Communities, Wildlife and tourism: a landscape planning approach for Chobe District and transboundary areas, Northern Botswana

Authors and Affiliations: 

Theo van der Sluis, Alterra Wageningen University and Research
Elmar Veenendaal, Wageningen University
Lin Cassidy, Independent Researcher, Botswana

Corresponding author: 
Theo van der Sluis

Chobe District forms part of the Northern Conservation Area within Botswana, that is part of a greater transfrontier park, spreading across four neighbouring countries of Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Angola. Chobe consists for some 70% of national park or Forest Reserve, the remaining 30% is tribal area where communities are engaged in farming or other rural activities. This semi-arid conservation area holds some of the most important populations of African wildlife in the continent, with the majority of the global populations of key flagship species such as elephants, lions and wild dogs. The elephant population, some 40,000, is increasing and forms one of the core populations of Africa. Recent research has rated the northern conservation area as Africa’s most functional conservation area (Fynn, 2016). None of the neighbouring countries can claim to conserve such a singular land mass as that of the Northern Conservation Area of northern Botswana.
Lacking an Integrated Land Use Plan (ILUP), the District faces uncontrolled development, unsustainable land use, lack of guidance for developers or companies operating in the area, without a long term perspective for development. Since a hunting ban was installed (late 2014) the Human-wildlife conflict has increased sharply, in particular the crop damage caused by elephants and livestock killing by lions, wild dogs, hyena’s etc. All this underpins the urgent need of an Integrated Land Use Plan.
A study was undertaken of the main ecological features of the area, and environmental pressures and conflicts occurring in the region. On this basis main corridors were identified, but also the strong lateral hydrological relations, as well as the seasonal wildlife migration which is important for sustaining wildlife populations. Wildlife and game viewing offers important long term perspectives for tourism, which is important already but in due time more households may find employment in these sectors than in smallholder farming as is the case now.
The ILUP (Van der Sluis et al., 2017) provides the larger framework for development in the region: for farming, tourism or semi-urban expansion. The plan evaluates the different claims for development, and the need for land, water and other natural resources. The plan addresses current conflicting land uses, in particular human-wildlife conflicts: agricultural and residential functions versus conservation and tourism functions).
The Northern Conservation Area forms a source point from which secure and well conserved wildlife species can now been seen to be moving into adjacent conservation areas (KAZA, 2015). Sustainable use of the wildlife and forest resources holds promise for reducing poverty in the region, and increasing income from these sectors, which may also reach poorer parts of society. It would also require schemes whereby income generated from tourism flow back to communities in the region, this would be essential to deal with the Human-wildlife conflict.


Theo van der Sluis, Lin Cassidy, Chris Brooks, Piotr Wolski, Cornelis VanderPost, Piet Wit, Rene Henkens, Michiel van Eupen, Keta Mosepele, Oggie Maruapula, Elmar Veenendaal, 2017. Chobe District Integrated Land Use Plan - Communities between protected areas. Wageningen, Alterra Wageningen UR (University & Research centre).
Fynn RWS (2014) The Savuti-Mababe-Linyanti ecosystem of northern Botswana: policy implications for management and conservation of an unmodified ecosystem of global scientific significance. ORI policy documents. SASSCAL.
Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (2014) Master integrated development plan 2015-2020.

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