Visit of the UNDP Botswana Senior Personnel to Satau and Parakarungu VillageMar 27, 2015
In between the heavily packed schedules of the World Elephant Summit and the Illegal wildlife Trade Conference held in Kasane during the week of 23rd - 27th March 2015, the UNDP senior personnel, Nik Sekhran, Director of Sustainable Development based in New York and Paul Harrison, Global Wildlife Enforcement Advisor based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, found time to comb through the thickets of the Chobe National Park and the Kasane Forest Reserve not only to appreciate the natural beauty of Botswana’s fauna and flora but to pass through into the Chobe Enclave villages, part of the Bio-Chobe Project area, a GEF supported UNDP initiative. The tarmac road meandered through the Chobe Enclave but at Kachikau Village the modern black road surface slipped away from under the wheels of the UNDP branded vehicles and real rural African reality came to life. The journey continued on a bumpy dusty dirt road to Satau Village and within 10 minutes’ drive from the tarmac road the team drove through a huge flood plain with very few scattered stunted acacia trees and wide grass plains that go beyond view. In the centre of this flood plain, among the tall and beautiful palm trees lies Satau Village. The village reeds huts and yards looked so still with very few people moving around. One could imagine that activities, and noise were suspended and housewives had ceased their labour and all roads had led to the Kgotla (Community traditional meeting place) for the community to wait for the guests from UNDP.
In the Kgotla the community members were waiting keenly and their conversations died the moment the visitors entered the Kgotla. It was so silent that even the sound of a falling toothpick could be heard. After introductions, when Nik Sekhram told the audience that he has been to Chobe District and Botswana before elderly people’s eyes just sparkled after the interpretation of his words. The mood changed, the audience started to relax and you tell that now they felt that the visitors were not strangers but a part of them. Community members raised their issues of concern honestly and freely.
They appreciated the visit and the initiatives of the Bio-Chobe Project and appealed for the project to promote rural sustainable livelihoods in order to relieve them of the absolute poverty. A number of issues were raised and they included;
-Lack of livelihoods alternatives for communities leading to high levels of poverty.
- Lack of markets for community produce including crafts, thatch grass
- Human Wildlife Conflict
- Increasing elephant population
Ban on hunting – they stated that the hunting ban has led to the projects that were supported by the Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust through revenues from the hunting quota coming to a standstill and they do not have hope of whether those projects will ever be resuscitated. The hunting ban has also deprived them access to game meat which was a good part of their diet during the hunting season.
Fishing and Fishing season – communities complained that although the fishing season has just started on the 01st March 2015, it is difficult for the fishermen to harvest any fish from the river because it seems the fishermen on the Namibian side have been fishing during the close of the season because even though in Botswana fishing is regulated, with the closing of the Fishing Season between December 31st and March 01st, that regulation does not apply to the neighbouring country of Namibia. Community members requested UNDP and Botswana government to engage with the Namibian government and try to harmonise the fishing regulations between the two countries.
Bush Fire management – community members detailed that bush fire in Chobe District is a disaster that happens every year but they are always unprepared for fire suppression because of lack of training, equipment and resource support. Therefore they appreciated the fact that Bio-Chobe Project has established the Community Based Fire Management Committees and promised capacity development for fire management at the community level.
After the discussions in the Kgotla the Bio-Chobe project Manager, Rosinah Masilo-Rakgoasi invited everybody to the unveiling of the Project village plaque that is mounted in the Kgotla. She explained that the plaque carries promises of the Bio-Chobe Project to the community members and each member is entitled to hold the project implementation team, especially herself accountable for not delivering on the promises on the plaque. She further said the plaque carries the picture of the village chief and that commits him to be the witness of the promises made between the project and the community. Those promises she said were;
ii. Conservation of natural/ biodiversity resources
iii. Promotion of sustainable rural livelihoods
iv. Promotion and diversification of the tourism product
The Satau Village project plaque was unveiled by Paul Harrison, while in Parakarungu Village the unveiling was done by Nik Sekhran. In all the villages the plaques were received with ululations and cheers from the crowds. In Parakarungu Village where the team proceeded after Satau Village meeting the same issues were raised.