Communities in Okavango show resilience in tough times
Life in the Okavango Delta is hard.
The challenges are many and frequent. There are floods, attacks by wild animals and regular gruelling journeys on gravel roads and boats for many kilometres to reach amenities.
This environment has however made the 8000 people living in Seronga, Gunotsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha and Gudigwa toughen up and face the challenges with a positive attitude.
Human-wildlife conflict posed a real threat that did not only endanger lives but also contributed to increasing poverty levels among villagers whose fields were often ravaged by elephants and livestock eaten by lions.
This conflict between man and animals was however partially resolved when the community adapted to their environment by acquiring a photographic concession from government and subleased it to big tourism magnates at a comfortable fee.
“Our people are largely agrarian, keeping a small number of livestock, and practicing flood recession farming. Fishing is also a significant source of livelihood as well as harvesting of aquatic and veld resources,” explains Botshelo Sesinyi of Okavango community Trust (OCT), an organisation that was formed in 1995 for village development purposes.
OCT has sponsored local youth to study different courses in Tourism and hospitality, construction and real estate at schools like Career dreams, TSI, Baisago in Maun and FCTVE in Francistown. Most of these graduates are absorbed within OCT investment partner’s camps.
“One of our sponsored students graduated in September last year as best student,” said Sesinyi proudly
He further explained that the Trust has built toilets and houses for vulnerable and less privileged members of the community over the years and consistently donated towards prize giving ceremonies in local primary schools in all the five villages and the only secondary school in the area, Ngambao Secondary School in Seronga.
“You will note that many houses in our area are traditional thatched and thus susceptible to catching fire. OCT has therefore donated money to people who have lost their huts through fire and through natural disasters. It isn’t much, but it goes a long way in helping the beneficiary rebuild their homes,” Sesinyi said.
Furthermore the Trust has since acquired two minibuses to use as school buses, which also double as village transporters for the sick in partnership with Unchartered Africa and Natural Selection.
This, according to Sesinyi was done in an effort to mitigate against human-elephant conflict in the area.
The Trust further offers complimentary transport to the sick and during funerals to members of the community.
The Trust ambition and passion to develop their communities is also evident in its report to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) late last year.
In the report, the Trust detailed its current operations and dream to add some more.
According to the report, the Trust has commercial operations, a mortuary through premiums and funeral services, general dealers in Gudigwa and Beetsha, hardware in Gunotsoga, which generate revenue through retailing. It further has a vehicle hire business.
The general dealer in Seronga is in the process of being changed into a hotel, because of the gap observed by the Trust in the hospitality industry, which is shortage of accommodation in the Eastern panhandle of the Okavango area.
Upon change of use, the Trust will construct a hotel with a conference room, a restaurant and a bar and so far the architectural design for the hotel has been completed and only awaiting approval from the council.
They also plan to build a cultural village and have applied for funding for eight thatched Tswana traditional huts, a fully furnished restaurant, a dance arena, curio shop, art gallery, and information centre and managerial office.
A community camp at NG 22 concession in partnership with Okavango Wilderness Safaris is also on the cards and the report to UNDP has confirmed that the two parties have already made a formal agreement during a joint meeting on May 22nd and 23rd, 2019.
“The two parties agreed to jointly construct and operate a community camp in Kwedi, a 572km2 plot currently leased to OCT and subleased to Wilderness. The Trust has already made a submission for additional beds to the Tawana Land board to make it a 24 beds camp, ” Sesinyi said.
According to the UNDP report the Trust has this year committed to electrify all VDC houses in the four villages of Gudigwa, Beetsha, Eretsha and Gunotsoga and to build a shelter at the main kgotla in Seronga.