Botswana bets on agritourism to boost growth
Despite a slight drop on the corruption index and several political spats between current president Mokgweetsi Masisi and former president Ian Khama, the country remains a shining light in a troublesome Southern African region.
Its spectacular National Parks and nature reserves continue attracting international tourists although covid-19 restrictions have severely affected the tourism sector in Botswana. Apart from its wildlife and natural beauty, Botswana has a growing agricultural sector, and its beef remains one of the country’s prime export products.
In addition, the mining sector has diversified away from diamonds. Although diamonds are still the mainstay of the Botswana economy, new mining projects include copper, coal operations and there is a renewed interest in nickel.
However, with the world’s borders slowly opening after covid-19 restrictions and travel bans, tourism will once again play a key role in the revival of Botswana’s economy, which has remained in pretty good shape considering the constrained global environment.
Botswana’s health department has always been a top-performer in a country with an exceptionally high rate of HIV and AIDs infections. Governments response to covid-19 was slow initially, but it has handled the pandemic better than most African countries. Overseas tourists visiting Botswana needs to be fully vaccinated and must present proof of a negative covid-19 PCR test performed no more than 72 hours before arrival time.
Government looks to agritourism to revive the economy
As the number of international tourists arriving in Botswana slowly starts increasing, the government has identified agritourism as a niche market for possible growth.
In a bid to boost agritourism, the Botswana government is offering wildlife start-up stock to farmers to keep in their ploughing fields.
The government says the move will give locals an improved stake in the lucrative tourism sector.
According to Botswana’s National Parks and Wildlife director, Kabelo Senyatso, the government plans to run a pilot project between February and July this year, where farmers will receive start up stock.
“Each farmer will get five animals per species”, says Senyatso.
“The species that we have identified includes, amongst others, impala, gemsbok, zebra, eland and warthog. It is important to clarify that farmers should not be restricted by these guidelines though. They should be allowed to keep a diversity of wildlife if it is within the land’s carrying capacity. This, of course, excludes carnivores,” Senyatso adds.
He says that farmers must meet certain water, fencing and space requirements depending on the species they want to keep.
Randy Motsumi, a professional hunter in Botswana, says he is keen to keep animals within his holding. However, he is concerned that the costs will be prohibitive due to start-up capital required.
“This is a very good initiative, but it will be expensive for an ordinary Motswana. The fencing will cost more than P1-million (about USD100,000. Farmers will need a lot of upfront funding and investment,” says Randy.
According to requirements, game keepers must ensure there is adequate fodder and reliable water supply. The fence height should be between 1.5m and 2.4m depending on the species kept.
According to a conservationist Map Ives, the venture requires a lot of resources.
“Wildlife farming is a highly specialised business, which requires huge capital outlay. Farmers will need reliable water infrastructure supplying fresh portable water. A lot of water in western Botswana is quite saline,” says Ives.
He adds the initiative might end up benefiting an elite few who have access to resources.
In announcing the initiative in 2020, President Masisi said it was one of the ways to revive a tourism sector hard hit by the global pandemic.
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