NCONGO Executive Director and Community Leaders Network of Southern Africa treasurer Mr Siyoka Simasiku in UK

Statement by Siyoka Simasiku (Executive Director-NCONGO (Community Leaders Network of Southern Africa Treasurer) to House of Commons today in UK on behalf of Botswana CBOs.
Honourable Members of the House of Lords,
I come before you today with a profound sense of duty and urgency to shed light on the intricate web of human-wildlife conflicts and the evolving landscape of safari hunting in the captivating realm of Botswana.
The repercussions of the 2014 hunting ban in Botswana have reverberated widely, necessitating a nuanced and proactive response from leaders of your esteemed stature. The shift from hunting to photographic tourism has presented challenges, particularly for communities in concession areas traditionally used for safari hunting.
These regions, often remote and economically marginalized, are grappling with dwindling income and vanishing economic opportunities, exacerbating socio-economic disparities and heightening vulnerabilities among those reliant on these lands for their livelihoods.
The unintended consequences of this transition have strained community resilience and intensified human-wildlife conflicts, emphasizing the need for comprehensive and sustainable strategies to address these multifaceted challenges.
The loss of human lives resulting from encounters with elephants, predators, and other wildlife species serves as a heart-breaking reminder of the human toll of these conflicts, casting a shadow of fear and uncertainty over communities in Botswana.
Elephants, in particular, have been identified as major contributors to crop destruction and property damage, compounding the challenges faced by local residents.
The encroachment of wildlife into human-inhabited areas has disrupted traditional ways of life and heightened safety concerns among community members, underscoring the urgent need for effective mitigation measures to safeguard both human populations and wildlife habitats.
Tragic incidents, such as the recent accounts of a young girl fatally attacked by a buffalo on her way back from school and a young man similarly attacked in the town of Kasane, stand as stark reminders of the vulnerabilities faced by those living in close proximity to wildlife.
These distressing events, resulting in human casualties, not only sow seeds of distrust and fear but also complicate the delicate balance between conservation efforts and community well-being, highlighting the urgent need for holistic and sustainable solutions to foster coexistence.
Furthermore, the economic ramifications of wildlife damage to crops and livestock have placed a significant burden on the government, with substantial resources being allocated towards compensating affected communities.
Beyond the immediate financial costs, these conflicts have broader implications for food security, livelihood sustainability, and community resilience, jeopardizing the progress made towards achieving sustainable development goals and conservation objectives in Botswana. Families dependent on subsistence farming face the harsh reality of crop raids by wildlife during crucial agricultural seasons, leading to food insecurity and further marginalization.
The tireless efforts of these communities to protect their farms from wildlife, often at great personal sacrifice, exemplify the immense challenges faced by those living alongside wildlife in Botswana.
The negative perceptions stemming from these conflicts threaten to erode public support for wildlife conservation efforts, ultimately jeopardizing the delicate balance of coexistence between humans and wildlife.
It is imperative to acknowledge that the success of conservation initiatives hinges on meaningful engagement and empowerment of local communities in decision-making processes.
Alienating communities from wildlife management and conservation efforts not only perpetuates cycles of conflict and mistrust but also undermines the long-term sustainability of conservation practices, highlighting the critical need for inclusive and participatory approaches that prioritize community perspectives, traditional knowledge, and livelihood needs.
Inclusive and participatory approaches that centre on community voices, traditional wisdom, and livelihood priorities are indispensable for fostering a harmonious relationship between communities and wildlife.
By involving local communities in conservation efforts and recognizing their invaluable contributions, we can work towards solutions that promote the well-being of both human populations and wildlife conservation efforts.
In conclusion, I urge the esteemed members of the House of Lords to consider the intricate challenges posed by human-wildlife conflicts and the role played by safari hunting in Botswana.
It is vital to mitigate these challenges with a sense of urgency, compassion, and empathy.
Recognizing the human toll and ecological implications of these conflicts, it is imperative to advocate for comprehensive solutions that prioritize community welfare, environmental conservation, and sustainable development in Botswana.
Let us unite in support of inclusive, equitable, and resilient conservation practices that uphold the inherent value of both human lives and wildlife in Botswana and beyond.
I implore the House of Lords to champion legislation that celebrates and rewards successful conservation practices in Southern Africa, fostering a culture of harmonious coexistence between humans and wildlife.
Thank you for your unwavering attention and thoughtful consideration in addressing these critical issues that profoundly impact the lives of communities in Botswana and the delicate balance of nature.
May our collective efforts pave the way for a future where humans and wildlife thrive in harmony and mutual respect.
Your consideration and action on these pressing matters are crucial in shaping a sustainable and harmonious future for the people and wildlife of Botswana.
Thank you for your attention and commitment to addressing these complex challenges with empathy and urgency.
As we strive towards a future where humans and wildlife coexist in harmony, let us remember that the decisions we make today will have a lasting impact on the generations to come. By working together, we can create a world where both people and wildlife flourish, and where the beauty and diversity of nature are preserved