Spotlight

Ecotourism in Botswana

5 January 2018

The northern part of Botswana largely consists of national parks and forest reserves. The Chobe national park and Savuti nature reserve, the Okavango Delta, the Zambezi river and Victoria Waterfalls are located fairly closely together and are popular destinations for people who want to go on safari in Africa.

Researchers from Wageningen University & Research and colleagues from the University of Botswana together with local experts and stakeholders developed a land-use plan for the Chobe District in northern Botswana to promote the development of good, sustainable and long-term jobs and to ensure that local residents benefit more from wildlife tourism.

“Local people shouldn’t only bear the brunt of the nuisance of wildlife, but should also benefit from the tourism related to this”

Theo van der Sluis, Wageningen Environmental Research

Most people live around Kasane, the capital of the Chobe District along the Zambezi. Following the construction of the bridge over the Zambezi, Kasane quickly developed into a place of transit, as it is located on the border with Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia. The rest of the population is spread over a number of small nearby villages. Most of the residents are employed in the farming sector.

The Big Five in Botswana

Nearly all large African animals can be found in this region, including the ‘Big Five’: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalo.

Ecotourism in BotswanaIn the last 25 years, the number of elephants in this area has increased phenomenally. The large number of elephants and lions are becoming an increasing danger for people, crops and livestock. The farmers’ existence is already under threat from irregular rainfall and low yields from low-quality soil, and a herd of elephants can destroy a year’s harvest in just one night. Lions and hyenas also regularly kill cows and goats, and sometimes even people. The tension between residents and environmentalists is increasing as a result.

Luxury accommodation

There is little work other than farming. The tourism sector provides the local population with few jobs and income opportunities. Currently, there are predominantly luxury accommodations, including lodges. The choice to target the luxury segment and not mass tourism has been positive for the environment and the income derived from tourism in Botswana. However, this has resulted in many foreign companies running the tourism industry in Botswana with most of the staff being foreign as well. Furthermore, in some places there are now so many tourists that it threatens the environment and the unique wildlife experience.

Land-use planning

Experts and local stakeholders developed an integrated land-use planning for the Chobe district. This is an umbrella plan for the entire region in which the landscape is assessed together with land use, with the aim of resolving the conflicts that currently exist between nature and humans and other spatial issues.

Sustainable tourism as the cornerstone of the economy

The plan identifies the current land use, what is available in terms of natural resources (soil, water, forests, wildlife) and in which types of land use most of the conflicts and problems arise. The researchers also looked at the objectives of the government and the relevant laws and policies. Sustainable tourism has been an important cornerstone for the Botswana economy for many years.

The research showed that the soil and climate in this region provide little potential for agriculture, livestock farming and forestry. There have been plans to extend a nationally important commercial farming area, Pandamatenga, further north for many years. However, the research showed that expansion could best be done in a westerly direction. In this scenario there would be no conflicts with the wildlife migration into Zimbabwe and prevents an irreparable disturbance to the water management in this area.

Small-scale overnight stays

The researchers have found opportunities for ecotourism in several parts of the Chobe district. This would include small-scale, cheap overnight stays in less vulnerable areas. These more simple accommodations can be run by the local communities themselves. This expansion results in local income and a more balanced distribution of tourists.


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Theo van der Sluis

Theo van der Sluis · Landscape ecologist at Wageningen Environmental Research

Theo works as a landscape ecologist since 1993, mostly in international projects on land use and biodiversity. The landscape approach has been a central theme during his entire career, whether as a land use and natural resources planner in Botswana and Ghana, as ecologist in the Netherlands, or in development of ecological networks in Europe and his current work on landscape change processes.

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