build an environment that would sustain our children, our grandchildren and future generations," she said.

Ms Kereng pointed out that poaching of iconic wildlife species including pangolin, elephant, rhino, cheetah and some types of birds, remained a serious concern.

However, she said the ministry, in collaboration with other security organs, had gained ground in protection of species evidenced by a marked decrease in poaching incidences, especially of rhino, in the 2020/21 financial year.

In addition, she said there was an increase in the number of poachers apprehended.

This year's day was celebrated under the theme 'Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet'.

It was aimed at raising awareness on the multitude of benefits provided by forests and wildlife as well as to drive discussions and work towards transformative change on the urgent threats facing them.

It provided an opportunity to reflect on the immense value of forests, forest dwelling and wildlife species as well as their intrinsic link to the livelihoods of local communities.

Source : BOPA

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