Botswana launches grassroots green fund


As world leaders and climate activists gather in Marrakech, Morocco for the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention (UNFCCC), the southern African nation of Botswana is embarking on its own plans to improve the country’s environmental sustainability.

Its latest initiative is the National Environmental Fund (NEF) which aims to shore up community-based projects related to environmental protection, climate change mitigation and adaption, waste management and pollution control.

The first call for potential NEF projects took place in January 2016 and funding for the ten qualifying projects (out of 191 proposals) was recently released to the tune of 12.4 million pula (approximately US$1 million).

Drought, land degradation, severe desertification and climate change are some of the biggest environmental issues facing this small nation of just over two million people, but Botswana has also been applauded for its robust wildlife protection policies, which include the protection of the Okavango Delta and a tough anti-poaching stance.

Though similar funds exist in the neighbouring countries of Zimbabwe and Namibia, a government spokesperson – Elias Magosi, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism – says the initiative signals Botswana’s commitment to further raising the country’s bar on environmental protection and conservation.

“The fund support projects that will help Botswana achieve the national environmental agenda and meet her international obligations, while simultaneously achieving her objective of improvement of community livelihoods, especially those dependent on natural resources or the environment in general,” Magosi tells Equal Times.

Managed and administered through the NEF board and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), the scheme also aims to support projects that fall outside of the country’s economic mainstay of diamonds, by providing training as well as funding.


“For future generations”

Zoba Style Community Trust, a local performing arts group based in Gumare, north-west Botswana, is one of the ten NEF beneficiaries. It has received P247,490 (approximately US$23,630) to embark on a roadshow in the Okavango Delta region to help local communities converse an area that is considered one of Africa’s most important wildlife habitats.

Zoba Style Community Trust spokesperson Lucky David told Botswana’s Daily News website that: “We want the community to preserve the natural beauty of the Okavango Delta which contributes significantly to the local and the country’s economy through tourism.”

In support of the government’s efforts, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has also made calls for civil society to apply for the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme to help communities tap into opportunities aligned with innovative smart agroecology initiatives, low carbon energy access and local-to-global chemical management coalitions in line with the country’s environmental management and GEF targets.

But while commending the country’s stance on wildlife protection, Alice Mogwe, director of the Botswana Centre for Human Rights – or Ditshwanelo – is calling on the government to deal with the issues of poverty and exclusion of communities from developmental projects.

“Both often lead to the overexploitation of our fragile ecosystem”.

Mogwe says the main cause of the desertification and land degradation which plague Botswana are the severe drought periods which have been experienced in the country – and things will only get worse.

“It is likely that climate change will exacerbate already existing problems related to access to water and in particular, clean drinking water amongst all urban and rural communities.”

To that end, the government has an Integrated Water Resources Management and Water Efficiency (IWRM WE) Plan designed to “improve people’s livelihoods and welfare and contribute to sustained economic growth, economic diversification, social justice and poverty eradication through efficient, equitable and sustainable water resources development and management.”

But in reality, the country is undergoing a severe water crisis which could make Botswana “inhospitable to human populations” in the distant future, says Mogwe.