Sat. Apr 20th, 2024

The inaugural workshops of the Dryland Sustainable Landscapes Impact Programme (DSL-IP) were successfully held in the Chobe and Tutume sub-basins on 15 December 2023 and 18 January 2024, respectively. This programme is implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with the Government of Botswana, through the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment and Tourism serving as Operational Partners (OP).

The programme funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) aims to prevent, reduce, and reverse land and ecosystem degradation in drylands. This initiative focuses on sustainable management practices for production landscapes, integrating aspects of social development, biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation. The programme aligns with countries’ efforts to implement land degradation neutrality targets set under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

In Botswana, the project is being implemented within the Chobe sub-basin of the Chobe District, bordering Namibia, and the Tutume-Mosetse sub-basin within the Central District, situated along the eastern boundary with Zimbabwe. The selection of these areas was guided by multiple criteria, including prioritizing targets for Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) and considering available information while ensuring representation of the Miombo and Mopane ecoregions.

Botswana’s Mopane-Miombo ecoregion faces significant challenges related to both forest and land degradation. This encompasses a decline in tree cover, instances of deforestation, and notable alterations in species composition. Addressing these issues is crucial for the sustainable management of the region’s ecological balance and overall environmental health. These workshops provided a platform for participants to familiarize themselves with the project, elucidating its primary goals, purpose, implementation strategy, and objectives. 

Furthermore, the gatherings fostered discussions on the project’s expected outputs, accompanying activities, and planned timelines. A diverse range of stakeholders, including representatives from key Ministries of Agriculture, Environment and Tourism, district tribal leadership, civil organizations, farmers’ associations, village development committees, and district land boards authorities, actively participated in the workshops. The sessions included highly interactive segments and practical demonstrations, allowing attendees to share experiences and insights into Sustainable Forest Management and Sustainable Land Management practices.

When welcoming participants in their respective villages, Kasane and Tutume, both Chiefs fervently encouraged active participation, emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive understanding of their roles as stakeholders. Chief Mbaiwa of Tutume village urged stakeholders to identify opportunities for collaboration within their environment and commit to contributing meaningfully to the successful implementation of this crucial project. Chief Tshegofatso Samuka of Plateau ward in Kasane said most people understand the importance of conserving their environment as it plays a vital role in the upliftment of their livelihoods encouraging participants to get a clear understanding of their responsibilities and roles as stakeholders and land-users.

Lesika Basalumi, FAO’s environmental project officer responsible for overseeing project implementation, funds management, and providing technical support, stated that the project aims to enhance food security for small-scale farmers through the sustainable management of landscapes and the restoration of graded productive land. He highlighted the critical need to address low agricultural productivity caused by land degradation.

Basalumi stressed the importance of simultaneously increasing crop productivity and conserving the environment to combat climate change. Bapsy Jibichibi, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Principal Agricultural Scientific Officer, echoed these sentiments, underscoring Botswana’s vulnerability to land degradation due to its semi-arid nature. Chaekwa Basupi, the Senior Forest and Land Resource Officer at the Department of Forest and Range Resource, further added that the project has the potential to promote sustainable environmental practices and supplement rural community food systems.

Participants also expressed gratitude toward the government and partners’ (FAO) collaborative efforts, acknowledging the crucial role in protecting the environment and restoring degraded land. Selebaleng Kake of Tutume Farmers Association said as a community, they could not achieve meaningful progress without external intervention, particularly in addressing the threat posed by deforestation. She highlighted the importance of active community involvement in environmental conservation to combat degradation and preserve biodiversity.

Society Tlhagane, the Vice Chairperson of the Chobe Basketry Association Union, commended the programme, emphasizing its potential to raise awareness about the crucial importance of environmental conservation. Tlhagane highlighted his association’s commitment to sustainable practices in their craft of basket weaving. He explained that, in their harvesting of materials, they conscientiously extract only a portion of a tree, ensuring the continued growth and sustainability of the resource. 

Gopolang Mosoleni urged farmers and participants to embrace beekeeping as a means of contributing to ecological balance. As the coordinator of a beekeeping farmer field school supported by FAO in Kasane in the Chobe region, Msolini said bees play a pivotal role in fostering cross-pollination. “Beyond their role in food production, bees contribute to the preservation and propagation of diverse plant species. This, in turn, enhances land productivity for various agricultural practices”, lamented Mosoleni.

The combined endeavours of rural communities, supported by the technical assistance of the FAO and its partners, highlight the importance of adopting sustainable practices in both traditional crafts and contemporary agricultural methods.

The DSL-IP project in Botswana specifically targets the integrated management of Miombo and Mopane landscapes in Chobe and Tutume-Mosetse sub-basins through Sustainable Land Management and Sustainable Forest Management interventions. The project’s impact extends across three dryland eco-regions: the Miombo-Mopane landscape of Southern Africa, the Savannas of East and West Africa, and the Great steppes of Central Asia.

The participating 11 countries aim to achieve land degradation neutrality through gender-responsive sustainable forest and land management practices and the promotion of green value chains through the DSL-IP’s One Country Champion, One Core Theme approach. The project’s ambitious goals align with the global commitment to fostering sustainable development and environmental conservation.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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