Community-Based Natural Resource Management in Botswana


Main event


Wildlife decline recognised in Botswana and the need to address the challenge

Late 1980s

USAID-supported ideas to introduce CBNRM in Botswana

Late 1980s

Adoption of CBNRM in Botswana and housed at DWNP


First pilot CBNRM project in Botswana – Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust


Second CBNRM project in Botswana – Sankoyo Tshwaragano Management Trust

Late 1990s and 2000s

Increase of CBOs and CBNRM projects in Botswana. Other donor agencies arrived in Botwana and funded different projects e.g. SNV-Netherlands


CBNRM Policy adopted in parliament


Hunting ban adopted

The aim of this chapter, therefore, is to analyze how CBNRM has been implemented and what are the effects on rural livelihoods and conservation in Botswana. In so doing, the chapter contributes to the literature on the role of CBNRM in rural poverty alleviation, sustaining livelihoods and conservation in developing countries, using Botswana as a case study. The chapter started by providing an introduction that covers CBNRM definitions, theories underlying the CBNRM, debates on CBNRM, and knowledge gaps within CBNRM development. Secondly, the chapter will provide a description of the study area, which is Botswana, and discusses the methods used in data collection. Thirdly, the chapter discusses the results of the study, including the effectiveness of CBNRM in achieving conservation and livelihood goals. Lastly, the chapter is concluded by relating these insights to debates on the pro’s and con’s of CBNRM. The conclusion also reflects on the future direction of CBNRM following the Botswana ban on safari hunting.

4.2 Study Area and Approach

This chapter covers a wide range of CBNRM projects located in different parts of Botswana. CBNRM activities in Botswana are carried out in all of the country’s nine districts. The chapter provides information about those CBNRM projects that in essence are based on wildlife, scenic vistas, cultural heritage and all the associated tourism products in Botswana. In total, 45 community-based organizations (CBOs) with CBNRM projects were studied.

This chapter is based on both primary data collected in a period of over two decades and secondary data sources. Primary data were collected over a period of two decades of research in CBNRM development in Botswana. That is, structured and semi-structured questionnaires have been administered with community groups involved in CBNRM development throughout Botswana. These questionnaires addressed various issues, such as revenue collected by each CBO, number of people employed, CBNRM projects implemented by the CBO, governance of the CBO and the state of natural resource conservation. Primary data collection also involved informal interviews with different stakeholders, such as with government officials (e.g. Department of Wildlife & National Parks and Botswana Tourism Organisation). These stakeholders were interviewed to get more clarity on particular issues about CBNRM development in different parts of the country.

Second, a desktop study was carried out of CBNRM documentation. Secondary data sources included reports on CBNRM development in Botswana, policy documents (e.g. CBNRM policy of 2007), past CBNRM status reports, annual reports by CBOs. Issues of livelihoods development, natural resource conservation, CBNRM governance and CBNRM links with other sectors of the economy were examined in these sources. Data obtained through this approach also included the latest and updated data on CBNRM performance in Botswana as per 2011/2012.

Primary and secondary data collected were analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively. Thematic analysis was used to analyze all the qualitative data. Thematic analysis involves data reduction into themes and patterns to be reported. Leininger (1985: 60) argues that in thematic analysis, themes are identified by “bringing together components or fragments of ideas or experiences, which often are meaningless when viewed alone”. In thematic analysis, themes that emerge from the informants stories are pieced together to form a compressive picture of their collective experience (Aronson 1994). In this study, qualitative data from households, key informant interviews and focused group discussions were summarized into specific themes and patterns on the impacts of CBNRM in Botswana. Finally, quantitative analysis of data involved the production and interpretation of frequencies and tables that describe the data.

4.3 Institutional Arrangements of CBNRM in Botswana

4.3.1 Definition and Formation of CBOs and Trusts

Community trust CBOs are institutions created by communities to implement activities within the frame of the CBNRM program (DWNP 1999). Trusts are formed by the groups of people living in the same area (e.g. a village) and sharing common interests in order to benefit from natural resources around them (DWNP 1999), mostly through tourism development. Community trusts might, therefore, be made up of one or more villages whose aims are to utilize natural resources (e.g. wildlife) in their local environment to generate jobs, revenues and meat for the benefit of the members of the community. Community trusts are therefore registered legal entities, and are formed in accordance with the laws of Botswana to represent the interests of the communities and implement their management decisions in natural resource use.

Community trusts (Table 4.2) engage in tourism projects based on natural resources around them. For example, in northern Botswana where there is an abundance of wildlife resources, most trusts are engaged in tourism related activities, such as sub-leasing their concessions to safari companies, managing cultural tourism and photographic wildlife tourism, and marketing baskets and other nature-based handicrafts. Membership of community trusts generally includes all people who have resided in the concerned village(s) for more than 5 years (Rozemeijer and van der Jagt 2000). Community trusts thus include the entire population of a village in terms of membership. Sometimes constitutions of these trusts specify that they should include only adults who have resided in the village for more than 5 years. For instance, the automatic general members of trusts are such that all local people over 18 years of age and living within their respective concession area or village, are members of a trust (Mbaiwa 2002).

Table 4.2
Number of CBOs in Botswana, 2003–2012


Number of CBOs registered









Source: Mbaiwa (2013)

4.3.2 Governance and Functions of Trusts and CBOs

The governance of community trusts should, in theory, be in accordance with the laws of Botswana, and at the same time reflect community interests, goals and customs (DWNP 1999). The operations of community trusts are guided by constitutions, which specify, inter alia, the membership and duties of the trusts, the power of the board of trustees (BoT), the way meetings are held, resources are governed and sanctions of the trusts are handled. Community trusts are headed by a BoT. The BoT is considered to be the supreme governing body of each CBO and CBNRM project. In most CBOs, the BoT is composed of ten members. The BoT conducts and manages all the affairs of the trust on behalf of its members, i.e. the local village community. These affairs include the signing of legal documents, such as leases and contracts with safari companies, and maintaining a close contact with the trust’s lawyers. It also keeps the records, financial accounts and reports of the trust, and presents them to the general membership at the annual general meetings. As a result of its important role in resource management, the BoT is a key platform for decision-making regarding quotas and benefit distribution, business deals with the private tourism sector, and agreements with support agencies, like donors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The BoT acts as intermediary between government agencies, NGOs and the communities they represent on issues of local participation in tourism development and conservation.

The BoT is essentially responsible for identifying and bringing before the general membership, issues that the BoT may deem necessary for the furtherance of the objects of the trust. It is also the BoT’s primary responsibility to implement decisions of the trust made by the general membership regarding use of property and funds of the trust. It is the BoT that handles all the business aspects of the trust, by applying for permits and licenses, as may be required from time to time. At the end of each financial year, the BoT is expected to produce and announce to the general membership progress reports and audited financial reports. The financials usually include trust income and expenditure for the previous year, surplus or deficit resulting from those finances and lastly a proposed budget for the coming financial year. The BoT consists of ten persons and their term in office commences from the date of their election and lasts for a period of 2 years. After being known, the BoT then elects from amongst itself some of its members into positions of chairperson, vice-chairperson, treasurer, secretary and vice-secretary. The rest become board members.

4.3.3 CBNRM and Joint Venture Partnerships (JVPs)

Most CBNRM projects in Botswana that are wildlife-based are carried out following the joint venture partnership (JVP) model proposed by the Department of Wildlife & National Parks (DWNP). None of the JVPs in Botswana involve the merging of either partner’s assets as is common practice around the world. As such, most CBOs involved in CBNRM sub-lease their concession areas, that are often rich in natural resources, to a company or group of companies. In return, the community or community trust benefits from rental income and employment opportunities. Community trusts prefer these types of JVPs because tourism development is a new economic activity to them and they lack the necessary entrepreneurial skills and experience in managing tourism enterprises. JVPs with safari companies are preferred under the assumption that companies will in the long run transfer the necessary tourism entrepreneurship and managerial skills from companies to local communities.

Generally, JVPs in Botswana’s CBNRM development are in essence lease agreements between operators and CBOs. As already noted, community trusts simply sub-lease their concession areas together with the resources found in the area to private companies. Much of the concession areas in northern Botswana owned by local communities are sub-leased for hunting and photographic tourism activities. In this regard, communities have transferred all the land-use and management rights in their concession areas to private tourism companies. Therefore, CBOs receive annual land rentals from these companies and – before the hunting ban – they sold their annual wildlife quota to safari hunting companies. In return, communities reinvest money generated through sub-leasing of their concession areas to operate campsites, eco-lodges and run community development projects.

The challenge of JVPs is that they have simply not achieved their original and intended goals. It was anticipated that the private sector would build the capacity of CBOs through skill transfer and on-the-job training and facilitate trusts to fully take over the running of tourism enterprises. In this regard, CBNRM has not resulted in communities being at the forefront of running key tourism development projects. Communities own small scale tourism enterprises, like eco-lodges and campsites. This defeats the goal of making CBOs owners of tourism enterprises. Some non-wildlife CBOs own their tourism enterprises and have not formed any JVPs with any tourism company. This includes most of the CBOs in eastern Botswana such as Ketsi-Ya-Tsie which deals with veld (field) product collection. Thusano Lefatsheng deals with the collection of Devil’s Clal, a plant used for medicinal purposes. Such CBOs tend to perform very poorly since tourists that come to Botswana generally want to visit wildlife areas, as opposed to parts of Botswana where there is no wildlife.

4.3.4 Number of CBNRM Communities

Mbaiwa (2013) shows that in Botswana a total of 45 CBOs, comprising of 123 villages and a total population of 283,123 people, are supported by the development of CBNRM. In their turn, these people support CBNRM under the assumption that it will contribute to poverty alleviation in their villages. The number of people that are supported by CBNRM in 2012 is slightly higher than in previous years (e.g. 2006 and 2009). Table 4.2 shows the number of CBOs registered in Botswana, including the villages and population directly or indirectly involved in CBNRM development in 2006. With 150 villages in ten districts in 2006, more than 135,000 people or 10 % of Botswana’s population were involved in CBNRM (Schuster 2007). It becomes clear that the number of villages involved in CBNRM in 2006 was higher than in 2012, but the number of people supported is higher more recently.

Table 4.3
Main features of CBNRM and community trusts



Main focus

The main objective of CBNRM is to achieve conservation and rural livelihoods through participation and involvement of local communities in natural resource management. As a result, the main objective of CBNRM is to improve livelihood and to conserve biodiversity

Actors involved

Community trusts, communities/villages, government agencies and the private sector. Government leases land, communities have use rights over resources, private sector develops resources for the tourism market after sub-leasing concession areas from communities

Legal entity

Community trusts are legal entities registered according to the laws of Botswana


Government owns land but leases it to community trusts who in turn sub-leases it to safari companies


Board of trustees manages community trusts on behalf of the community

Sources of finance

Donor funding, joint venture partnerships and funds obtained from sub-leasing of concession areas

Contribution to conservation

CBNRM contributes to conservation through the setting aside land as a concession area, enhancing wildlife-friendly behaviour of communities, monitoring wildlife populations and enforcing laws against illegal hunting

Contribution to livelihood

Development of community tourism projects such as ecolodges, campsites, payment of fees, employment opportunities

Although the registration of CBOs appears to have remained stagnant between 2009 and 2012, CBNRM remains very popular in rural areas of Botswana. The 105 registered community trusts, presented in Table 4.2, are actively operating as viable entities, generating revenue, receiving benefits, managing their natural resources, and distributing their benefits within the community. This therefore suggests that rural communities in Botswana may be perceiving CBNRM as an alternative livelihood strategy that can improve their lives.

4.3.5 Total Surface Area for CBNRM Development

In Botswana, CBNRM is carried out in demarcated land use zones known as wildlife management areas (WMAs). WMAs are further sub-divided into controlled hunting areas (CHAs). CHAs are then leased to CBOs by government for CBNRM activities. CHAs are used for various types of CBNRM activities, including consumptive and non-consumptive tourism. While CBNRM activities are carried out by various CBOs in CHAs located in different parts of the country, not all of the CHAs are used effectively by local communities. Figure 4.1 shows the distribution of CBNRM projects across Botswana.


Fig. 4.1
Spatial distribution of CBNRM projects in Botswana (Source: Mbaiwa 2012)

According to the Government of Botswana, in 2004, a total of 6,675,000 ha (11.35 %) of Botswana’s land surface was set aside for WMAs and CBNRM can be carried out in this areas (Mbaiwa 2012). A further 6,270,000 ha (10.8 %) of Botswana’s surface area is proposed for WMAs or community uses for CBNRM. This shows that a total of 22 % of the Botswana surface area, or 12,945,000 ha, is set aside for CBNRM for rural communities.

4.4 CBNRM Contributions to Rural Livelihoods

Some CBNRM projects have collapsed while others are more successful. Where CBNRM has better results, there has been a positive contribution to improved livelihoods as discussed in detail below. Some of the livelihood improvements include employment opportunities, financial benefits and social services.

4.4.1 Employment Opportunities

Employment is one of the main benefits that have improved livelihoods in some of the CBNRM villages, particularly those in northern Botswana. Employment is provided by both the safari companies that sub-lease community areas and by trusts in the respective villages. In 2011/12, a total of 610 people were employed in 14 CBOs out of a total of 45 CBOs.

For Botswana, an employment estimate of 8,000 people in CBNRM projects represents a substantial contribution. This is because most of the CBNRM projects are carried out in remote parts of Botswana where there is no industrial or manufacturing sectors to create employment opportunities for local people. As a result, CBNRM in Botswana thus improves rural livelihoods through employment. In Ngamiland District, CBNRM has become one of the key sectors that provides employment to local communities (NWDC 2003). Employment in wildlife-based CBOs in both Ngamiland and Chobe Districts is substantial. In these villages, employment is provided by safari companies that sub-lease community areas and by trusts in respective villages. In addition, some of the CBOs in these areas have re-invested their income in other tourism enterprises, such as in Santawani lodge and Kaziikini camp owned by the Sankoyo Community, and Ngoma Lodge owned by the Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust. These enterprises have led to the creation of more employment and income generation opportunities for these communities. Next to income generation and employment opportunities, Chobe Enclave Community Trust members have also invested in agriculture, such as livestock and crop farming (see Jones, this volume). As a result, human-wildlife conflicts are likely to continue hence a challenge to conservation of biodiversity in the area.

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