Botswana has acknowledged efforts made by Germany through funding of research projects in the Okavango River Basin aimed at promoting conservation and sustainable land management.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, the deputy permanent secretary in the ministry, Mr Felix Mongae said the government was grateful to the Germany Federal Ministry of Education Research for all the funding that they have put into research in the Okavango Basin and the current SASSCAL project which was also doing extensive research in the basin.
He said during The Future Okavango (TFO) project result dissemination workshop that the project has produced more than 70 bachelors, masters and PhD theses of which eight were Batswana plus numerous journal publications and disciplinary reports which would add to the body of knowledge and assist in making decisions.
The TFO is a five year multidisciplinary project implemented in the three countries of the Okavango River Basin; Angola, Namibia and Botswana and its main aim is the support of sustainable land use and resources management in the basin.
Mr Mongae said the TFO project placed emphasis on the measurement of ecosystem functions and ecosystem services including the economic values.
Mr Mongae revealed that the present state of resources and ecosystem functions related to climate, water, soils, microorganism, crop plants and woodlands was studied across the whole basin and also at four research sites. In addition, wildlife migrations and ecology were studied in Botswana.
He said climate change which was phenomenon and other forms of environmental change were measured, modeled and projected on the resilience of the ecosystem in the basin.
“With these results I am hopeful they would assist the government in formulating policies that address the practical issues on the ground,” he added.
The results indicated that the basin was expected to become warmer, especially in southern Angola, Namibia and the delta in the period of 2016-2045, and that the annual rainfall tends to decrease in the whole basin and the duration of the rainy season tends to shorten with up to 20 days in the Angolan Highlands.
Mr Mongae said this means Batswana or communities in the delta need to change their lifestyle, adding that they need to move towards Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA).
He said the government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, was developing a CSA programme for the country. He said there was need to change the way they had been doing agriculture and maximise benefits within this climate change scenario.
The deputy permanent secretary also stated that the results further indicated that the annual flow rates to the delta were impacted by land use changes than climate change. He said calls for coordinated planning within the ministries and riparian states in basin was important.
He said it was imperative to be coordinated as the delta was a ramsar site and has been listed as a World Heritage Site.
Mr Mongae emphasised the need to engage all stakeholders right from the community level to national level so that they all protect the precious area.
“You all know that Botswana’s tourism is dependent on this pristine ecosystem therefore efforts to conserve goes without saying.”
Mr Mongae said the project has recommended diversification and stratification of livelihoods, and noted that these were some of the initiatives the government was working on not only in the delta, but also across the country. He said it was important to assist communities to diversify their livelihoods so as to reduce reliance on natural resources.
Meanwhile, Mr Monage told the gathering that his ministry was concerned by the behavior of some researchers across the country that violate their permit conditions and engage in activities beyond what was stipulated in the permits.
He said the concern has also been raised by local communities who were inundated with researchers or film makers who never share their results.
To this end, he said the ministry has temporarily suspended issuance of permits to allow management to normalise the situation and get rid of unprofessional researchers and film makers.