As climate change sweeps over our corner of the planet, playing havoc with rainfall and temperatures, the battle between humans and animals for survival is also intensifying.
During the 2014-2016 record droughts, cattle ranchers in the west fought for rapidly declining, drought-ravaged pastures with the safari industry, which argued that wildlife brought revenues of a more sustainable and less fickle nature.
In those years in the north, the little yield crop farmers were expecting was imperilled by the encroachment of elephants, desperate for nourishment in a difficult year. Predators such as lions, hyenas and leopards routinely raided livestock resulting in high losses for farmers.
The interaction of wildlife and livestock also increased the threat of disease outbreaks, such as Foot and Mouth and Newcastle diseases.
This year, the Meteorological Services Department has forecast that the rains will once again be thin and far between across the country. Most areas will receive normal to below normal, an assessment that usually bodes badly for agricultural production and inflows water reservoirs.
The drying up of natural water bodies and sparser foliage drive wild animals, including predators, into more frequent contact and conflict with farmers and ordinary citizens.
The compensation amounts for citizens who lose their lives, limbs and livestock from these conflicts is a pittance, which – insult on injury – is often paid late.
Batswana are complaining that the
We share our environment with these animals and have done so since time immemorial. Conflicts are natural and standing between both sides is government policy, as enforced by the officials engaged and equipped for the very purpose. In the meantime, Batswana have found themselves face-to-face with troublesome animals and some have taken the law into their own hands, receiving heavy censure in the process.
There are no easy solutions and many attempts such as sponsoring farmers to diversify away from reliance on agriculture, are having limited success.
Other efforts have focussed on helping farmers repel wildlife without resorting to lethal methods.
As the national dialogue on the review of the hunting ban continues, we urge policymakers to keep the focus on the lives and livelihoods of Batswana. It is by empowering Batswana that we can safeguard the conservation of wild animals.
“Unless the local community signs up, wildlife won’t survive”
– Jochen Zeitz