Botswana Capitalizes on Eco-Tourism

Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated nations in the world, a country the size of France but with just over 2 million people.
 
Although the population is small in comparison to the total land mass, the humble nation is abundant in natural resources including wildlife, minerals, and diamonds. Botswana also has the distinct honor of housing 40% of Africa’s entire elephant population, which does well to attract a larger population of tourists than those who reside in the country.
“The number of visitors we have into Botswana is between 2.6 and 2.7 million, which is more than the population of Botswana,” said Tshedidi Khama, Botswana’s Minister for Environment, Wildlife and Tourism.
“We have made a deliberate decision to grow tourism in this country and become imaginative in the way in which we’re doing that. In 2002, the country adopted a national ecotourism strategy aimed at conserving Botswana’s natural resources and wildlife,” explains Khama.
Botswana’s tourism industry is second most revenue-generating sector after its booming diamond trade, which helped to propel the country out of extreme poverty into a middle-income country with a per capita GDP of $17,700 in 2015.
Wildlife and ecotourism in Botswana is said to contribute 4-5% towards the country’s GDP.
Conservation started in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, which is often referred to as the “Jewel of the Kalahari” by locals, one of the largest inland deltas in the world.
The Delta itself seems to be alive, springing up several months a year when the Angolan rainfall reaches the mouth of the delta. This then transforms the delta into a rich marshland that attracts a wide array of wildlife including gazelle, impalas, hippopotamus, zebra, and various species of wild cats.
The Delta is now being revamped to feature solar-powered water mechanisms and water conservation initiatives.
Chobe Game Lodge on Botswana’s northern border is one of the Botswana’s luxury facilities and prides itself on its eco-friendly facility and small carbon footprint. “We’ve cut down our waste footprint by about 95%,” said Johan Bruwer, general manager of the lodge.
“One way of doing this is by using solar-powered boats and electrical vehicles for game viewing. Our goal is to, in the next 18 months to 24 months, to offer our guests a total emission-free, carbon-free game viewing experience,” said Bruwer.
Another of the delta’s elite lodges, the Sandibe Okavango, proudly boasts its water conservation efforts, allowing for only water that is treated and recycled onsite. 70% of the lodge’s power also comes from solar panels.
“Most of the operators run on generators still but everyone is changing over to solar power. It allows us to keep power in the lodge 24 hours a day, and also allows us to greatly reduce our footprint in this area,” said lodge manager Greg Davies-Coleman.
The nation continues to grow as innovative new models replace the old and drive tourism to the country.

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