A Tribute To The Heroes Of The Okavango Research Institute

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As the University of Botswana celebrates its 40th Anniversary and ORI its Silver Jubilee, there are individuals and families that should not be forgotten in this great story. Top on the list is the Kengalogile family who donated land to University of Botswana to build ORI. ORI today is situated in what was once a crop field of the Kengalogile family.

The late Mr Motsamai Mpho was instrumental in the negotiations between the University of Botswana and the Kengalogile Family. The negotiations resulted in Tawana Land Board allocating the 66.1 ha of land to UB on 13th May 2003. An additional 4 ha was donated by 15 families to extend ORI boundaries into the Thamalakane River channel. This extension resulted in ORI occupying a total of 70 ha of prime land in Ngamiland.

The Paramount Chiefs of the Batawana and the people of Ngamiland in 1987 gathered at the main kgotla in Maun to protest a government development project, which was going to result in the dredging of the Boro River Channel extending up to 25 km inside the southern Buffalo Fence to supply the needed water.

The Botswana Government obliged to the cry of the Chiefs and people of Ngamiland and pressure groups and suspended the dredging of the Boro River project. The IUCN consultancy recommended to Government that a research centre affiliated to the University of Botswana should be established whose mandate should be to conduct scientific research in the Okavango Delta.

The mandate of ORI as requested by the people of Ngamiland has come to shape ORI’s strategic direction as shown by ORI’s Vision which is “ORI is to be a leading wetlands and adjacent drylands research institute in Africa and the world by 2029 and beyond”. ORI’s strategic plan is centred on five (5) thematic areas which include: Climate change, Ecosystems dynamics, Ecosystem services, Sustainable tourism, Water resources management and the Graduate Studies.

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks in the Ministry of Environment & Tourism (MET).

When the Okavango Research Centre (ORC) was established in 1994, DWNP temporarily housed us at the Maun Educational Park. In addition, DWNP allocated us field research station inside Moremi Game Reserve, which is known as Nxaraga Field Station. The Nxaraga Field Station has resulted in numerous studies, publications, and student research to date.

Past and current staff of ORI have made a significant contribution in creating the ORI brand. ORI today has become a global brand in terms of wetlands research due to its quality staff.

This include people such as: Professor Lars Ramberg, Prof Susan Ringrose, Prof Wallington Masamba (former directors), Prof Moses Chimbari (former deputy Director), Prof Elmar Vaneendal, Prof. Power Mmopelwa, Prof Dominic Mazhwimavi, Prof Swatuk, Prof Donald Kgathi, Prof Barbara Ngwenya, Dr Lapologang Magole, Mr JC Nthele, Mr B. Senabjwe, Ms Chanana Khupe, the late Mr Benjamin Thupe and many others. These are the people who made ORI graduate 42 MPhil and PhD students and undertook significant national projects such as the eradication of Tsetsefly in the Okavango Delta, the production of an application dossier leading to the listing of the Okavango Delta as the 1000th UNESCO World Heritage Site, studies on trophy hunting as a conservation tool and a livelihood strategy, the project document which led to production of the Okavango Delta Management Plan (ODMP), mid-term review of the ODMP and the final evaluation of the ODMP, teaming up with UNWTO in the production of the Botswana National Tourism Master Plan and Tourism Strategic Plan for Botswana, and many other projects. ORI also has a host of partners and collaborators, the private sector and the many individuals who have contributed financially and offered support to the many projects undertaken at ORI through its staff members. These are the people who created the ORI brand. To them, ORI is grateful.

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