Predators impoverish farmers

SHARE   |   Monday, 23 July 2018   |   By Thomas Dust Nyoni
Lion charging at a Buffalo Lion charging at a Buffalo

Thomas Dust Nyoni

Ace on Natural Resources

Compensation for loss due to predation is low and often misguided. Tourism benefits us at national level, but the damage occurs at individual level. Who determines compensation amounts? Shouldn’t farmers be allowed to charge their own loss, if they practice proper livestock husbandry? Should government offer monetary compensation or replace a beast by beast? Shouldn’t compensation be determined market oriented? Why can’t government implement resolutions of the National Technical predator workshop held in Maun, 2003 and 2005 in Kasane?


This is part one of a series of papers on, predation on livestock,  the draconian laws on compensation that leave  pastoralists poor, and expressing negative sentiments  at conservation. At times farmers, have used snares or poison to avenge their anger. At independence, and until the discovery of valuable mineral deposits in the 1970’s, the cattle industry in Botswana was the major source of income and the country’s major revenue earner. Although its importance has been reduced by the growth of the diamond industry and increasing revenue from tourism, the livestock sector still continue to be one of the major sources of income in rural Botswana. General Batswana whether educated or rich, they pride themselves in having cattle. That’s the value of a Tswana man. That’s why we send away all our pasts presidents with cattle. Motswana kgomo! Carnivores attract more international conservation effort more than any other wildlife while on the other hand are the most difficult and expensive species to conserve. This is because they normally occur in low densities but occupying large ranges and conflict directly with humans. Furthermore, they are a source of revenue to government through tourism and can be good indicators of ecological integrity since their successful conservation can enhance biodiversity benefits. Despite this positive feedback to ecosystems and economic benefit at national level, they are also a source of negative economic feedback to communities residing near protected areas when they prey on their livestock at individual level.

Large carnivores are a draw-card for the photographic and hunting safaris industries in Botswana. This contributes significantly to the foreign earner through wildlife related activities. Apart from being a revenue earner, large carnivores pose potential economic and social losses to community pastoral farmers, through predation of their livestock. Although farming households have developed animal husbandry control strategies or measures, including kraaling livestock at night, herding during the day, killing predators, using guard dogs (especially for goats) and scaring predators away, the damage on the livestock is on the rise. These are policy issues that legislators should be debating in house of commons.  What is the future of pastoral farming in Botswana with those marauding predators, such as Lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, wild dog and jackal were reported to be the common problem animals in the country.


Botswana is one of the countries in Southern Africa that pay compensation for human properties damaged by wildlife. In April 2009 the Government of Botswana introduced new guidelines for compensating households for damage to their livestock caused by predators, which according to these guidelines include lions, leopards, wild dogs and cheetahs (DWNP, 2009). These guidelines replaced the old ones that had been introduced in 2001. Damage by some of the common predators such as hyena and jackal, does not attract any compensation, as the remuneration is also based on how life threatening a particular wildlife species is. Now think of a poor farmer who has only goats, and they are preyed on by jackals and hyaenas.  Nnyaa ruri re sule bahumanegi!  We continue to compensate rich people and ignore the poor. Studies conducted in Botswana show that the most problematic predators are jackals, hyaenas and lions. The former two which are common in communal pastoral lands are not within the compensation regime. Oh Jesus Christ, help my people.

Financial compensation for damages caused by wildlife is an alternative to lethal wildlife damage management techniques, but little is known about the use of these programs in Botswana. In general, compensation programs were established for problems that were recent in origin, exacerbated by governmental actions, or caused by highly valued species. The paradox is here, before compensation is paid, a thorough investigation to determine wildlife species that have caused damage is mandatory. Due to insufficient resources by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, the initial investigation is done by herders. In our country the Department of Wildlife and national parks has Problem Animal Control Registers, where farmers report livestock losses due to predators as a prerequisite for financial compensation, allow quantifying the human‐predator conflict. My problem with compensation programs is that they do not address the cause of the problem, and in a payment system doesn’t take into account into certain attributes, and is not market orientated?


The compensation remuneration package is usually less than the value of the damage/ loss. The compensation rates for damage by predators in Botswana are about 35 per cent of the market value of the livestock, but households expected to be paid a higher percentage of the market value. While the old compensation system in Botswana paid farmers regardless of the animal husbandry practices adopted, the current system reimburses farmers only if there is evidence that efforts have been made to reduce the risk of predation by adopting good animal husbandry practices.    There are many challenges associated with the implementation of these  compensation schemes, including moral hazard,   illiterate farmers in processing the compensation claims; and problems of verifying the damage. In certain circumstances households are only compensated if they have adopted certain animal husbandry practices. Basically there are no provisions to ensure poor pastoralists do not lose out, from loss of their cattle.

In summary I caution that Resolving wildlife conflict should focus on problem identification, formulation of mitigation strategies, and evaluation of the success of management actions.  For the latter two foci, identifying stakeholders and understanding their characteristics, immediate concerns and aspirations, values, attitudes, and acceptance of different management actions is critical. This is where department of Wildlife lost it. Let’s retrospect. Stop impoverishing people with redundant policies.


This calls for a careful assessment of local ecological and economic conditions before compensation is implemented. Incentive mechanisms that are directly tied to conservation outcomes (e.g., payments to locals based on the size of the wildlife population) should be considered instead of compensation programs.

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