In a series of events at the on-going Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) convention in PANAMA city, Botswana participated in a press conference hosted by Community Leaders Network (CLN) on Wednesday in an effort to mobilise parties and other participants towards achieving their goal of voting against the ban of ivory and elephant hunting in Southern African countries.
The press conference was held under the theme, ‘respect rural communities and their livelihoods at CITES COP-19, the effects of CITES decision making on livelihoods and the role of indigenous people and local communities in the CITES convention.’
The theme was in line with a submission made by Botswana, Combodia, Eswatini, Namibia and Zimbabwe which is of the view that CLN and indigenous local communities should be acknowledged as critical rights holders and decision makers in the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
This is an effort to ensure that SADC’s bid to safeguard elephant hunting and trading of ivory from being up listed to Appendix I at the on-going CITES that is taking place in Panama from November 14 to the 25th 2022.
Addressing the press conference Minister of Environment and Tourism, Philda Kereng called for the establishment of a formal mechanism that will engage indigenous people and local communities.
“Communities are key when we talk about wildlife hence they should be the focus of the policies we employ moreover conservation is not only about wildlife, but also about human life, so there needs to be a balance,” Kereng said.
She highlighted that local communities bear the costs of coexisting with wildlife giving an instance of communities in the KAZA region, who are mostly affected by elephant/human conflict. She emphasised that there is need for people to receive benefits from wildlife and also for the communities to voluntarily contribute towards their conservation.
“We can only achieve conservation through involvement of local communities in decision making and voting rights during high level conventions such as CITES,” Kereng noted.
Kereng added that there is need to invest in people-centred approaches to conservation, whereby people’s livelihoods are supported through natural resources in ways that are sustainable and people become part of the fight against wildlife crime.
“Southern African Countries emphasise laws and policies that put people at the centre, to ensure a balance between utilisation and conservation. Our CBNRM programme allows people to help us conserve. We have the largest population of elephants, reflecting good governance and the help of the people,” she said.
For his part, Ngamiland Council of Non-Governmental Organization (NCONGO) CBNRM Coordinator Ditiro Mmereki who is in Panama as an observer added that local communities have called for continued beneficiation of elephants through hunting quotas.
“We appreciate the wildlife rights groups’ presence and their positions, we want to express our position as the community that sustainable use of natural resource is the source of our livelihoods, and banning of elephant trade will drive these communities to poverty,” Mmereki said.
He further noted that local communities as custodians of these natural resources need to be consulted and included in the decision making processes of any negotiation that includes their natural resources.