Help struggling farmers get jobs in tourism, Botswana chief says

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Many locals from villages in Botswana’s Chobe region struggle with subsistence farming because elephants raid their crops and predators kill their livestock, thereby escalating human wildlife conflict in the area.

Tribal leader, Kgosi Tshegofatso Samoka of Plateau Customary Court, shared these sentiments on the sidelines of the just-ended Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) annual conference in Kasane in the north.

Samoka advised that the only option available for the community to benefit from conservation is to venture into tourism in large numbers. He therefore called on the Government and tourism players to create an enabling environment for locals to establish tourism businesses to improve their livelihoods.

He suggested that locals should participate in non-consumptive tourism because photographic safari is lucrative in areas of high wildlife density such as Chobe.

“If we see a buffalo in Chobe, it’s like our cattle so we need to take care of it rather than kill it for meat consumption, “ he said. “If we see this forest in the park it’s more like our ploughing fields. We must conserve this pristine area for our future generation.”

He indicated that those who benefit from agriculture are only commercial farmers from Pandamatenga areas as their farms have electric fences which deter elephants and other wild animals from destroying their crops.

He said if locals are not benefiting from wildlife, some will resort to poaching to make ends meet which would destroy the legacy of good conservation practised over the years. It would also harm the country’s economy since tourism is the second contributor to the country’s GDP.

Asked about the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Natural Resources Conservation invitation to tourism companies to bid for eight lodges at Chobe River Front, Samoka said he supports the move as it will allow more locals, especially the youth, to benefit from the tourism industry.

He also stressed that Chobe National Park is a huge area, adding that the earmarked lodges must be spread all over the park instead of being placed only at the riverfront to allow anyone to bid for the campsites or lodges.

Samoka decried that most of the large multinational photographic companies in the area rake in high profits but exclude local people. He said that the earmarked lodges will allow locals to participate in the tourism sector and its value chain.

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