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Botswana - Conservation and Tourism

How tourism works in Botswana

Go to Map of Okavango Delta

Conservation and Tourism

Botswana has conserved 17% of its land as National Parks and Reserves and an additional 22% as Wildlife Management Areas (WMA's). This foresight, along with strong conservation policies and minimal population pressure, has given Botswana its unique potential for future ecotourism.

Botswana's prime policy regarding tourism is a high revenue, low volume market. They do not wish to overexploit their wildlife and wilderness resources with mass tourism, as has happened in much of East Africa. Botswana is committed to long-term gains, with an emphasis on uplifting its citizens through tourism and wildlife.

Botswana's National Parks and Game Reserves are set aside such that no one may live within their borders (the one exception being the traditional San people in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve).  All visitors must pay an entrance fee to enter and the number of beds inside these parks and reserves is quite limited.

Wildlife Management Areas (WMA's)

The system of WMA's used in Botswana today is part of a land-use strategy called Community-Based, Natural Resources Management (CBNRM). A national land-use planning exercise in the mid-1970's, designed to help foster development in Botswana's rural areas, led first to the Tribal Grazing Land Policy (TGLP). This policy resulted in the official zoning of all land into three categories: 'arable' (communal and commercial), 'grazing', and 'reserved'.  The 'reserved' category was land considered to be underutilized and unsuitable for agriculture. However, this land was typically used by the various traditional inhabitants of Botswana to hunt and to gather. Moreover, certain of these areas were also important wildlife migration routes and were considered buffer zones around protected areas, which in addition to veterinary fences, acted as livestock disease barriers.

Subsequently, it was decided that natural resources management was the appropriate use for these ‘reserved' areas. Today, these areas are known as Wildlife Management Areas (WMA's).  It was also determined that natural-resource-based management of these WMA's had to involve local community participation in order to succeed. However, legislation as to what this local management would entail, beyond state ownership of all natural resources, was absent until the 1990's.  Numerous conservation-based policies were enacted during this decade which allowed local communities to benefit from wildlife, other natural resources, and tourism.

CBNRM was born out of these policies of the 1990's and is based on the idea that the communities living adjacent to or within an area, are the people most suited to protecting the resources within it. This premise holds that the local communities stand to lose the most if those resource are lost, and will gain the most if it's well managed. Furthermore, the people that suffer the consequences of living near wildlife (destruction of crops and livestock) should also be the ones to benefit from its conservation. The local communities ought to be involved in decisions affecting the resources they depend upon to survive and they should be able to benefit from the land on which they live; CBNRM strives to make all this possible.

Controlled Hunting Areas (CHA's)
Subsequent to the land-use planning exercise of the 1970's, a further land-use strategy was developed during the late 1980's. In order to support the potential uses of WMA's, the Ministry of Local Government, Lands and Housing, and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) re-zoned all land into Controlled Hunting Areas (CHA's). CHA's are administrative land blocks used by the DWNP to allocate hunting quotas. The entire land area of Botswana is now divided into 163 CHA's, which are zoned for various types of wildlife utilization (including non-consumptive use), under either commercial or community management. The CHA's are organized, wherever possible, around existing settlements and those under community management are designed to benefit the local people. In practical terms, the WMA's were subdivided into CHA's, which became the main units of natural resource production.  Referring to the Map of Ngamiland, a concession (or NG area) is actually a CHA.

Community-Based Management

The wildlife and tourism-related policies give part of the responsibility for managing and administering wildlife to the local communities. A community or group of communities in or adjacent to a CHA zoned for community management may apply for a wildlife quota, provided it has organized in a representative manner sanctioned by the District authorities and the DWNP.

If the community wants more assured access to the wildlife quota and considers joint ventures with the private sector (safari operators or professional hunters), it may decide to lease the CHA from the land authority. In that case, the community has to organize itself into a legally-registered Community-based Organization (CBO) with a constitution and by-laws and also must produce a Land-use and Management Plan. The registered CBO may, if it so wishes, enter into subleases and/or joint-venture agreements with private companies for the use of the acquired resource rights.

The presumption is that when communities realize economic value from their surrounding natural resources, they will be inclined to manage them in a more sustainable way. The overall benefit of CBNRM is considered to be twofold: rural economic development and the conservation of Botswana's natural resources.

Trophy-hunting or Photographic
Once a CBO has entered into a lease for a community-managed CHA, the agreement gives the community exclusive rights over the wildlife quota. It can decide whether to hunt the quota or not, and how to hunt it. Species can be divided among the community members for subsistence hunting or the quota can be sold to a private-sector partner. Typically, the community sells the commercially valuable species such as elephant, zebra, lion and leopard to the private-sector partner. These species have no subsistence use for local people. Valuable trophy (male) animals among subsistence species, such as buffalo, eland, gemsbok, sable, wildebeest and kudu are sold, while the females (meat value) and the lesser antelopes, such as duiker, impala and springbok, are retained for subsistence hunting. Trophy hunting joint-venture agreements generate large sums of money at the community level and substantial employment during the six-month hunting season (April-September).

More recently, photo safari operators have begun negotiating sub-lease agreements for use of community-managed CHA's. This has been partly due to the high demand for this type of tourism and the limited number of beds available.  New safari camps are being built and the number of CHA's allowing hunting is definitely decreasing.  In fact, as little as 10-15 years ago, the majority of Ngamiland (outside of Moremi GR) was hunting area. To see the current status of hunting vs. photographic CHA's in the Ngamiland District, see our Map.

Commercial-Use CHA's

Under the current system of CHA's, the private sector may tender for the sole use of a CHA zoned for commercial use.  The lease period may run for up to 15 years. The land remains in the ownership of the country and the private sector may not own the land. Once a CHA's lease has expired, the concession is put up for bid and a rigorous process of evaluation is conducted by an independent panel of experts who do not know the identity of the companies submitting bids. Recommendations are then made to the relevant committee of elected officials, which makes the final decisions on who wins the tender. The winning operator is required to match the highest rental bid tendered. The system is designed to attract the most competent operators, and to ensure that the local communities, and the country, derive maximum benefit from the use of its resources for tourism.

Significant revenue is paid to local sources before profits may be realized by the private sector. Concession rental is paid to the Land Boards; a resource royalty is paid to local government agencies; sales tax on accommodation receipts, and a 25% income tax is paid to the central government. A per-bednight training levy goes to the Tourism Department, and daily game reserve entry fees for every visitor also go to the central government. Companies leasing the concessions must adhere to strict guidelines designating the use of the 'leased' land. For example, a particular concession may be allocated 20 beds and 45 kilometres of game drive roads.

Concession operators pay high annual fees for each vehicle, aircraft and boat used within the area. Operators must also employ locals from the area as guides and to help operate the camp, thus reinforcing the policy of involving and benefiting the communities living in and around the concessions and providing a culturally rich experience for the visitor.  The details differ somewhat in the case of a trophy hunting leaseholder, but the idea is the same.

Top           Return to Map of Botswana

For a map of Safari Camps in the Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve, click Okavango Camps
For a map of Safari Camps in the Linyanti, Selinda, Kwando, and Chobe Game Reserve, click Chobe / Linyanti Camps

Water / Land Activity Table for Botswana camps:  Water/Land Botswana
Flying Times between Botswana camps:  Fly Times Botswana

For further information about Botswana, click More Botswana
For further information about the Moremi Game Reserve, click More Moremi

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