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Conservation trust Ray of hope for residents

16 May 2021

Like every dream that requires action and effort to turn into reality, the Mokoboxane and Mopipi communities have had to roll up their sleeves to transform into reality their dream to put into existence a sustainable income-generating project.

Once in place, the project would be a vehicle to add momentum to efforts to change the economic outlook of the two Boteti villages.

Sold the idea to start a conservation trust by Vice President and area Member of Parliament, Mr Slumber Tsogwane back in the early 2000s, the two villages sprung to action and embarked on the long and tedious journey to get the conservation trust up and running.

First in their plan was to set up a conservation park for the conservation of identified wildlife species, and the park would ultimately have some other satellite sites whose purpose would be to host some other income-generating activities for the communities.

With the preliminary formalities such as having a board of trustees in place and opening bank accounts for the trust having been taken care of, the more serious work of getting the conservation park project off the ground had to start.

According to chairperson of the trust, Mr Sentebeng Batswana, the journey to get the MOKOPI conservation trust to where it presently is, has been deeply rewarding despite having followed a rather steep path.

MOKOPI, an acronym drawn from the first three letters of Mokoboxane and the second to fourth letters of Mopipi, will encompass provision of an array of activities in the long-term.

Presently the first leg of the project, which entails the setting up of a mini wildlife conservation park named MOKOPI Conservation Park, a name drawn directly from that of the trust itself, is speedily approaching completion, which Mr Batswana says should be realised in June.

With the goodwill of partners such as Debswana, Lucara, Community Trust Fund (CTF), Dream Choice and Gaborone Electronics, who collectively funded the project to the tune of about P3 million, the conservation park is steadily taking shape.

“Ka re le mokopi yo o seng pelwana ebile a sa ikgogomose, re ne ra boela kwa Debswana ra kopa dikoloi tse ba sa tlholeng ba di dirisa mme ba re neela di le pedi,” states Mr Batswana, showing how Debswana had gone a step further and given the trust two vehicles, a van and a minibus.

The plan is to have a restaurant, conference facilities, chalets and a swimming pool on the two-hectare plot of the conservation park.

In addition to the already existing lion enclosure, there will be a crocodile pond as well as a snake park; all three of which, according to Mr Batswana, would form the backbone of the operations of the park.

“The lion enclosure is already complete and we have on site two lions, a male and a female. We expect to complete the crocodile pond and the snake park in a few weeks and we will then introduce crocodiles and snakes into the park,” he explains.

Since revenue from people coming in to view lions is already trickling in, the chairperson is optimistic that the volume of people visiting the park will shoot upwards once the reptiles get introduced to the park.

Mr Batswana says while much of the focus is currently on the conservation park, the trust is exploring other opportunities with the view to boost revenue collection in future.

Among the other envisaged projects is the use of Ntsokotsa Pan, a plain located about 20 kilometres east of the conservation park.

It is at Ntsokotsa Pan where the MOKOPI Trust hopes to one day host an activity similar to the popular annual Makgadikgadi Epic.

“This area is wide and open for a variety of activities. If all goes according to plan, we will also host many other activities here such as quad biking, horse racing and water sports when the pan is full,” quips Mr Batswana

The trust is set to also have chalets at Ntsokotsa Pan for visitors who would want to stay the night and rejuvenate away from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives.

“Those who stay will have the opportunity to see beautiful sunsets that can only be seen here at Ntsokotsa. Here at this part of this stretch of pans, when the sun sets when the pan is full, it seems as if it’s dropping into the water, and that makes a very beautiful view,” Mr Batswana notes.

Mr Batswana says the Boteti area is generally rich and urges its people to take advantage of what nature has bestowed upon them to change the plight of their communities.

“Re nale lefelo la sedimo kwa Phatshwanyane kwa botlhaba jwa Mopipi, go bo go nna le kwa Maditsenyane e ntse e le kwa botlhaba jwa Mopipi kwa gone go nang le letswai teng,” he explains, mentioning other areas sitting on the periphery of Mopipi which communities can use for their benefit.

The trust’s consultant, Dr Botshelo Kamodi is optimistic of the returns that the Mokoboxane and Mopipi communities will reap from the conservation park and the other envisaged projects.

Like Mr Batswana, he sees the good number of people currently coming through to view the lions as a good sign of a glorious future for the trust and its projects.

“There are no major challenges at the moment, and it is rather pleasing that the project has begun to be self-funding,” he notes, in reference to the income coming in since the lions were introduced to the park.

Dr Kamodi credits the conservation park’s strategic location for the gains that the park will possibly rake in in the future.

“This park sits on the edge of a big village (Letlhakane), and is located along a major road; the Letlhakane-Maun road. This makes accessibility to the park quite easy and gives Letlhakane and Orapa residents an opportunity to temporarily move away from the daily melee of their respective locations,” he observes.

On the wildlife species that will be kept in the park, Dr Kamodi says they have had a donation of two lions from former Ghanzi South MP and farmer Mr Christian de Graaff, while Douma’s Crocodile Farm in Francistown had donated six crocodiles.

The snakes on the one hand, which will comprise Botswana’ seven deadliest snakes, will be captured from the wild.

“We will have the black mamba, puff adder, spitting cobra, snouted cobra, boomslang, twig snake and the python,” he states.

Dr Kamodi says the snake park will also be used to train people on snake handling as well as for the extraction of venom.

“Snake venom is important as it can be used for various things such as the production of anti-venom for treating snake bites,” he wraps up, explaining further that both the crocodiles and the snakes were expected in the park during the course of the month.

If managed well the MOKOPI Trust is poised to improve the economy of both Mokoboxane and Mopipi communities and will further benefit residents of the two villages in many other ways.

Of note, is the opportunity for residents to gain life-long skills as the trust will give preference to people from the two villages whenever seeking to fill any vacancies.

Furthermore, local businesses are set to benefit from the ripple effects of the business activities of the trust. ends

Source : BOPA

Author : Keonee Kealeboga


Event : Interview

Date : 16 May 2021