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Effects of the safari hunting tourism ban on rural livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Northern Botswana

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This paper examines the effects of the safari hunting ban of 2014 on rural livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Northern Botswana using the social exchange theory. The paper used both primary and secondary data sources. Data were analysed qualitatively. Results indicate that the ban led to a reduction of tourism benefits to local communities such as: income, employment opportunities, social services such as funeral insurance, scholarships and income required to make provision of housing for the needy and elderly. After the hunting ban, communities were forced to shifts from hunting to photographic tourism. Reduced tourism benefits have led to the development of negative attitudes by rural residents towards wildlife conservation and the increase in incidents of poaching in Northern Botswana. The implications of hunting ban suggest that policy shifts that affect wildlife conservation and rural livelihoods need to be informed by socio-economic and ecological research. This participatory and scientific approach to decision-making has the potential to contribute sustainability of livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Botswana.
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South African Geographical Journal
ISSN: 0373-6245 (Print) 2151-2418 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rsag20
Effects of the safari hunting tourism ban on rural
livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Northern
Botswana
Joseph E. Mbaiwa
To cite this article: Joseph E. Mbaiwa (2018) Effects of the safari hunting tourism ban on rural
livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Northern Botswana, South African Geographical Journal,
100:1, 41-61, DOI: 10.1080/03736245.2017.1299639
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/03736245.2017.1299639
Published online: 23 Mar 2017.
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SOUTH AFRICAN GEOGRAPHICAL JOURNAL, 2018
VOL. 100, NO. 1, 4161
https://doi.org/10.1080/03736245.2017.1299639
Eects of the safari hunting tourism ban on rural livelihoods
and wildlife conservation in Northern Botswana
Joseph E. Mbaiwa*
Okavango Research Institute, University of Botswana, Maun, Botswana
ABSTRACT
This paper examines the eects of the safari hunting ban of 2014
on rural livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Northern Botswana
using the social exchange theory. The paper used both primary
and secondary data sources. Data were analysed qualitatively.
Results indicate that the ban led to a reduction of tourism benets
to local communities such as: income, employment opportunities,
social services such as funeral insurance, scholarships and income
required to make provision of housing for the needy and elderly. After
the hunting ban, communities were forced to shifts from hunting
to photographic tourism. Reduced tourism benets have led to
the development of negative attitudes by rural residents towards
wildlife conservation and the increase in incidents of poaching in
Northern Botswana. The implications of hunting ban suggest that
policy shifts that aect wildlife conservation and rural livelihoods
need to be informed by socio-economic and ecological research.
This participatory and scientic approach to decision-making has
the potential to contribute sustainability of livelihoods and wildlife
conservation in Botswana.
1. Introduction
Wildlife-based tourism in Southern Africa is largely carried out in national parks, game
reserves and other protected areas containing world-renowned wildlife, biological diversity
and natural attractions (Poonyth, Barnes, Suich, & Monamati, 2002). Botswanas tourism
industry is also largely nature-based and relies on wildlife resources found in the Northern
Botswana (Mbaiwa, 2005). Safari hunting has a long history in Botswana dating back to the
late 1850s (Mbaiwa, 2007). As a tourism activity, it was made ocial by the 1990 Tourism
Policy. It was run by safari hunting operators who market and sell hunts to clients in devel-
oped countries of North America and Europe (Lindsey, Alexander, Frank, Mathieson, &
Romanach, 2006; Mbaiwa, 2007). Most African hunts are booked at United States hunting
conventions (Lewis & Jackson, 2005). e United States form the bulk of hunters that
visit Southern and East Africa, where most safari hunting in Africa is conducted (Lindsey
et al., 2006).
KEYWORDS
Safari hunting; photographic
tourism; social exchange
theory; Northern Botswana
ARTICLE HISTORY
Received 28 June 2015
Accepted23 October 2016
© 2017 Society of South African Geographers
CONTACT Joseph E. Mbaiwa JMbaiwa@ub.ac.bw, jmbaiwa@ori.ub.bw
*Research Affiliate, University of Johannesburg, School of Tourism & Hospitality, Faculty of management, PO 524, Auckland
Park, 2006, South Africa
42 J. E. MBAIWA
Since the adoption of the notion of sustainable development in 1987, safari hunting has
generated debate amongst conservation practitioners and academics, with some supporting
hunting while others opposed to it. e recent killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe by an
American hunter in 2015 sparked the debate afresh. e debate on safari hunting is polar-
ized, with animal rights groups and protectionists on one side, and hunters and pragmatic
conservationists on the other (Hutton & Leader-Williams, 2003; Loveridge, Reynolds, &
Milner-Gulland, 2006). ose opposed to safari hunting argue that the killing of animals
is not only immoral and abhorrent and that hunting by tourists will result in the extinction
of even more animal species (Baker, 1997). Animal rights and welfare groups also oppose
hunting due to the fundamental rejection of the concept of ‘killing animals for sport’ (Finch,
2004). Conversely, proponents of safari hunting argue that hunting is controlled, has more
nancial benets than photographic tourism, and that selective hunting of overpopulated
herds is a form of culling that is imperative to biodiversity conservation (Baker, 1997).
Proponents of safari hunting argue that safari hunting is a tool for wildlife conservation
and should be sustained (Lindsey et al., 2006). is view is however strongly opposed by
anti-hunting conservation groups who do not appreciate hunting as a legitimate tourism
activity and conservation approach (Baker, 1997; MacKay & Campbell, 2004). e global
opposition to safari hunting resulted in countries such as Kenya banning safari hunting
in 1977. Ocial government reasons to the ban are that poor hunting controls and ethics
on the part of the hunting industry led to the ban as this contributed to wildlife decline
(Leader-Williams & Hutton, 2005: Lindsey et al., 2006; Outoma, 2004). Overhunting and
corruption (Booth, 2005; Leader-Williams & Hutton, 2005) to overshooting and corruption
(Booth, 2005; Leader-Williams & Hutton, 2005) were alleged in Kenya’s hunting industry.
In Botswana safari hunting was banned in 2014. e Botswana Government cited
wildlife decline as the main reason for introducing the ban (Scott, 2013). Safari hunting
in Botswana was more pronounced in the northern parts of the country, particularly in
the Okavango, Chobe and Makgadikgadi regions. ese are areas widely known for local
community-based tourism initiatives through the Community-based Natural Resource
Management (CBNRM) programme. e CBNRM programme was ocially adopted by the
Botswana Government in the 1990s initially focused on safari hunting as the main tourism
activity. e basic assumption of CBNRM programme is that when community livelihoods
are improved through tourism, communities would be obliged to conservation natural
resources such as wildlife around them (Leach, Mearns, & Scoone, 1999; Tsing, Brosius, &
Zerner, 1999). is paper, therefore, uses the concept of Social Exchange eory to analyse
the eects of the ban on safari hunting on rural livelihoods and wildlife conservation in
Northern Botswana. e paper should provide insights into whether the banning of safari
hunting has any eects on rural livelihoods and eorts to achieve wildlife conservation in
Northern Botswana.
2. The social exchange theory
is paper is informed by the Social Exchange eory (SET). SET emerged in work in
anthropology and utilitarian economics (Lévi-Strauss, 1969; Malinowski, 1922; Mauss,
1925). SET follows the premise that humans strive for a positive outcome, meaning to
maximize benets and minimize costs when engaging in an exchange. e SET explores
the benets that people derive from and contribute to social interaction (Collett, 2010). e
SOUTH AFRICAN GEOGRAPHICAL JOURNAL 43
SET suggests that human beings take the benets and minus the costs in order to determine
how much a relationship is worth, that is, the relation is either positive or negative (Blau,
1964; Homans, 1961). Positive relationships are those in which the benets outweigh the
costs, while negative relationships occur when the costs are greater than the benets. e
theory postulates that individuals choose positive relationships which are those alternatives
from which they expect the most prot (Homans, 1961).
In conservation and livelihoods, SET assumes that potential benecial outcomes will cre-
ate positive attitudes towards tourism (Andereck, Valentine, Knopf, & Vogt, 2005; Snyman,
2014; Teye et al., 2002). Snyman (2012, 2014) argues that SET postulates that individuals
perceiving net benets from an exchange are likely to view it positively and those perceiving
net costs are likely to view it negatively. SET in this regard proposes that individuals attitudes
towards wildlife conservation are inuenced by their evaluations of the outcomes for them-
selves and their communities (Andereck et al., 2005).at is, people support conservation
in exchange of benets such as tourism benets. e social exchange theory proposes that
individuals attitudes towards tourism and their subsequent level of support for its develop-
ment will be inuenced by their evaluations of the outcomes of tourism for themselves and
their communities (Andereck et al., 2005). Individuals who receive more direct benets from
the tourism industry have more positive attitudes towards tourists and tourism development
(Haley, Snaith, & Miller, 2005; Haralambopoulos & Pizam,1996). SET in this regard argues
that initiatives should be developed to assist in improving the socio-economic lives of local
people and this would in the long run create a more supportive environment for tourism
and conservation and ensure their sustainability (Emptaz-Collomb, 2009; Synman, 2014).
Community-based approaches are based on the premise that if local people participate
in wildlife management and economically benet from this participation, then a ‘win-win
scenario will arise whereby wildlife is conserved at the same time as community welfare
improves (Kipkeu, Mmwangi, & Njogu, 2014). Kipkeu et al. (2014) argue that while most
community conservation activities have the ultimate goal of maintaining wildlife popula-
tions, they simultaneously aim to improve the socio-economic status of human communities
in wildlife areas. Community-based approaches are based on the principle that for wildlife
to survive local people must be able to prot from and manage the animals living around
them as a form of land use, taking the initiative in conserving the resource out of their own
economic interest (Child, 1995; Kipkeu et al., 2014; Rihoy, 1995; Western & Wright, 1994).
erefore, conservationists now link wildlife conservation with sustainable development
using participation as the new driving force to give beneciaries (i.e. communities) a greater
opportunity to voice their preferences, needs and concerns about initiatives. Most conser-
vationists are now convinced that if wildlife resource is to survive outside the protected
areas, local communities must be able to prot from wildlife and have a much greater
input in wildlife management decisions (Getz et al., 1999; Hulme & Murphree, 1999). at
is, socio-economic benets can inuence positive attitudes towards conservation (Stem,
Lassoie, Lee, Deshler, & Schelhas, 2003; Walpole & Goodwin, 2001). CBNRM whose activ-
ities includes safari hunting provided economic benets to local communities in Northern
Botswana. ese become incentives for wildlife conservation created positive attitudes of
local communities towards wildlife conservation (Mbaiwa & Stronza, 2011). is paper,
therefore, examines the eects of the ban on safari hunting on rural livelihoods and wildlife
conservation in Northern Botswana. e paper is informed by the social exchange theory.
44 J. E. MBAIWA
3. Study area
is paper discusses eects of the hunting ban in Northern Botswana. Northern Botswana
is made up of three (3) districts namely, Ngamiland, Boteti and Chobe (Figure 1). Northern
Botswana is characterized by diverse ecosystems which include the Makgadikgadi Pans
National Park, Nxai Pan National Park, Makgadikgadi pans, Moremi Game Reserve, Chobe
National Park and the Okavango Delta. A total of 152, 284 people live in Ngamiland, 23, 347
in Chobe and 57, 376 in Boteti (Central Statistics Oce [CSO], 2011). Since the adoption
of Botswana’s Tourism Policy in 1990s, Northern Botswana became a key a wildlife-based
tourism destination (Mbaiwa, 2005).
Ngamiland District is renounced for being the site of the Okavango Delta, a natural
wetland that covers 16, 000 square kilometres (Tlou, 1985). Moremi Game Reserve is also
located in Ngamiland District within the Okavango Delta. e Okavango Delta is charac-
terized by large bodies of open water and grasslands that sustain plants, mammals, birds,
insects and other organisms. e Delta is also home to over 152,000 people (CSO, 2012)
of which over 95% depend directly or indirectly on natural resources in the Okavango to
sustain their livelihoods (NWDC, 2003). e array of plant and animal life, rich grasslands,
forests, and waters of the Okavango Delta draw thousands of tourists each year (Mbaiwa,
2005).
In Boteti District, the Makgadikgadi Pans located in north-eastern Botswana, south-
east of the Okavango Delta and south of the Chobe River front is also a major tourism
Figure 1.Map of Botswana showing Northern Botswana. (Source: Okavango Research Institute GIS Lab,
University of Botswana.)
SOUTH AFRICAN GEOGRAPHICAL JOURNAL 45
centre in Northern Botswana (Department of Environmental Aairs [DEA] & Centre for
Applied Research [CAR], 2010). e Makgadikgadi Pans area is of national and interna-
tional importance, particularly for birdlife, as it is one of the rare breeding areas for the
amingos. e area is dry for most of the year and receives its water from rainfall and
inows from ephemeral rivers. e area is characterized by dierent land tenure regimes,
sectoral policies and administrative districts and plans, and the use and management of its
natural resources is largely sectoral and insuciently coordinated. A holistic and integrated
planning is imperative to conserve the integrity of the wetland system and to optimize the
sustainable utilization of its resources. According to DEA and CAR (2010), a string of vil-
lages are located around the Pans, partly attracted by the Boteti River. Subsistence livestock
and crop production and gathering occur around villages (Arntzen, Buzwani, Setlhogile,
Kgathi, & Motsolapheko, 2007).
Finally, the Chobe District is also known for wildlife-based tourism. Chobe National Park
and Chobe River are some of the key natural features found in the Chobe District. Kasane
is the main town in the Chobe region and gateway to tourism in the area. Kasane is located
in close proximity to the unique natural features supporting large wildlife populations and
scenic beauty that attracts thousands of nature-based tourists each year. Kasane provides
access to the Chobe National Park, Chobe’s Forest Reserves and to the Victoria Falls. e
wildlife-based tourism industry provides accommodation for clients in exclusive lodges
and camps and in campsites (GISPlan, 2012).
4. Data collection methods
is paper is largely qualitative and has made use of data collected from both primary and
secondary sources. Secondary data were obtained from both published and unpublished
literature on wildlife-based tourism with particular reference to safari hunting, rural live-
lihoods and wildlife conservation. Specic literature used include: policy documents and
journal articles on safari hunting and tourism development, and, annual reports of wild-
life-based tourism in Northern Botswana. Longitudinal data about safari hunting, rural
livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Botswana were also used. e use of longitudinal
data made it easy to track rural livelihoods and conservation changes in Botswana in the
past decades.
Primary data were derived from ongoing research in Northern Botswana dating back
to 1998. Much of which have been reported in documents on land-use conicts, tourism
development, wildlife conservation and related CBNRM issues particularly livelihoods and
wildlife conservation. While the study made use of several surveys carried out in Northern
Botswana in dierent times, of particular are studies carried out in 1999 about prospects for
sustainable wildlife utilization and management, the 2002 study on the socio-economic and
environmental impacts of tourism development in the Okavango Delta, the 2005 study on
natural resource utilization and land-use conicts in the Okavango Delta, the 2007 study
on tourism development, rural livelihoods and conservation in Botswana. Finally, unstruc-
tured interviews with key informants, including biologists, community leaders like village
chiefs in CBNRM areas, village development committee, chairpersons, board of trustees’
chairpersons, decision-makers in government were carried out in 2015. In-depth interviews
with key informants were essential for gaining long-term knowledge on rural livelihood,
CBNRM and tourism development in respective villages in Northern Botswana. ese
46 J. E. MBAIWA
informal interviews progressed in a conversational style. at is, even though an open-ended
questionnaire was designed and used, its main purpose was to guide discussions during the
interview and to keep it focused. is allowed respondents to talk at length on the subject
of CBNRM, livelihoods and impacts of the hunting ban on conservation and livelihoods.
Finally, thematic analysis was used to analyse data collected. ematic analysis involves
data reduction into themes and patterns to be reported. In thematic analysis, themes that
emerge from data sources are pieced together to form a compressive picture of their collec-
tive experience (Aronson, 1994). Finally, quantitative data collected from secondary sources
are also presented in the form tables that describe the data.
5. Results
5.1. Factors which Led to the Hunting Ban
Wildlife decline is cited by the Botswana Government as being the main factor that led to
the safari hunting ban in the country in January 2014. Elephant Without Borders (a wild-
life conservation NGO in Northern Botswana) concluded a wildlife statistics aerial survey
in 2011. e NGO argued that wildlife populations in Botswana have been decimated by
hunting, poaching, human encroachment, habitat fragmentation, drought, and veldt res
(Chase, 2011). Chase argued that 11 species have declined by an average of 61% since a
1996 survey. is included Ostrich numbers which he reported to have declined by 95%,
wildebeest by 90%, tsessebe by 84%, warthogs and kudus by 81%, and giraes declined by
66%. Chase (2011, p. 20) noted: ‘the numbers of wildebeest have fallen below the minimum
of 500 breeding pairs to be sustainable. ey are on the verge of local extinction’. e study
by Elephant Without Borders was therefore used by the Botswana Government to inform
the decision that led to the hunting ban in 2014.
Government made consultation with stakeholders such as local communities in wild-
life areas, tourism operators and researchers prior to the ban. Specically, the President of
Botswana, the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism and government ocials
from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks conducted workshops and public
meetings in wildlife areas about the coming hunting ban. For example, Boyes (2012) note
that at a public meeting in Maun in 2013, the President of Botswana announced that there
would be no hunting licences issued aer 2013, and all hunting in Botswana would be end
by 2014. According to Boyes (2012), the President noted that the ban extends to all ‘citizen
hunting’ and covers all species, including elephant and lion that can only be shot when
designated as problem animals. e President is also quoted for having remarked that
wildlife control measures through issuance of hunting licences had reached its limit and
that the issuance of hunting licences had fuelled poaching and the resultant ‘catastrophic’
declines in wildlife, while preventing sustained growth in the tourism industry (Boyes,
2012). e decline of some wildlife species is thus the main factor that led to the hunting
ban in Botswana in 2014.
Public meetings and workshops were conducted in Northern Botswana informing the
public about the ban were carried out in key centres such as Maun, Kasane, Gumare and
Shakawe and in aected CBNRM small villages. Participants in these workshops included
communities that live in wildlife areas, academics, conservationists, scientist, the hunters
association in Botswana known as Botswana Wildlife Management Association (BWMA),
SOUTH AFRICAN GEOGRAPHICAL JOURNAL 47
Non-Governmental Organizations like the Kalahari Conservation Society and Ngamiland
Council of Non-Governmental Organizations. Ironically, participants in public meetings
and workshops opposed the hunting ban. For example, academics criticized ndings by
Elephant Without Borders which informed the ban having methodological aws. Academics
also argued that the study was a snapshot and should not be relied on to inform decisions
on the hunting ban. Instead, knowledge on long-term wildlife trends or time series data
on wildlife populations in Botswana were required before a decision on the ban is made.
5.2. The Loss of income, jobs and provision of social services
e ban on safari hunting resulted in the loss of income generated by local communities
and jobs previously created from safari hunting. e loss of safari hunting income and jobs
aected rural livelihoods. Prior to the hunting ban, communities involved in safari hunting
generated huge sums of money annually through the sale of hunting quotas to professional
hunting outtters. Results in Figure 2 indicate that in 2008, safari hunting generated P7,
382,097 while photographic tourism generated only P2, 374,097 (Johnson, 2009). Between
2006–2009 safari hunting by communities generated P33, 041, 127 while photographic
tourism generated only P4, 399, 900 (Johnson, 2009). Data obtained from DWNP indicate
that in 2011/12, about P35, 517, 534 was generated by CBNRM projects in Botswana. Safari
hunting by communities generates almost two-thirds of the tourism revenue compared with
photographic tourism which generates only a third of community revenue (Johnson 2009;
Mbaiwa 2015). Income generated by communities from safari hunting is used to support
livelihoods in respective communities (Arntzen et al., 2003; Mbaiwa & Stronza, 2010). In
addition, the BWMA (2001) argues that 49.5% of revenue from the safari hunting indus-
try is used in the local district, 25.7% at the national level and only 24.8% was being paid
Figure 2.Aggregated CBNRM Revenue from CBNRM Activities, 2008. Source: Johnson (2009).
48 J. E. MBAIWA
overseas mainly in the form of agents’ commissions and prots. Conversely, only 27% of
photographic tourism revenue is being retained within Botswana while the rest is leaked
outside the country (Barnes, 1998).In this regard, BWMA argues that safari hunting benets
local communities than photographic tourism.
e hunting ban in Botswana is felt by communities involved in CBNRM in less than
12months. For example, the Ngamiland District CBNRM Forum at its annual meeting
held on the 11th December 2014 observed that the ban on safari hunting was felt by several
communities in the Okavango region. e CBNRM Forum reported that in the Okavango
Delta, a total of P7 million and 200 jobs were lost due to the hunting ban. e CBNRM
Forum also reported that Mababe Village had its tourism income drop from P3.5 million
to P500 000, in addition 30 jobs were lost; Sankoyo Village has its income dropped from
P3.5 million to P1.8 million, experiencing 35 job losses; Okavango Kopano Mokoro
Community Trust’s income fell from P4.8 million to P2.5 million and about 40 people lost
their jobs. Other projects in the Okavango Delta and Mgakgadikgadi Pans such as Seronga,
Gudigwa, Phuduhudu and Xaixai projects experienced job losses totalling about 80 jobs.
e Ngamiland CBNRM Forum also noted that other impacts (general to all) include:
the looming retrenchments; social responsibility and development funds stopped such as:
funeral assistance, scholarships, old age/destitute funding, small business funds, sport funds
and the loss of meat (mostly from elephants). Table 1 shows that except for Khwai, all the
other CBNRM projects experienced a decline in revenue generation and employment of
sta in 2014 and 2015. at is, two years aer the hunting ban.
In the Chobe District, informal interviews with the Chobe Enclave Community Trust
(CECT) indicate that the Trust has its annual income dropping from P6.5 million to P3.5
million in 2014 and 15 jobs were lost and this included game trekkers, escort guides and
skinners. e other community Trust in the Chobe District known as KALEPA closed down
as it wholly relied on safari hunting as compared to other Trusts which had an aspect of
photographic tourism. In Boteti District, Ecosurv (2014) argued that wildlife hunting areas
in the district are: ‘ … Intrinsically unsuited to “high cost” photographic tourism and the
only conservation option which will provide protection and an economic return is safari
hunting.’ Ecosurv further noted that the eects of the hunting ban include the following:
(a) social: 4800 livelihoods aected; loss of meat supply from hunting and photographic in
marginal areas has not replaced lost jobs; (b) economic: in excess of P40 million lost annually
(over 6months) by communities; in excess of 600 jobs lost; increased conservation costs
to government of Botswana and that only seven (7) new sites tendered and only three (3)
allocated since the areas are not attractive for photographic tourism, and, (c) ecological, the
area experienced a loss of wide tourism spatial coverage in concessions.
In addition to the loss of jobs and income by communities aer the ban on hunting,
communities also had to stop some of the community projects and benets due to the lack
of funds. Revenue generated from safari hunting in Northern Botswana funded several com-
munity projects, these include: the construction of houses for the needy, funeral insurance
and expenses for all members, scholarship and household dividends (Mbaiwa & Stronza,
2010). Some of the benets from CBNRM to communities include: better housing, water
reticulation, income to households, better diets, infrastructure development such as lodge
and vehicles for transportation. Before CBNRM, none of the communities were able to
generate income and fund these activities. CBNRM, therefore, particularly safari hunting
had a signicant contribution to the economic development of most rural communities in
SOUTH AFRICAN GEOGRAPHICAL JOURNAL 49
Table 1.Revenue and employment for selected CBNRM villages in Ngamiland 2013–2015.
Source: DWNP Records.
Name of CBO Villages involved
Revenue generated People employed
2013 2014 2015 2013 2014 2015
Sankuyo Tshwaragano
management trust
Sankuyo 2,046,629.00 669,639.00 128,422.00 55 64
47
Khwai development trust Khwai 5,967,824.00 6,083,734.00 2,619,287.50 102 81 104
Mababe Zokotsama
Comm. development
trust
Mababe 3,546,939.00 658,713.34 790,995.00 54 23
34
Okavango Kopano
Mokoro community
trust
Ditshiping, Xaxaba,
Xuoxao, Daunara, Boro,
Xharaxao
4,685,712.85 2,621,603.00 1,924,668.00 135 41
95
Okavango Community
Trust
Seronga, Gunutsoga,
Eretsha, Beetsha,
Gudigwa
4,127,508.00 4,396,381.00 4,866,855.00 207 178 178
50 J. E. MBAIWA
Northern Botswana. e Ngamiland CBNRM Forum in December 2014 noted that some
of these benets to communities have been stopped as a result of lack of funds to nance
them. e Chairperson of CECT in the Chobe District also noted that these community
projects have been stopped due to lack of funds.
5.3. The loss of game meat
e ban on safari hunting has deprived households and communities living in wildlife areas
of meat and protein which they previously enjoyed as part their diet before the hunting
ban. e CBNRM villages always entered into agreements with safari operators hunting in
their concession areas to receive the meat from all animals shot as trophies. e meat of
the most preferred animal species (e.g. bualo, impala, and Kudu) by rural communities.
e poor members within the community were always given free meat while some of it was
auctioned. Meat of less preferred animal species (elephant, baboon, hyena and lion) was
usually given to people free of charge. Onishi (2015) notes that in 2010, Sankoyo earned
$600,000 from the 120 animals – including 22 elephants, 55 impalas and nine bualoes –
that it was allowed to oer to trophy hunters that year.
All the meat from these animals were taken and provided relish to the people of Sankoyo
Village. is amount of meat from these animals is no longer available for the people of
Sankoyo Village. In the last ve (5) years prior to the hunting ban, each community was
allocated a total of 22 elephants or 154 tonnes of meat and protein from these elephants (the
African elephant on average weighs 2.5–7 tonnes). For Sankoyo which had an annual quota
of 22 elephants lost 154 tonnes of meat from elephants, bualo (9) or 11.7 tonnes of bualo
meat lost, zebra (2), kudu (3), wildebeest (3) tsessebe (7), lechwe (12) impala (42), warthog
(5), steenbok (6) and ostrich (3) and all these constitutes tonnes of meat lost. e loss of
meat at Sankoyo Village provides insights on the amount of meat or protein which similar
community Trusts such as Mababe, Khwai, OKMCT, CECT and OCT which received almost
a similar amount of wildlife quota lost due to the ban on safari hunting in Botswana. e
amount of meat or protein lost by communities in Ngamiland District per wildlife species
can however be calculated using the total wildlife quota provided.
5.4. Increasing poaching incidents
e hunting ban is reportedly contributing to increasing incidents of poaching in Northern
Botswana. Onishi (2015) of the New York Times quoted a DWNP ocial who reported
that ‘poaching incidents increased to 323 in 2014 from 309 in 2012’. is is a reversal of
achievements made by CBNRM which in its existence was credited for having contributed
to the increase in wildlife populations of some species in the last three decades in Northern
Botswana (Arntzen et al., 2003; Mbaiwa 2011). Arntzen et al. (2003) argue that commu-
nities derive benets from safari hunting reported that the illegal wildlife exploitation in
their areas had gone down in the 1990s and 2000s. However, the decrease in economic
benets from safari hunting by communities due to the hunting ban has begun a reversal
of these conservation gains in rural communities. Data from the DWNP indicated that
illegal hunting rates in community-based tourism areas were lower than those with no
tourism projects (Mbaiwa, Ngwenya, & Kgathi, 2008). Informal interviews with DWNP
ocials conrmed that illegal hunting in CBNRM areas decreased when compared to the
SOUTH AFRICAN GEOGRAPHICAL JOURNAL 51
time before communities became involved in CBNRM and safari hunting (i.e. prior to the
1990s). e low levels of illegal hunting in CBNRM areas are critical for eective wildlife
conservation. Mbaiwa and Stronza (2010) indicate that through interviews, households at
Khwai, Mababe and Sankoyo indicated that illegal hunting reports in their villages have gone
down when compared to the period before CBNRM and safari hunting started in their area.
e reduction in illegal wildlife take-o in CBNRM areas suggests a positive relationship
between safari hunting tourism development and collective action in conservation.
Illegal hunting incidents are reported to be on the increase in most parts of Northern
Botswana. In Ngamiland District, the Southern African Institute for Environmental
Assessment (SAIEA) (2012) argues that one of the possible explanations for the recent
estimated declines in the populations of some medium and large herbivore species (such as
impala, tsessebe, zebra, kudu, girae, and lechwe) is increased pressure from illegal hunting
by inhabitants of villages and settlements in and surrounding the Okavango Delta. e
SAIEA (2012) notes that cases of poaching in the Okavango Delta include a total of nine
kudu, seven impala and four elephants for the entire Ngamiland District between 2009
and 2011 (DWNP PAC records, Maun Oce). Conversely, reports from tourism operators
from a concession area within the Okavango Delta known as NG26 showed that there were
122 wild animals killed between 2009 and 2012 (Table 2) and these are mostly bualoes,
giraes and impalas. SAIEA argues that it is conceivable that 4000 wild animals are being
harvested illegally each year in the Okavango Delta. Using a population model of Impala
in the NG/26 concession area, MucNutt (2012) estimated that any additional o-take of
the population, which has suered a decline of 65% in the concession area (i.e. NG/26)
from its 1996 estimate, would cause a crash in the populations of certain target ungulate.
McNutt (2012) concludes that illegal hunting for meat may be the most signicant factor to
account for the recent declines in herbivore species in the Okavango Delta. erefore, there
is need for poaching to be prevented to maintain viable populations of targeted ungulates
in Northern Botswana.
5.5. Re-introduction of negative attitudes towards wildlife conservation
e ban on safari hunting is reportedly reversing positive attitudes of local communities
towards wildlife conservation previously achieved during the safari hunting period to neg-
ative attitudes in Northern Botswana. Onishi (2015) in the New York Times reports of the
negative attitudes towards conservation emerging at Sankoyo Village. He points out that
the 60-year-old Jimmy Baitsholedi Ntema remarked:
Table 2.Recorded incidences of illegally killed in NG26 2009–2012.
Source: McNutt (2012)
Animal Recorded incidents
Lechwe 33
Buffalo 27
Impala 20
Giraffe 23
Kudu 11
Wildebeest 5
Hippo 2
Zebra 1
Totals 122
52 J. E. MBAIWA
before, when there was hunting, we wanted to protect those animals because we knew we
earned something out of them. Now we don’t benet at all from the animals. e elephants
and bualoes leave aer destroying our ploughing elds during the day. en, at night, the
lions come into our kraals.
Onishi (2015) also reports that Mr. Israel Khura Nato, the Head of the Botswana DWNP’s
Problem Animal Control Unit in Maun reported, ‘We’re experiencing an exponential
increase in conicts between animals and human beings. Mr. Nato noted that such con-
icts recorded nationwide rose to 6,770 in 2014 from 4,361 in 2012.
Safari hunting through the CBNRM programme in Northern Botswana led to the devel-
opment of positive attitudes of local communities towards wildlife conservation (Mbaiwa,
2011). Mbaiwa and Stronza (2010) note that with introduction of CBNRM in the Okavango
Delta, local community attitudes towards wildlife conservation were became positive. e
positive attitudes towards tourism and wildlife conservation in CBNRM were triggered by
a number of factors, these include: the decentralization of resources to communities which
gave them a role to play in the management of natural resources such as wildlife in their area,
the socio-economic benets such as income and employment opportunities communities
obtained from the CBNRM tourism projects they operated in their local areas. Positive
attitudes are the stepping stone towards achieving conservation in Northern Botswana.
e ban on safari hunting which in essence means a reduction in economic benets from
CBNRM is therefore promoting negative attitudes towards wildlife conservation in the
Okavango Delta.
5.6. Land-use tenure in Northern Botswana
Government opted to replace safari hunting with non-consumptive tourism especially
photographic tourism. At the Maun meeting, the President argued that non-consumptive
tourism has become increasingly important for Botswana and contributes more than 12%
of their overall GDP (Boyes, 2012). In this regard, all the safari hunting concession areas
in Botswana were converted to wildlife photographic tourism areas. Wildlife resources in
Botswana are concentrated in National Parks and Game Reserves. ese occupy 17% of
the country’s surface area. Wildlife species are also found in areas designated as Wildlife
Management Areas (WMAs) and Controlled Hunting Areas (CHAs). ese buer zone
areas located between local community areas and national parks and game reserves. e
main form of land use in these areas is wildlife utilization. WMAs and CHAs occupy an
additional 22% of Botswana’s surface area. is means a quarter or 138 090 square kilometres
of Botswana is designated wildlife utilization in the form of concession areas where agri-
culture is subordinate to wildlife utilization (Barnett & Patterson, 2005). e hunting ban
therefore means that all these wildlife areas have become designated for non-consumptive
tourism in Botswana. Since tourism outside national parks and game reserves is carried out
in concession areas known as CHAs, data from Tawana Landboard indicate that a total of
68 concession areas are designated for wildlife-based tourism, of which 21 of the conces-
sion areas are reserved for citizen hunting, 32 for community-managed areas and 15 for
private sport hunting concessions in which sport hunting by foreigners is permitted. ese
15 concession areas are located in State land and allocated by government through lease
agreements to private safari operators (Barnett & Patterson, 2005). Chase (2007) argues that
hunting was permitted in 27 concession areas (15 state and 12 community-based areas). All
SOUTH AFRICAN GEOGRAPHICAL JOURNAL 53
the hunting concession areas have been made to shi from hunting to photographic tourism
areas aer the hunting ban in 2014. e Okavango Delta, has a total of 22 concession areas
with a total of 20,895 square kilometres converted to photographic tourism, Chobe District
has all its 13 concession areas converted to photo tourism while Boteti Sub-Districts has all
its 21 concession areas converted to photographic tourism. e hunting ban and the shi
from safari hunting to photographic tourism aected many communities living in wildlife
areas. Data from DWNP indicate that there are 23 villages with a total population of 11,850
people in the Okavango Delta and Chobe Districts had nine (9) concession areas covering
13, 830 square kilometres shied from safari hunting to photographic tourism.
e challenge in shiing all former safari hunting concession areas to photographic
tourism is that hunting was undertaken in peripheral areas which are not viable for pho-
tographic tourism. As such, converting all safari hunting areas into photographic tourism
development is not a good decision. Ecosurv (2012) argues that the photographic tourism
potential in the eastern marginal areas of the Makgadikgadi Pans area in Boteti Sub-District
is very low. As a result, ‘it is intrinsically unsuited to “high cost” photographic tourism
and the only conservation option which will provide protection and an economic return
is safari hunting.’ Ecosurv (2012) notes: ‘the natural limitations of this ecosystem make
non-consumptive tourism activities dicult and nancially challenging.’ Ecosurv (2012) in
their recommendations argues that appropriate land use should be recognized to avoid over
burdening the photo tourism industry with unviable expectations. For example, Cgae Cgae
Tlhabololo Trust photographic tourism project failed because appropriate land use was not
considered during the formation of the project hence rendering it not economically viable.
Lindsey (2010) argues that safari hunting generates revenues in areas where alternatives
such as photographic tourism may not be viable.
5.7. International views on wildlife hunting
ere are mixed views about wildlife hunting in developed countries. at is, some individu-
als and groups support safari hunting under the assumption that it is an economic incentives
and conservation tool while others are opposed to it. For those opposed to safari hunting,
the killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe in July 2015 by an American hunter and dentist
provided them the opportunity to demonstrate their opposition of safari hunting in Africa.
e killing of Cecil the Lion increased sentiments against rich hunters from developed
countries, hunting game in Africa and other developing countries. Anti-hunting groups
are opposed to the theory that hunting can be legitimate tourism activity and conservation
approach (Baker, 1997; MacKay & Campbell, 2004). Anti-hunting groups argue that the
killing of animals is not only immoral and abhorrent and that hunting by tourists will result
in the extinction of even more animal species (Baker, 1997). ese sentiments are also held
by animal rights and welfare groups which reject the concept of ‘killing animals for sport’
(Finch, 2004; Lindsey et al., 2006).
Proponents of safari hunting argue that controlled hunting has more nancial benets
than photographic tourism, and that selective hunting of overpopulated herds is a form of
culling that is imperative to biodiversity conservation (Baker, 1997). Lindsey, Roulet, and
Romañach (2007) argue that the low o-take rates of safari hunting mean that it can play a
key role in endangered species conservation even when excessive hunting was the original
cause of the conservation problem. Lindsey et al., further argue that revenues from tightly
54 J. E. MBAIWA
regulated safari hunting can provide important incentives for careful management, protec-
tion and reintroductions of wildlife species. Safari hunting can also play an important role
in the rehabilitation of wildlife areas by permitting income generation from wildlife without
jeopardizing population growth of trophy species (Bond, Jones, & Ledger, 2004; Lindsey
et al., 2007). e re-introduction of white rhinoceros populations (Leader-Williams et al.,
2005) and bontebok (Damaliscus dorcas), black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnu) and cape
mountain zebra (Equus zebra) in South African game reserves is credited on safari hunting
since it provided nancial incentives for re-introductions (Flack, 2003; Lindsey et al., 2007).
6. Discussion
ere is no scientic study that has so far proved that safari hunting in Botswana was car-
ried out in unsustainable basis to warrant a ban in 2014. Conversely, there is evidence that
safari hunting in Botswana was regulated particularly through the quota system to promote
sustainability. e wildlife quota system provides for selective hunting hence it is regulated
such that only old male animals were killed, leaving female animals with the young repro-
ductive bulls to continue with the reproductive cycle. It was only done six (6) months in a
year during the non-breeding season. Selective hunting was sustainable in that it maintained
a balance of wildlife population in their surroundings. e wildlife quota system therefore
provided the safari hunting industry in Botswana with a number of characteristics which
enabled the industry to play a potentially key role in conservation outside of national parks
and where alternative wildlife-based land uses such as photographic tourism may not be
viable. at is hunting in Botswana was done in marginal areas which are not protable for
photographic tourism due to low wildlife populations in these areas.
Safari hunting industry in Botswana was also well monitored through its association
known as Wildlife Management Association Botswana and communities monitored their
through the Management Oriented Monitoring System programme. ese approaches are
inherently self-regulating rendering the modest wildlife o-take in these marginal wildlife
areas marketable for high trophy quality and sustainable hunting tourism zones. Studies (e.g.
Baldus & Cauldwell, 2004; Child, 2000; Child, 2005; Lewis & Alpert, 1997; Weaver & Skyer,
2003) have shown that where sustainable safari hunting is carried out as the main land-use
activity in areas occupied by rural communities, revenues that accrue from safari hunting
have resulted in improved attitudes towards wildlife among local communities, increased
involvement of communities in CBNRM programmes, requests to have land included in
wildlife management projects, and in some cases increasing wildlife populations.
e hunting ban in Botswana has resulted in revenue loose to the country and to local
communities. Lindsey (2010) argues that safari hunting generates 15% of tourism revenues
from only 1% of tourist arrivals, making it one of the lowest impact forms of tourism in
Botswana. In addition, safari hunting contributed 0.13% to Botswanas Gross Domestic
Product (Lindsey et al., 2007). e recent ban on lion hunting costs the safari hunting
industry 10% of total revenues (US$1.26 million), and adversely aected community con-
servation eorts (Peake, 2004a). Scott (2013) argues that when hunting stops, so does the
resulting revenue for conservation. Scott argues that at its peak, hunting in Botswana gen-
erated more than $20 million annually, more than $6 million of which was hunting licence
revenue that went directly to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. e ban on
safari hunting will among other eects increase animal/human conicts, with massively
SOUTH AFRICAN GEOGRAPHICAL JOURNAL 55
reduced budgets le to deal with the consequences. In this regard, hunting in Botswana
was more of a conservation tool than an ecological threat which warranted a hunting ban.
In addition to the reduction of income to the national government, the ban on safari
hunting tourism has resulted in the reduction of income generated by communities, the loss
of jobs and the suspension of community projects and the provision of social services like:
funeral benets, scholarships and housing for the needy. Social Exchange theory argues that
for communities to maintain a positive relationship and attitudes towards conservation, the
benets from wildlife must exceed the costs. In this regard, the ban on safari hunting tour-
ism has resulted in the reduction of income and the loose of jobs and community projects,
as such, communities might not be obliged to support wildlife conservation in their areas.
In Northern Botswana, CBNRM has proved to be an approach that improved liveli-
hoods and food security in areas where it was implemented. Mbaiwa & Stronza (2009)
note that because of CBNRM revenue generated by CBOs in the Okavango, employment
opportunities have been created in CBNRM villages. In addition, this revenue is used to
support a number of community project such as: assistance for funerals, support for local
sport activities, scholarships, transport services, building of water stand pipes, construc-
tion of houses for the elderly and needy, assistance to orphans and disabled, and provision
of communication tools such as television and radios. Some of the gains from CBNRM
include the reinvestment of safari hunting money into lodges, campsite, sub-leasing and
land rentals of their concession areas and other sources include sale of cras, vehicle hire,
and donations. e reduction of income generated by CBNRM over the years will aect the
success of the programme in Northern Botswana. When income generated by CBOs goes
down, rural livelihoods (i.e. employment opportunities, income generation, community
projects nanced by CBNRM revenue etc.) will be aected and will go down. erefore, the
gains made in CBNRM over the 30years are therefore likely to be aected and a reversal
of the gains will be achieved.
e loss of jobs and income by communities due to the ban on safari hunting suggest that
the already high poverty rates in Northern Botswana particularly in Ngamiland District will
continue to rise. at is, the high poverty rates in Northern Botswana have occurred despite
the lucrative tourism industry in the area. Botswana’s exclusive and luxury multi-billion
dollar wildlife-based tourism industry is situated in Northern Botswana. Ironically, poverty
in Northern Botswana is reported to be widespread (Central Statistics Oce [CSO], 2008).
CSO indicates that poverty headcount in western Okavango stands at 50–60%. Although
photographic tourism, as carried out in core areas of Northern Botswana is a multi-billion
industry, it fails to make a signicant contribution to poverty alleviation in peripheral areas
where local communities live. e San or Basarwa who lived hunting and gathering life-
styles for centuries are landless and living in settlements in the periphery of the Okavango
Delta (Mbaiwa, 2012). e ban on safari hunting in Northern Botswana will thus increase
poverty levels particularly that of the San as jobs are lost and people having no income to
sustain their livelihoods.
According to Mbaiwa (2015), the gains of CBNRM in the last 30years include: positive
attitudes towards wildlife conservation; decline in illegal hunting; increase in populations
of some wildlife species; and, improved livelihoods in CBNRM areas. If communities in
Northern Botswana are no longer able to derive meaningful benets from wildlife conser-
vation, they will not be obliged to conserve wildlife species, in this regard, wildlife decline
is thus bound to continue. CBNRM was adopted in the 1990s to halt wildlife decline and
56 J. E. MBAIWA
improve food security and livelihoods and the programme had proved eective where it
was implemented in Northern Botswana. Botswana faced a constant decline in wildlife
populations with the exception of only the elephant and red lechwe for decades (Barnes,
1998; Perkins & Ringrose 1996). Unregulated hunting and poaching are some of the com-
pelling factors in wildlife decimation (Mordi, 1991; Perkins & Ringrose, 1996). e CBNRM
programmed was introduced as a means to combat wildlife decline and achieve wildlife
conservation in Botswana (Mbaiwa, 2004; akadu, 2005). Results indicate that CBNRM
contributed to the rise of some of the wildlife species in some of the areas of the Okavango
Delta. For example, Arntzen et al. (2003) noted that in CBNRM areas, wildlife populations
such as giraes and bualoes increased.
Although CAMPFIRE in Zimbabwe is currently having challenges due to the economic
recession, it has proved that CBNRM can contribute to an increase in wildlife populations
and improved rural livelihoods (Child, Jones, Mazambani, Mlalazi, & Moinuddin, 2003).
Child et al. (2003) argue that environmental benets of community participation in resource
management in Zimbabwe include an increase of wildlife population in areas reserved for
safari hunting and community-based tourism. Child et al., 2003 argue that wildlife popula-
tions increased by about 50%, with elephant doubling for 4,000 to 8,000 in community-based
conservation areas. Child (2009) also argues that the Namibian programme is evolving
rapidly suggesting that CBNRM is a moving target. Child argues that the programme has
shied from donor funding to self-funding and has led to increased wildlife populations in
conservancies and improved livelihoods. When local communities derive economic benets
from tourism development in their area, they begin putting a higher economic value on
natural resources around them and become obliged to conserve them.
One determining factor to the success of community projects may be the extent to which
communities are engaged as owners and managers. Stronza and Gordillo (2008) argue that
in the cases of Posada Amazonas, Chalala’n, and Kapawi, substantial community involve-
ment has seemed to foster greater levels of trust, leadership and organization thus expand-
ing social capital in each site. is therefore shows that there are other factors not only
tourism economic benets that account for the success of community projects. It is from
this background that Mwenya, Lewis, and Kaweche (1991) argue that successful wildlife
conservation is an issue of ‘who owns wildlife’ and ‘who should manage it. If people view
wildlife resources as ‘theirs’ because they realize the benets of ‘owning’ wildlife resources,
and understand that wildlife management needs to be a partnership between them and
the government, there is a higher potential for them to conserve wildlife species in their
areas. However, these achievements in conservation in community tourism areas are likely
to be reversed by current policy changes in safari hunting tourism in Northern Botswana.
As such, with reduced benets from CBNRM and no role in the decision-making process
regarding wildlife conservation, there is likely to be a return to poaching in CBNRM areas
in Northern Botswana hence a reverse of conservation gains.
7. Conclusion
e safari hunting ban contradicts the goals of conservation and rural development which
the CBNRM programme was established to achieve. e ban is reducing huge benets
generated by communities from safari hunting (such as income, employment opportunities
etc.). Social exchange theory proposes that individuals and communities who receive more
SOUTH AFRICAN GEOGRAPHICAL JOURNAL 57
direct benets from the tourism industry are likely to have more positive attitudes towards
tourism development (Haley et al., 2005; Haralambopoulos & Pizam, 1996). e ban on
safari hunting and reduction of economic benets derived from CBNRM has resulted in
the negative attitudes towards conservation and tourism development by communities.
Restricting safari hunting represents a retrogressive step and a top-down imposition that
would reduce the probability of wildlife-based land uses in many rural areas, and reduce
community earnings and buy-in to wildlife conservation. Kenya banned hunting in 1977.
Between 1977 and 1996, Kenya experienced a 40% decline in wildlife populations, both
within and outside of its national parks (Scott, 2013). Scott argues that due primarily to
poaching; Kenyas wildlife numbers have continued to fall with wildlife numbers today
being less than half of that which existed before the ban. Species such as lion and elephant
are largely aected. In this regard, the benets from tourist hunting can reverse the trend
(Steve, 2013). It is from this background that a ban on safari hunting does not necessarily
halt decline in wildlife populations, instead it can escalate it. Likewise, the 2001–2003 ban
on safari hunting in Zambia resulted in an upsurge in poaching due to the removal of
incentives for conservation (Lewis & Jackson, 2005). Hunting bans also reduce consumer
condence in aected countries as hunting destinations (Lewis & Jackson, 2005; Peake,
2004b). It is from this background that Botswana should learn the experience of other
countries with hunting bans and adapt that which can work for the country and similarly
avoid pitfalls such countries fell into. As a result, the lesson for Botswana is that detailed
socio-economic and ecological studies are needed to inform decision on the ban of hunting
in the country. ere is lack of scientic evidence to support claims that hunting as carried
out in Botswana is detrimental to wildlife populations. is means increased centralization
of control over wildlife management and restrictions on the freedom of communities to
derive benets from wildlife via safari hunting are contrary to sustainable development
ideals and will not promote wildlife conservation and rural developed as espoused by the
social exchange theory.
Acknowledgements
Research leading to the production of this paper was paid for by the University of Botswana and
the Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management
(SASSCAL). As a result, I would like to acknowledge the University of Botswana and SASSCAL
project for the generous funding of this study.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author.
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Chapter
This book and the workshop that preceded it show a remarkable convergence of ideas and consensus as to the inherent and actualised potential of wildlife, the reasons why this potential remains unfulfilled in some situations and the importance of economic institutions in resolving the problem in realising wildlife’s potential. This convergence was surprising given the highly publicised “rift” between the utilisationist approach prevalent in southern Africa and the preservationist tendencies in East Africa, a rift which it appears, hardly exists at the technical level. While the chapter explaining the background and principles of CAMPFIRE (Child, Chapter 17) described the southern African responses to the disappearance of wildlife, the conclusions it comes to apply equally well to the Kenyan and other situations. Indeed, these lessons respond directly to an appeal by David Western, then Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, for evidence and information to support a shift towards more pragmatic and economically sound conservation policies in Kenya.
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Thirty years ago, conservationists, host communities, academics, and tourism practitioners perceived ecotourism as a panacea to conservation and poverty problems in tourism destination areas, especially in developing countries. This paper, therefore, analyses the performance of ecotourism as a tool designed to achieve improved livelihoods and conservation in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. The concept of ecotourism is debated and the context used in this paper is explained. Secondary data from published and unpublished sources on ecotourism in Botswana and the Okavango Delta are used. Primary data were collected through informal interviews with key stakeholders to update secondary data. Results indicate that in its 30 years of existence in the Okavango Delta, ecotourism had mixed results. That is, it succeeded in some areas and failed in others. Where ecotourism succeeded, it generated economic benefits such as income and employment opportunities, leading to positive attitudes of residents towards ecotourism and conservation. Where ecotourism failed, the lack of entrepreneurship, and managerial and marketing skills of local communities are cited as some of the key factors contributing to the failure of projects. Despite the failure of particular projects, this paper argues that ecotourism has proved to be a tool that can be used to achieve improved livelihoods and conservation. However, this depends on the socio-economic and political dynamics of host communities in a specific ecotourism destination area.