Botswana: Khawa Trust Grapples With Economic Challenges

Khawa — In the heart of Kgalagadi, 157km south west of Tsabong lies a beautiful village of Khawa with spectacular sand dunes.

A drive to the village reveals a master piece of a wonderland where the gravel road stretch that leads to Khawa is dotted with pleasant sights of birds and wild animals as the kori bustard, springboks, gemsboks, ostriches, guinea fowls and domestic animals which are calmly grazing through the emerald tussock grass and shrubs.

The village is endowed with untouched natural resources and boasts of a unique landscape and flora and fauna.

A gravel road stretch that is usually covered with chocking thick hoar dust around this time of the year, in a beehive of activity as villagers and Khawa dune challenge enthusiasts prepare for the annual iconic motorsport and cultural festival tourism flagship programme is without activity and this sends the message that akin to other key tourism events nationally, there is uncertainty on whether the event will be held this year due to COVID-19.

The event that promotes sport and adventure has seemingly usurped economic life from Khawa which usually comes alive during the dune challenge to offer a great motor sport adventure but the uncertainty hovering on whether the dune challenge will be held this year has left villagers disappointed.

Khawa Village Trust secretary, Mr Moseka Seitshiro, said in an interview that the outbreak of COVID-19 hurt the trust financially since its main source of income was proceeds from the challenge.

"Last year, there was a time when the trust struggled financially. We were not able to pay employees at the Karakul sheep project because we did not have finances," he said.

The Karakul sheep project started in 2013 with 52 sheep bought in Namibia and was temporarily kept at Lobu Small Stock Farm while the trust was working on fencing its own land.

The stock was relocated in 2018.

Government, through the Kgalagadi District Council, had been assisting the trust by providing relevant expertise and infrastructure development.

Mr Seitshiro lamented that the closure of borders adversely affected the trust's cash flow since they could not penetrate South Africa and Namibia markets which they used to sell to, through Lobu Small Stock Farm.

"They sold for us and gave us cheques and when borders closed due to COVID-19, everything stopped," he said.

Nonetheless, Khawa sub chief, Mr David Manyoro says they continue to take care of the sheep despite resource constraints and debilitating effects of COVID-19 which resulted in the abrupt closure of borders and them not being able to sell outside the country.

The suspension of Khawa Dune Challenge due to COVID-19 risks also put a strain on their finances.

It is proceeds from Khawa Dune Challenge that supported the establishment of the Karakul sheep project, a multimillion pula business adventure that the community intends to run professionally in future with help from government.

The trust's financial challenges were compounded by last year's hunting ban that effected due to uncertainty caused by COVID-19, resulting in loss of revenue because they had no quotas to sell.

Hope remains that this year when the ban is lifted, the trust will be able to make money that will go towards running of the Karakul sheep project, to supplements funds from government.

Khawa social worker, Ms Onalenna Ratshidi said so far there are 96 black and white karakul sheep and they have in the past sold 16 castrates to finance the farm.

She says plans are underway to source 200 karakul sheep locally.

Kgalagadi District Council chairperson, Mr Hendrick Jacobs stated during the just ended full council meeting that drilling, water reticulation and paddocking were completed at the Karakul farm and that P1.5 million was recently disbursed for the construction of a karakul sheep slaughter house, fencing of farm extension and increasing breeding stock.

Khawa Village Trust chairman, Mr Piet Osenoneng hoped that the project would create employment for Khawa youth.

He said the project was still under custody of the council and they were putting strategies in place to ensure success of Karakul sheep production.

In a recent rural development council sitting held at Lobu Small Stock Farm, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi said the Karakul sheep presented a multibillion Pula business hence the need to develop it and create high quality fashion out of the skin.

Thus he said this created an opportunity for local fashion designers to tap into the small stock value chain and position themselves to produce high quality clothes and fashion accessories using Karakul sheep leather.

<i>Source : BOPA</i>

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