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Let Batswana own tourism, not foreigners

SHARE   |   Thursday, 01 November 2018   |   By Thomas Dust Nyoni
Let Batswana own tourism, not foreigners

I was really touched by the meeting between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Botswana Wildlife Producers Association, when I could not see any indigenous citizen. It is a sad confirmation of the reality that indigenous Batswana are not benefitting anything from tourism or Community based natural resource Management (CBNRM). In our quest to improve and build an inclusive Botswana society, and job creation, one of the major fundamentals that we should seriously consider overhauling is the community based Natural resource Management. At conception, community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) was widely promoted as a strategy that aimed to conserve biodiversity, while simultaneously enhancing rural livelihoods. The underlying theory argues that devolving control of natural resources to local communities improves households' access to and management of those resources, thereby improving the resource base and their benefits to communities.

CBNRM could be a major global strategy for enhancing conservation outcomes while also seeking to improve rural livelihoods; however, little evidence of socio-economic benefits exists. Despite its good intentions the CBNRM has not improved the rural economy and has subjected some communities to abject poverty. It is worth nothing that secure rights and tenure over land and resources are crucial for successful CBNRM. There is a need to strengthen these rights across the Botswana. Security of tenure is the certainty that a person's rights to land will be recognized by others and protected in cases of specific challenges. Without security of tenure, households are significantly impaired in their ability to secure sufficient food and to enjoy sustainable rural livelihoods. That’s the starting point. No single CBNRM governance regime demonstrates consistently different welfare outcomes than the others.

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Wealthy households benefit more from CBNRM than poor households and CBNRM benefits appear to increase with longer periods of implementation. CECT appears to be a promising entity, although there were also elements of funds mismanagement. Nevertheless, while CECT may be perceived as having attained limited community empowerment success, the case study offers a positive example of how the government’s approach to natural resource management is evolving. Perhaps evidence of CBNRM benefits is limited because CBNRM hasn’t been around long enough to yield demonstrable outcomes. Communities need representative and accountable institutions that can make decisions on behalf of their members and manage the distribution of benefits through the sustainable management of resources. Communities must be able to gain appropriate economic benefits from the resources they are managing. What is needed is for natural resources to be valued, for costs and benefits to be experienced (internalised) by those managing resources so they are taken into account in decisions, for policy makers to know and take account of the environmental implications of policy, and for resources to be used in the most efficient, optimal way to increase their value They will be unlikely to invest time, effort, and finances into managing a resource if the benefits of management do not exceed the costs.

Note that "resource managers" refers to people at all levels, ranging from farmers and community members, to politicians and technical staff in Government, as all are deciding on resource use. Note also that 'value' does not refer only to the cash value to be derived from a resource, but to all values including contribution to local development, national economy, ecological functioning, and human happiness. Decision makers should have faith in incentive-based approaches to conservation. They should promote light-touch guidance supported by government monitoring of legal compliance rather than imposing regulations that disempower communities. CBNRM in Botswana faces problems and challenges. The trusts and BOCOBONET face issues of financial sustainability, the support organizations themselves have limited resources and capacity to provide services to the trusts, there are still policy gaps and questions over the commitment of government to key CBNRM principles. Many trusts have money sitting in the bank unused, while their members are wondering when they will receive some benefits. The capacity of many trust committees to manage trust affairs and handle new requirements stemming from contracts with the private sector remains weak.

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There are question marks over the level of representation of some trust committees and the level of participation of trust members in decision-making. Decision makers need to ensure that CBNRM is accepted within government departments; that officials understand the principles of CBNRM and how it can help their work; and that officials are retrained to provide appropriate services and support to communities. In order to make management decisions, communities need rights over their land and resources and security of tenure. That is, the communities need the knowledge that these rights will not be arbitrarily removed by government and will be secure over time. CBNRM should be incorporated into National Development Plans and strategies to achieve the MDGs. This time around the government should to ensure that good support is given to building the capacity of communities to manage their own affairs and exercise good governance. Decision makers should allow communities time and space to learn from their own mistakes. Community participation and community based management are topical themes in current setup and many debates on the success of CBNRM revolves around decision-making processes especially those dealing with natural resources management.

It is agreed that while governments have accepted the need to either cede or devolve control and management of natural resources to the local communities, the communities are not part and parcel of the planning and budgeting which are crucial in decision-making. Communities are seen to be more involved in the implementation of natural resource management programs but lack ownership of the projects. This causes lack of commitment to the programs and at times hostile reaction from the communities. The communities are always at the receiving end when it pertains to losses in the exchange. Community participation was shown to be effective when the local population is involved not as co-operating users but as natural resource managers or owner managers. The government through District Landaus Planning Unit (DLUPU) should enlist the support of business experts to guide enterprise development in CBNRM, and where appropriate, encourage beneficial partnerships between communities and the private sector.

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Decision makers should ensure that monitoring and evaluation systems for CBNRM are implemented so that better decisions are taken and policy and legislation improved. Monitoring is an important element of community based natural resource management (CBNRM) which has emerged as one of the dominant conservation models for the tropics. Monitoring provides the basis for adaptive management, ecological and social impact studies, and ensuring accountability. Ideal monitoring of CBNRM would be a formidable and probably prohibitively expensive task. Nevertheless, it would be naïve to assume that, once initiated, CBNRM is a guaranteed self-sustaining success, which needs no monitoring or adjustment. An informed public debate based on the results of sound monitoring is, in all likelihood, the key to the long-term success of CBNRM at all levels of society. However we should note that CBNRM is not a stand-alone solution to poverty reduction, resource conservation and good governance, and whether other resource management systems would be better will always be subject to context analysis and political debate. Accordingly, CBNRM is rather a development process and constant power struggle.



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