UNTIL October 2023, Botswana hunting communities did not know having wildlife that buy them services and build infrastructure would inspire their South African counterparts to enjoy the same.
In this remarkable example of human-wildlife coexistence in Botswana, animals are also constructing respectable senior citizen homes.
In turn, the hunting communities are ensuring that they do not destroy wildlife 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 chief executive officer (CEO) of Botswana’s Ngamil and Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), who is also the Treasurer of the Community Leaders Network of Southern Africa, Siyoka Simasiku.
He was speaking at the roundtable workshop held in October 2023 at the University of Venda’s Ishmael Mohamed Centre for Human Rights.
The workshop brought together various stakeholders, including the 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.
International hunting beneficiary rural communities from Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe 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.
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Botswana rural communities recently described international hunting as the biggest economic activity they have ever known in the 21st century.
“The benefits from hunting as drivers of local economic growth and sustaining community livelihoods is not well known by all communities in South Africa,” South Africa’s most fearless advocate for community benefits from international hunting and natural resources Esther Netshivhongweni said.
“South African communities are still confused between their young democracy, their rights, their power and the source of sudden poverty in South Africa,” she said.
“There is, therefore, a huge need for awareness to our communities on the economic benefits, which 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 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,” the source said.
“I now believe that our partnership with the Southern Africa Community Leadership Network (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,” Makuleke Community Property Association Project Manager Sydney Shibambu said.
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,” Petrus Vaalbooi, a Khomani San Community Leader, said.
A Khomani San Community Property Association member, Brian Miaennies, who is also a board member of the South Africa Interim Community-Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Association and also the interim chairperson of CLN South Africa responsible for networking with Sadc CLN communities, said 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 on 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 Resource Management Association to speak with one voice.
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,” Netshivhongweni said.
To prevent the threat to the survival of South Africa’s wildlife, workshop participants appointedan interim executive team to work towards the formation of the first ever South Africa CBNRM Association to lobby forcommunity rights to benefit from wildlife, in order to incentivise wildlife conservation.
Led by the unanimously appointed interim chairperson of the South Africa CBNRM Association, Netshivhongweni.
A South Africa 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,” Netshivhongweni said.
“The animal rights extremist NGOs with cash handouts to fill big pockets are confusing our politicians.”
Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who writes independently on environmental and developmental issues