The diversity of tourism and agriculture specifically, as well as traditional and contemporary land uses broadly, may lead to conflict between stakeholders and inhibit rural livelihoods, a survey has found.
Titled Traditional versus Contemporary Land Uses in the Okavango Delta: The Case of Agriculture and Tourism, the survey sought to analyse farmers’ attitudes to conflict between agriculture and tourism in the Okavango Delta. The findings of the report were presented at the 2022 HATAB annual conference.
Due to prevailing land use conflicts in the Okavango Delta, the area was deemed appropriate for the study of farmers’ attitudes to conflict between agriculture and tourism. The Okavango Delta in Ngamiland has faced issues of land conflicts and competition between various land uses. According to the report, the utilisation of the Okavango Delta has over the years shifted from communal use to state control, with an increased use for conservation and tourism. This is due to changing demands in land uses from traditional to contemporary land uses within the delta.
Ultimately, the findings were that land use conflicts between wildlife conservation and communal agricultural use and between tourism and other uses are a major concern. “Various reasons such as state actions and policies, shortage of natural resources, and a lack of security and control over natural resources, result in conflict among various resource user groups,” says the report. “The recognition of the Okavango Delta as both a Ramsar and a World Heritage Site means that not only does the competition for, and conflicts over the use of the Delta involve local user groups, but also the international community.”
In addition, the conversion of land to protected areas for conservation and tourism has put pressure on land previously dedicated to agricultural production.
Studies have shown that Botswana has set aside 39 percent of its land for protected areas or national parks/game reserves and wildlife management areas, this making the country “one of the highly conserved countries in the world”. Due to the enclave nature of tourism in Botswana, the survey notes that citizen participation in tourism ventures is low, meaning chances of farmers viewing tourism as a viable alternative livelihood are small.
The tourism sector of Botswana is largely foreign-controlled and is driven by foreign owners. Characterised by poor linkages to the economy, scholars argue that the sector experiences high revenue linkages and communities around tourism attractions experience high levels of poverty.
In the Okavango Delta, the survey found that the emergence and development of contemporary land use in the region, such as Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) and tourism, have created conflicts between traditional land uses (farmers) and the modern ones. As a result, it notes that rural livelihoods are negatively affected by such conflicts. Moreover, according to the report, the farmers perceive that the development of tourism in their areas conflicts with both arable and pastoral farming. “Farmers’ livelihoods are negatively impacted as a result of increasing human-wildlife conflicts, fuelling communities’ negative attitudes toward wildlife conservation.”
To positively shift the farmers’ attitudes, the report recommends that the government must increase utility derived from contemporary land uses, specifically tourism development and wildlife conservation by rural communities (empowering communities and positioning communities to meaningfully participate in the industry). The survey found that communities currently do not value wildlife as a resource but rather as a government property that destroys their livelihoods and drives them into poverty. To encourage local communities to be active in wildlife conservation, the report also recommends measures to ensure improved economic benefits from the wildlife as necessary, emphasising balancing conservation and livelihood security in Okavango Delta. “This is a delicate affair requiring a deep understanding of attitudes and perspectives of ‘traditional’ households that live alongside biodiversity and wildlife,” says the report.
Land dispossessions in Africa date back to the colonial period with the creation of national parks and conservation areas. These created conflicts over land between conservation white elites and local communities, according to research. For instance, scholars found that in Botswana, protected areas such as the Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and Nxai Pan National Park led to evictions of local communities, especially the indigenous San communities.
Land in sub-Saharan Africa has been susceptible to exploitation, expropriation, conquests and conflict, leading to many inconsistencies that are in place currently. Proponents argue that despite the huge focus on procurement of land for production for a global market, it is the green and blue grabbing of land embarked on in the name of conservation that has led to global dispossessions. This is progressively being viewed as a crucial element in global dispossessions.