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PROTECTING LAND AND IMPROVE LIVELIHOODS
July 13, 2012
River Basin communities set “visions” to protect land and improve livelihoods.
More than one million people depend on the Cubango-Okavango River Basin, spanning south-eastern Angola, north-eastern Namibia and north-western Botswana. The river supplies water, food, shelter and economic benefits to its residents. However, over-use and abuse of the Basin’s natural resources threatens its waters, flora and fauna as well as the welfare of its people. To minimize these threats, the USAID-funded Southern Africa Regional Environmental Program (SAREP) is teaching communities about Participatory Integrated Land Use Management Planning.
This system is meant to effectively balance competing conservation, livelihood and economic demands. “This planning approach has helped us to see how all the members of our community can find a place on our land where they can realize their dreams and aspirations!” commented the Vice Chair of the Tubu community’s Joint Management Committee, Omphemetse Boitshwarelo. SAREP has introduced the participatory planning process in 35 communities across the basin, helping them to take stock of their natural resources and determine conservation priorities.
Many of the communities have identified a variety of new economic opportunities through the planning process, including: community-based tourism, aquaculture and, extraction of valuable essential oils from wild fruits and nuts, along with new crops and agricultural practices. As a member of the Gumare community, Mr. Xaa explains the excitement for the plans, “We are enthusiastic about the results of our planning and the potential for ecotourism to create jobs in our town and through this to reduce poverty.”
In nearby Tubu, members are eager to develop a tented camp and cultural village to attract tourists and generate profits. Across the Delta in Shorobe, women have formed a basket weaving cooperative and are being trained to sustainably harvest the natural resources they use for their crafts.
To avoid conflict and allow people to share in the benefits of the Basin, the plans developed by the community identify specific zones for preferred activities. In Tubu, this has allowed the youth to express their desire to engage in tourism and has provided a platform to negotiate with the elder livestock owners to allocate zones for tourism development. Mr. Xaa recalls how, in the middle of intensive negotiations between the two groups, the youth produced information showing how a mature Sable antelope bull was valued at over US$150,000 compared to the paltry US$1,000 for a prize bull.
He said that everyone went quiet for many minutes as they took it all in; then, suddenly, the elders began discussing the revelation animatedly, soon changing their minds to support the youth’s wildlife-based tourism plans.
Land use planning helps communities manage and monitor their own activities, and address threats to the natural resource base. Chandida Monyadzwe, SAREP’s community-based natural resources management coordinator, explains “By monitoring everything, you monitor the health of the people. You monitor the livelihoods of the people. You measure how life has changed and improved.