In a bid to boost agro-tourism, the Botswana government is offering wildlife start-up stock to farmers to keep in their ploughing fields. The government says the move will give locals an improved stake in the lucrative tourism sector.
Botswana’s National Parks and Wildlife director, Kabelo Senyatso, said the government will run a pilot project between February and July this year, where farmers will receive start up stock.
Each farmer will get five animals per species, Senyatso said.
“The species that the department would be availing are impala, gemsbok, zebra, eland and warthog. It is important to clarify that applicants should not restrict themselves to these species, people can keep whatever wildlife that they are keen to keep. It is also important to clarify that the scheme that we are referring to relates to keeping of herbivores. It excludes carnivores,” said Senyatso.
He said farmers must meet certain water, fencing and space requirements depending on the species they want to keep.
Randy Motsumi, a professional hunter, is keen to keep animals within his holding.
However, he is concerned the costs will be prohibitive due to start-up capital required.
“This is a very good initiative. But the problem now is the expenses. It is going to be very expensive for an ordinary Motswana. Just fencing will cost an ordinary Motswana over P1million [approximately $100,000]. So this initiative is good, but it needs a lot of funding,” he said.
According to requirements, game keepers must ensure there is adequate fodder and reliable water supply.
The fence height should be between 1.5 and 2.4 meters depending on the species kept.
Conservationist Map Ives agrees that the venture requires a lot of resources.
“Wildlife farming or keeping is a highly specialized business, which requires huge capital outlay. If you are going to keep animals like eland which are capable of jumping extreme heights, you are going to need infrastructure. You will also need reliable water infrastructure supplying fresh portable water. A lot of water in western Botswana is quite saline,” said Ives.
He adds the initiative might end up benefiting an elite few who have access to resources.
“I understand the principle of spreading the ownership or keeping wildlife to the people. They are also trying to spread tourism away from national parks or wildlife management areas into other parts of Botswana but again, I believe this is not well thought through and will probably benefit only elites who can afford to have large tracts of land, high quality infrastructure and people to look after that wildlife,” he said.
In announcing the initiative in 2020, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said it was one of the ways to revive a tourism sector hard hit by COVID-19.
Botswana is one of Africa’s leading tourism destinations, with the sector contributing 13% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.