Game Reserves and National Parks were originally set up to preserve areas considered to be of national and international conservation value.
© An elephants version of a High-Five at Baines Camp. Okavango
Local Community Involvement
Nowadays vast tracts of Africa comprising the areas of several European countries are given over to wildlife and nature conservation. Botswana boasts one of the highest percentages of land area given over to conservation, at 17% of the total.
To be effective these areas must work closely with the local communities. In other areas park authorities and people living adjacent to protected areas have come into conflict. This often occurred when local people were suddenly denied ancient hunting, fishing or grazing rights, access to ancestral burial sites, or when tourist revenue was accumulated by foreign companies with nothing finding its way back to the local communities.
In Botswana much work has been done to include local people in the benefits that tourism, managed in a sensitive and sustainable way, can bring to an area. In Ngamiland, that part of the country in which the Okavango Delta falls, land is communally owned by the Batawana tribe, and is leased to concessionaires. The Batawana first established the independent state of Ngamiland in 1795 after splitting away from the centrally located Bangwato tribe.
The land on which Camp Moremi stands is leased from the Tawana Land Board on a contract that is valid until 2012. Hence, no tourism operator owns or has complete control over the land on which their operation is based, so ensuring controlled management of the country's heritage.
A Concession Operation Model
Concessions and lodge sites are put out to tender, and a rigorous process of evaluation is conducted by an independent panel of experts who do not know the identity of the tenderers. Recommendations are then made to the relevant Land Boards, quasi-tribal committees of elected officials, which make the final decisions on allocation.
Rentals are offered as part of the tender, and successful tenderers are required to match the highest rental offered. The system is designed to attract the most competent operators, and to ensure that the local communities, and the nation as a whole, benefit from the dedication of some of the country's most valuable natural assets to tourism.
Concession rental is paid to the Land Boards; a resource royalty of 4% of total turnover is paid to local government agencies; a 10% sales tax on accommodation receipts, and 25% income tax, is paid to central government; a P1-00 per bednight training levy goes to the Tourism Department, and game reserve entry fees of P70 per person per day also go to central government coffers.
As well as this each company pays high annual fees for each vehicle, aircraft and boat used within the Park. As of 1st April 2000 Park Fees have more than doubled, thus reinforcing the government's stance on tourism. Desert and Delta camps provide more than one thousand local people with employment and training. At Camp Moremi guides have had many years of experience and training within the local area, so providing the guests with a rich and unique insight into the Delta environment.