- We are not assured of any of our natural resources and how long they will last
- The planet is on a decline, there is a rush to save the planet
In his opening remarks at the just ended International Symposium and annual conference of the 10YFP sustainable Tourism Programme in Kasane, the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, said the fact that as a country we are not assured of any of our natural resources and how long they will last we should make it a point to protect them. Secondly, he said as a country we do not want to be another safari destination as there are many of those but need to be different in how we manage our resources and the responsibility we have towards our resource and to mother earth.
“The planet is on a decline, there is a rush to save the planet. Why are we saving the planet? Is it for us to enjoy the livelihoods that we become accustomed to or is it to protect the planet so that we can share it with other beings and species that live off of it?” Tshekedi asked further adding that “8 million tons of litter in the seas, when we have deprived those species in the sea a livelihood those that depend on that what will they do? Going forward we need to be aware of our moral obligation towards this planet.”
The symposium under the theme “Empowering Tourism Destinations’ Sustainability through Innovation” brought stakeholders of the programme and sustainable tourism experts from around the world, who are dedicated to advancing sustainable tourism globally and particularly focusing on applying innovative approaches, tools and techniques to accelerate sustainable patterns in the tourism sector in both developed and developing countries. The conference presented opportunities for participants to exchange experiences and play an active role in shaping the priorities of the programme by using their collective intelligence to jointly develop a Call for Action. The ‘Kasane Call to Action’ is a consolidated joint front that intends to unite forces of all stakeholders to demonstrate the sectors contribution to the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, the sustainable consumption and production framework and the global climate action agenda.
Moreover, the UNWTO defines sustainable tourism as tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities. According to a report by the World Bank Group titled Tourism for Development, sustainable tourism is a proven tool for development, benefiting communities in destinations around the world. As demand for global tourism continues to grow, the opportunities for sustainable development also increase. The report further states that when properly planned and managed, sustainable tourism can contribute to improved livelihoods, inclusion, cultural heritage and natural resource protection and promote international understanding.
Chobe Game Lodge as a shining example of ecotourism
Ecotourism is a type of sustainable development. The aim of ecotourism is to reduce the impact that tourism has on naturally beautiful environments. Any tourist destination can be harmed by increased tourism. If areas are damaged or destroyed, they will not be available to future generations. Located right in the Chobe National Park is the pioneer of ecotourism, Chobe Game Lodge. The team at the five-star lodge are proud of their eco-tourism certification, one of only a handful awarded by the Botswana Tourism Board.
One of the lodge’s long serving employee, Albert Ndereki from Satau village is termed the human encyclopedia of ecotourism. He has worked for the lodge since 1971 and oversees the ecotourism initiatives at the game lodge, inviting guests to explore the lodge on an ecotour and discover what goes on behind the scenes of the facility. The tour includes an above ground closed sewage treatment plant which turns sewage water into irrigation water and even recycling all glass bottles on-site by crushing them and converting them to innovative and strong ‘glass bricks’.
With its eco-credentials in mind, Chobe Game Lodge has embarked on a journey to be the first lodge in Africa to operate an entirely electric safari fleet. Ndereki then showed guests the first silent free electric game-drive vehicles and safari boats using solar power operating in Botswana. “The aim is to stay silent and not disturb wildlife by the rumble of fuel/ diesel motor in their natural environment,” he explained.
Moreover, the initiative was kick started in November 2014 when they launched an eco-friendly safari, making use of a CO2 emission-free, silent electric 4WD game-drive vehicle (a converted Land Rover) and a silent electric safari skimmer boat, the first safari lodge in Africa to do so.
Interview with Minister Tshekedi Khama
Q: There is a belief that tourism in this country is for moneyed foreigners and Batswana rarely participate. What are you doing to make sure that Batswana are part of this country’s tourism industry?
TK: What we have done with the tourism land bank is that concessions that currently have a lease have all been converted to 15 to 15 plus years. If you qualify to keep your lease you get another 15 years after a series of five years inspections. At 15 years we can now split the concession and we have currently identified five sites in the Okavango which has gone to the ministry of lands for approval and these sites will be given to BTO to partner with Batswana so that we make the delta affordable to Batswana. We have also done one or two in the Chobe National Park and the other place is the Makgadikgadi Heritage trail an area that will encourage Batswana to participate. In any case it will be affordable tourism but not at the expense of our standards.
Q: There has been reports that elephants are dying in the Chobe National Park. What is happening?
TK: At some stage we had the challenge of anthrax which is coming from Namibia in the western side of the country. Then of course we also lose a couple of elephants to poachers but we have a robust approach towards anti-poaching. When the highest population of elephants is in this country, we are like the ‘supermarket’ with the most (elephant) stock on the shelves and that’s where everyone is going to go to. But for the most part we are the most successful towards anti-poaching.
Q: You have clearly stated that you are against Kenya for burning elephants’ ivory. What are you planning to do with stocked up piles of elephant ivory in Botswana?
TK: In 2009 when the sale of ivory was allowed we
established a conservation trust fund and from the sale of the ivory that Botswana sold the budget was split into two, one for government use one for community use. Government has used its portion and we have about P30 million or so left for the community. Community decided how they want to benefit from the sale of ivory of 2009. With government, what we have done is typically go into outreach programs and tried to educate and assist people against elephant damaging. The plan going forward with the stock piles is to keep them as they are because it has not been proven that when you sell ivory it reduces the effects of poaching. We wouldn’t want to have nothing left to show off the iconic species if you burn it for example. Other things we are now considering is to have some sort of museum that would demonstrate the value of the ivory rather like what we have done at the Sir Seretse Khama airport with the statue.
Q: Communities around tourism areas are poor, yet there are tourists who come into the country to see wildlife next to them. What is your ministry doing to empower them and at least include them in cultural tourism?
TK: It is something that has bothered me because it has not been addressed when it should have. In the leases we have a royalty of 6% which is paid into the fund which BTO was managing at some state under a finance order. The communities that own or form part of the concession also get a royalty. However, Botswana has the most liberal foreign exchange in any African country which means when you make your booking in the country it is not guaranteed that the fund you paid find its way into the country and this is something I have asked the minister of finance to attend to because financial aspects of our tourism as far as cross border movement is concerned is under the auspices of the ministry of finance. I have approached the ministry of finance and proposed that we change this regulation so that we know how much money really has been let out of the country and how much money is coming into the country. If 20% really comes in we are only going to pay the community 6% of 20% so it is essentially ethically wrong to take advantage of the situation like this and not give back to the communities. In the next year that is something that we are going to start with the ministry of finance to make sure that the funding that needs to come to this country actually arrives in this country.