Sunday Standard (Botswana)

18 Mar 2019

A Maun-based non-governmental organisation has joined conservationists supporting President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi in his precarious balancing act to protect human life and conserve wildlife.

A report by the Ngamiland Council of Non Governmental Organizations (NCONGO) embraces recommendations of the Cabinet Sub-committee on hunting, which was initially chaired by the former Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Pelonomi Venson Moitoi and now by Minister Franz Van Der Westhuizen.

It has been hailed as more than just an act of political posturing but a demonstration of his [Masisi’s] consideration for the communities living alongside wild creatures.

The NCONGO executive director, Siyoka Simasiku, says: “It’s important that people who take interest in the issue of human wildlife conflict and conservation, and everybody else who matter understand that the support of communities for the leadership’s decision to lift the ban on hunting is more like a celebration of their own victory. They positively and deliberately contributed to its making since they have been thoroughly consulted.”

Professor Joseph Mbulawa says the President’s decision is highly commendable, and that it will go a long towards impacting on lives in a manner like never before.

“Personally, I have never agreed with the idea of conservation by hunting ban especially regarding the large species, I believe communities have have always had very progressive approaches of conserving species including in the period before the ban,” submitted Mbaiwa.

Central to the objective of the report are the outcomes of a workshop held last year end, attended by at ten Community Based Organizations (CBOs) from wildlife infested areas, which took place in Maun.

The document packages the proceedings and conclusions of the CBOs on the implications of the envisaged reintroduction of trophy hunting as well as reflections on the 2014 pre-ban period on their livelihoods.

Accordingly, the report formed the CBOs position to present to government through the Cabinet Sub-Committee on the subject matter via the national consultative process on trophy hunting, in the event government re-introduced trophy hunting.

Mbulawa says some of the age-old traditional methods include selective hunting where certain animals could not be killed for customary reasons such as totems, or culling the aged males as well as timing or seasonal considerations.

Ultimately most of the animals would then return where they belong – in the wild. Equally striking in the report is the proposition of how indigenous and local knowledge can be incorporated into scientific knowledge to achieve conserving of species, as well as community based anti-poaching strategies.

It should also serve as a motivation for communities to rise up, defend and actualize their position in the broader shere of things and seek to proactively inspire the substance and direction of any envisaged legislation to ensure that it would be people oriented whilst at the same time bracing up to tap on the potentialities legitimately availed by the decision to lift the ban.

“For communities in these areas you could say the decision is one that is very close to their hearts in that it comes across as a giant and unprecedented stride in overcoming poverty in all the regions and areas of the country inhabited by wildlife, such as Chobe, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Ngamiland,  and Nkange, Boteti District and the Okavango region as well ,” posited Simasiku.

To qualify his argument Simasiku says communities and Trusts who prior to the ban had very much depended on the wildlife for their livelihood. He says they were thriving so much that the halting of hunting for them amounted to a traumatic social and economic disruption and degradation.

The ban stole all their worth and source of survival. The gravity of the situation is such that some of them had to auction equipment and facilities they had secured prior to the 2014 ban as they have been robbed of all reason to exist.

Against this background, different approaches and models of business and partnerships and various complex alternative arrangements aimed at empowering citizens were explored.

For example, preference in hunting should be given to locally register hunting safari companies, foreign companies should partner with local companies to be allowed to hunt and that safari companies should have short-term agreement instead of the long-term ones as was the case in the past.