Botswana communities’ hunting benefits inspire South African counterparts to enjoy the same
They also protect wildlife from poachers through the employment of community rangers.
Johannesburg, South Africa-Until October 2023, Botswana hunting communities didn’t know that having elephants, lions, buffaloes, leopards, and hyenas that buy them ambulances, build mortuaries, upmarket lodges, provide clean drinking water and send their children to school would inspire their South African counterparts to enjoy the same, writes Emmanuel Koro.
In this scratch my back and I scratch yours, impressive interdependence between people and wildlife in Botswana; wildlife is also building decent houses for the elderly. In turn, the hunting communities are thankfully ensuring that they don't destroy wildlife homes or habitats. They also protect wildlife from poachers through the employment of community rangers.
Added to this web of interdependence between wildlife and humans is a list of the jaw-dropping and life-changing multi-million-rand annual pay cheques that hunted Botswana wildlife is giving to the local hunting communities.
These attractive hunting benefits were revealed by the CEO of Botswana’s Ngamiland Council of NGOs, who is also the Treasurer of the Community Leaders Network of Southern Africa, Mr. Siyoka Simasiku, at the October 17–18, 2023, roundtable workshop held at the University of Venda’s Ishmael Mohamed Centre for Human Rights.
The workshop brought together various stakeholders, including indigenous people and local communities (IPLCs), government agencies, conservation organisations, and law enforcement agencies, to engage in discussion, focusing on sustainable use of wildlife and its impacts on IPLCs.
From Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, international hunting-beneficiary rural communities now know that one hunted elephant can earn a community more money than a busload of photographic tourists staying for a week at local resorts.
Botswana rural communities recently described international hunting as the biggest economic activity they have ever known in the 21st century.
“The benefits of hunting as drivers of local economic growth and sustaining community livelihoods are not well known by all communities in South Africa,” said South Africa’s most fearless advocate for community benefits from international hunting and natural resources, Ms. Esther Netshivhongweni.
“South African communities are still confused between their young democracy, their rights, their power, and the source of sudden poverty in South Africa.
“There is therefore a huge need for awareness among our communities about the economic benefits that can be derived from sustainable utilisation of our natural resources, mainly hunting.”
Meanwhile, a source who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation said that the Limpopo-based Makuya hunting community “owns a large piece of land inside Kruger National Park” on which international hunting is allowed.” “Sadly, it was “inexplicably and controversially stopped by the responsible Department in the Limpopo Provincial Government in 2019,” said the source. “I now believe that our partnership with the Southern Africa CLN has given us a powerful partner and collective voice to have those withholding our hunting rights grant them without delay.”
Also in Limpopo Province, neighbouring the iconic Kruger National Park, the Makuleke Community which owns a vast piece of land in the Park, on which they have built upmarket lodges and are running photographic tourism, wants to start benefiting from international hunting.
“As a community, our position is that we need to look after our natural resources, including wildlife and that wildlife also needs to look after us, including international hunting,” said Makuleke Community Property Association Project Manager, Mr Sydney Shibambu.
The Khomani San Community Property Association of South Africa’s Northern Province has joined the call for South African communities to start receiving significant benefits from international hunting.
“As a traditional hunting community, we didn’t know that international hunting could bring us such significant socio-economic conservation and developmental benefits being enjoyed by our counterparts in Botswana and other SADC countries,” said Petrus Vaalbooi, a Khomani San Community Leader.
A Khomani San Community Property Association member, Mr Brian Miaennies, who is also a board member of the South Africa Interim CBNRM Association and also the Interim Chairperson of CLN South Africa responsible for networking with SADC CLN communities, said that a lot of young people from the Khomani San Community “are needlessly suffering from unemployment and drug abuse.” Yet they can easily get employed in the international hunting industry because they have impressive wildlife-tracking skills passed onto them by previous generations.
Although wild animals from the South African hunting communities are ‘ready’ to bring them attractive socio-economic benefits enjoyed in other SADC countries, there are challenges to make this happen satisfactorily.
Meanwhile, the South African community representatives from Northern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern and Eastern Cape Provinces have identified a lawyer to help them sue for reparations from those who are guilty of restricting them from enjoying international hunting benefits.
The key solution identified to unlock the unjustified international hunting benefits restrictions includes the formation of a South African Community-based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) Association to speak with one voice. Lobbying for international hunting benefits, including the use of wild plant species for medicinal purposes.
South Africa was applauded for hosting the 2004 World Parks Congress in Durban, with the theme: “Benefits Beyond Boundaries” of national parks. Sadly, about 19 years later, local communities are still complaining about lack of insignificant benefits beyond the boundaries of national parks. Consequently, human-wildlife conflict hotspots continue to increase in Kwazulu Natal, in and around Tembe Elephant Park, Isimangaliso National Park and Pongola Game Reserve.
“Failure to have South African communities co-existing with wildlife to start benefiting from it as soon as possible, poses a threat to the survival of wildlife in the long-term as people continue not to have incentives to conserve it,” said Ms Netshivhongweni.
To prevent the threat to the survival of South Africa’s wildlife, workshop participants appointed an interim executive team to work towards the formation of the first ever South Africa CBNRM Association to lobby for community rights to benefit from wildlife, in order to incentivise wildlife conservation.
Led by the unanimously appointed Interim Chairperson of the South Africa CBNRM Association, Ms Netsvhongweni who is in charge of the immediate implementation of CBRNM, a South Africa CBNRM Group of Experts was appointed to work towards introducing CBNRM. It comprises wildlife-producer community representatives from all nine provinces of South Africa, lawyers, academics, human rights advocates and communication experts.
Section 24 of South Africa’s Constitution together with biological diversity conservation laws support, sustainable use of the country’s natural resources, including wildlife management activities such as international hunting. Yet local communities say they are still not benefiting, meaningfully.
“The political manipulation of our legislation whereby Parliament passes conflicting regulations is stopping South African communities from benefiting from international hunting,” said Ms Netshivhongweni. “The animal rights extremist NGOs with cash handouts to fill big pockets are confusing our politicians.”
About the writer: Emmanuel Koro is a Jonannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who writes independently on environmental and developmental issues in Africa.