Makgadikgadi/Nxai Pans Conservation Initiative 

Restoring Southern Africa’s Greatest Wildlife Migrations

For millennia, great herds of wildlife, from the Zambezi, Linyanti, Chobe, Okavango Delta and Hwange, traveled to reach the nutrient-rich grasses of the Makgadikgadi-Nxai Pans and the Central Kalahari. Our goal is to reestablish these largest and longest of southern Africa’s large mammal migrations and to instill mechanisms to maintain this essential ecological process to sustain Botswana’s great wildlife populations. This project is in partnership with and made possible by the Natural Selection Conservation Trust.

Summary of Specific objectives focusing on the Makgadikgadi Nxai Pans and their associated communities included the establishment of:

(1) Community and science-informed land use plans and Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) strategies that recognize and support wildlife, community and economic values;

(2) Commodity-based livestock trade that links a ‘Wildlife Friendly’ brand and certification of adherence to the land use and HWC strategies and guidelines, with nascent industries;

(3) A reliable market for ‘Wildlife-Friendly’ beef based on commitments and support of the regional tourism operators to purchase locally-produced and certified products;

(3) Long-term community support mechanisms developed in cooperation with tourism operators and international donors to support on-going transitions to and maintenance of wildlife-friendly practices, with strategies for these in place;

(5) Improved or re-established regional and transfrontier connectivity of the region’s wildlife populations;

(6) Capacity for long-term adaptability through monitoring of plan effectiveness, supervision of agreed land use compliance and monitoring of wildlife movement, numbers, and distributions.

Based on conservation science and traditional knowledge a conservation assessment will identify wildlife core and connectivity areas, community settlements, agricultural areas, water developments, sustainable livestock stocking levels and associated range management practices; tourism use; and assess key climate and human use drivers underlying future land use and landscape change and conditions.

Paramount to gaining community support is their meaningful inclusion in the development of land use plans that reduce wildlife conflicts and provide for sustainable economic opportunities that recognize wildlife as a valuable component of community well-being and self-identification. At present community livestock management practices are resulting in untenable stocking levels, degraded range conditions, restricted livestock and wildlife movements, elevated HWC, and threats to the viability and expansion of tourism opportunities; while also not meeting the economic needs of the communities. Moreover, Botswana’s national livestock industry seeks international markets that favor larger producers resulting in greater alienation of wildlife populations due to their commercial production-oriented management.

In conjunction with the community-based land planning activities, a local commodity-based livestock industry will be developed and implemented that links a ‘Wildlife Friendly’ brand or certification to adherence to conservation agreements for land use, HWC strategies and range management guidelines. A reliable market for locally-produced and certified ‘Wildlife-Friendly’ beef will be built upon commitments and support from the region’s tourism operators. To better ensure and grow long-term community participation, funding mechanisms must be developed in cooperation with tourism operators and international donors to support on-going transitions to and maintenance of conservation agreements for wildlife-friendly practices, with strategies for these in place.

The restoration and conservation of resident and migratory wildlife populations will require the removal and realignment of barriers to critical seasonal movements and habitats. The conservation assessment will identify wildlife movement corridors and impacting barriers. Management action to mitigate these barriers must be approved at several levels and departments within government and by communities potentially affected by the actions. The community involvement in the commodity-based ‘Wildlife Friendly’ beef and the resulting adherence to improved land use practices helps significantly to provide needed justification to successfully engage with all stakeholders to re-establish regional wildlife migrations and corridors.

Long-term capacity and project adaptability are critical to the success of the effort. Partnerships with regional tourism operators and institutions will provide commitments to monitor plan effectiveness, supervise agreed conservation agreements for land use compliance and monitor of wildlife movement, numbers, and distributions.

Round River Botswana Trust

Maun, Botswana