Habu — Community development is at the heart of the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism's agenda, says Minister Philda Kereng.
Speaking at the launch of a sustainable wildlife management community conservancy project in Habu recently, Ms Kereng said partnering with community based organisations such as Habu Elephant Development Trust was key to delivering impactful alternative livelihood options to rural communities.
The project, Ms Kereng said, aimed to strengthen innovative, community-led efforts to reconcile wild species conservation with food security while at the same time improving local livelihoods.
The four-year initiative began this year and is being implemented in Botswana and Namibiaco-funded by French Development Agency the European Union.
It is part of the sustainable wildlife management programme and builds on a similar project being developed with community conservancies in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Minister Kereng said in Botswana, it would focus on delivering on key areas such as improvement of institutional and legal framework for sustainable use of wild species meat and management of wildlife resilience to hunting and fishing.
Another focus area was improvement of alternative protein supply to local communities while ensuring sustainable harvesting of wild meat, said the minister.
She said the project would also be used to support the 1992 Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act review.
"Some aspects of this act need to be revised and updated and I am happy that we will have some technical and financial resources from this project towards this process," she said.
Ms Kereng said it was possible for the country's trophy hunting programme to be reformed and improved so that both government and community based organisations issued hunting quotas generated even more income.
To that end, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks would use the project to develop test models for supporting communities to earn more from sustainable wildlife off-take.
Additionally, Ms Kereng said, it would help to address other conservation challenges such as human-wildlife conflict which remained a significant issue facing the country.
"My ministry has developed some initiatives to address these human-wildlife conflicts, such as the recently launched National Elephant Management Plan and the proposed engagement of citizens to assist with assessment of wildlife damages," said Ms Kereng.
On a related issue, Ms Kereng said the ministry was currently finalising a national anti-poaching strategy for 2021 to 2026 aimed at curbing illegal wildlife trade and off-take.
Among the strategy's pillars was implementation of the concept of communities as first line of defence on illegal wildlife trade, she said.
Ms Kereng said the approach would provide ample scope for the project to support meaningful contribution by the trust to ensure that wild meat was sourced from sustainable and legal sources.
With the project, the trust should be assured that some of the challenges it had been facing in exploiting opportunities provided by community based natural resource management would be addressed, she said.
For his part, Habu's Kgosi Malebo Raditse welcomed the initiative.
He stated that his community had always subscribed to wildlife conservation hence the trust's establishment.
Kgosi Raditse pleaded with wildlife authorities to consider inclusion of animals such as hyenas, jackals and locusts in the list of those eligible for damage compensation.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>