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Phemo Kgomotso: Wetland resource-use dynamics in the Lower Okavango Basin, north-western Botswana


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Presentation at the STEPS Conference 2010 - Pathways to Sustainability: Agendas for a new politics of environment, development and social justice

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Phemo Kgomotso: Wetland resource-use dynamics in the Lower Okavango Basin, north-western Botswana

  1. 1. Phemo Kgomotso Dphil Candidate Knowledge Technology and Society (KNOTS)Team Institute of Development Studies Brighton, UK
  2. 2.  Wetland ecosystems and their uses ◦ Complex systems; multiple uses and services (i.e. provisioning, cultural, regulating and supporting) ◦ ‘Fragile’ and ‘threatened’ ◦ Contested resources- use and management  Okavango Delta wetland ◦ Downstream of a transboundary system (both Botswana and Namibia relatively dry compared to upstream Angola) ◦ Support over 100 ,000 people (incl. ethnic minorities ) and large populations of wild fauna and flora, including about 25% of Africa’s population ◦ Declared a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Site) in 1997 ◦ Preparations underway to declare it a World Heritage Site?
  3. 3. Okavango Delta livelihoods
  4. 4.  Local communities heavily reliant on traditional subsistence agriculture and fishing for livelihoods  Competition and conflict over land resources on the rise (access and control)  Conservation and tourism main beneficiaries  Marginalisation of traditional/ subsistence resource-use  CBNRM focusing largely on wildlife resource use for commercial purposes (tourism and recreational hunting)  Global environmental change discourses and narratives have highly influenced environmental policy and practice in the last 2 decades  Also , we have seen an internationalisation of environmental resources and decision-making that has subsequently resulted in loss of local control over and access to these resources, particularly in the developing world
  5. 5.  Arable farming  Flood-recession agriculture o competition for same river-front land with the tourism industry, Ramsar-related conservation measures initiated a 200m buffer zone o Flooding and drying dynamics make this practice unreliable  Dry-land agriculture o Environment-related challenges (low and unreliable rainfall; crop raids by wildlife) o Competition for agriculture land (conservation vs. subsistence use) o Access to draught power, labour
  6. 6.  Pastoral farming o Cattle and their importance to rural livelihoods (draught power, status symbol, h/h income) o Botswana’s beef produce and export to the EU  Role in shaping land use policies in general  Role in shaping policies towards cattle production in particular (e.g. subsidies to promote production; and controversial disease management policies) o Okavango Delta for wildlife conservation/tourism (commercial use) or cattle production (subsistence use)?  Conservation policies focus on increasing wildlife populations and area of land under protection  Direct competition for grazing with wildlife; wildlife predation on livestock  Reduced subsistence production, direct impact on food production
  7. 7.  Okavango Delta communities have historically fished  A social safety net;  Cultural expression of the river communities  Primarily seasonal activity (availability regulated by flooding and drying)  Tourism industry brought new-entrants (users) into the sector (angling/sport fishing)  Late 1980s- Agricultural policies encouraged small-scale commercial fish production (primarily the use engine boats, fishing nets and refrigeration facilities)  Mid 2008- Official government regulation of the activity as part of wetland conservation and ‘biodiversity mainstreaming’ programmes  Criminalisation of traditional fishing methods and practices  Closed season for fishing  Conservation discourses and narratives (fish as wildlife as opposed to food) 2003 transfer from Agriculture Ministry to Environment, Wildlife and Tourism  Reported decline in ‘commercial fishers’; a few poaching arrests…
  8. 8.  Botswana’s modernisation project has seen a gradual process privatisation of the commons and ‘resource capture’ by the elite  E.g. Subsistence livestock production vs. beef cattle ranching (subsidies for commercial production)  Global conservation discourse provides a tool for this process  Tragedy of the Commons thesis highly influential over land-use policy  Wetland degradation and loss; biodiversity loss…  Reduced access to and control over local environmental resources for traditional users, and transfer of these to other ‘new ’users (tourism, cattle elite…)  Household food security of rural communities threatened: reduced capacity to cope with environmental change  Botswana’s rural income poverty has increased in the last 2 decades, along with unemployment
  9. 9.  Since ‘Rio’ the global environmental ‘crisis’ discourse and narratives have dominated the environment debate  The ‘north-south’ environmental management relations (donor funding, technical advice, knowledge transfer…) are characterised by this ‘crisis’ narrative  This framing of the problem has directly and indirectly contributed to a marginalisation of local people, and resource capture by the elite despite the ‘CBNRM’ rhetoric  Most policy solutions are restrictive and ‘protectionist’  Engagement of grassroots actors in the policy process largely cosmetic and lack political will  Power pervades all processes and levels of policy-making  Global policies that impact on the livelihoods of the poor need to be more reflective and grounded in the local contexts and understanding of the political dynamics shaping people- environment relationships