Research Consultant, Larry Patterson has advised Botswana to challenge itself and embrace extensive game ranching, expand and guide it for the country to reap its environmental and economic benefits.
Patterson criticized Botswana for remaining blinkered and stuck to a vision of high revenues from a decreasing wildlife resource base in a deteriorating but ever expanding scenario of photographic tourism.
Addressing Botswana Symposium on Wetlands and Environment 2015, Patterson advised that diversification of the economy using ecological platforms is readily attainable through game ranching.
Patterson explained that among opportunities which Botswana needs to grasp is to expand the game ranching estate by providing citizens with an affordable way into the industry. He stressed that more tribal land could be made available for game ranching and seed populations of suitable species could be provided from the parks and game ranches.
“The major part of the so called WMAs in some districts is defunct and could be more productive and conservationist as game ranches.”
He added that swathes of land surrounding some of the country’s parks and reserves which are misguidedly being allocated for photographic tourism would be much more suited to game ranching especially through community owned conservancies.
Patterson also shared that another way to greatly enhance the potential of game ranching is through breeding rare and valuable species. He added that these include sable, roan and tsessebe which occur in exploitable numbers in certain areas of Pandamatenga and Ngamiland.
“The veterinary constraints have been demonstrated to be easily overcome and we now only need the political will. Most of all we must capitalize on the potentially immense value of a single species being the buffalo.”
Patterson underscored that the recent ‘feeding frenzy’ over coloured wildebeest seems to be spilling over into other species adding that red coloured individuals which originated in the Limpopo valley are now called ‘golden gnus’ and are bred and sold fairly in South Africa.
“Prices for adult animals have stabilized at around R500 000 and the so called ‘splits’ which allegedly have one red parent fetch prices exceeding R100 000. ‘King wildebeest’ which are rarer resemble an ugly palamino, but sell for millions. Black impala are sold for over R200 000 while black saddled impala are rated for R750 000 and there are high premiums for coloured and white (not albino) animals such as springbok, gemsbok and kudu.”
Patterson advised that Botswana may have reservations because of suggestions from scientists and conservationists but it must acknowledge the commercial opportunities which these animals present.
The research consultant warned that Botswana should consider recent scenarios in the industry in South Africa and guard against blindly following developments that have damaging environmental consequences.
“The trend to subdivide ranches into sub units as small as 100ha camps in order to breed colour variants such as black impala is not game ranching. It is intensive stud breeding and stock rearing with ecological costs and dubious conservation value.”
Patterson expressed that the recent market driven phenomenal demand for colour variants and resulting spectacular escalation in value is the main cause driving these unwelcome developments. He informed that colour variants of species are not in themselves a biological threat but they are merely a result of recessive genes and were uncommon because they are more susceptible to predation under extensive natural conditions.
Despite claims of returning considerable land holdings to wildlife being valid and can be substantially expanded, Patterson has refuted that there are no conservation benefits from massive proliferation of game proof fencing which fragments viable ecological units. He explained that in Botswana the average game ranch is currently a healthy 9000ha that is more than ten times in South Africa. He advised that registration should be restricted to ranches exceeding 2000ha and intensive breeding should com under separate legislation.
Game ranching in Botswana began in the late 1980s. At first it was limited to a few large cattle farmers in Ghanzi and Tuli Block who had the initiative, land and funds to develop it. These early pioneers were influenced by the development of the industry in Namibia and South Africa. By 1999 there were still only 17 game ranches in Botswana but since 2000 game ranching has taken off in Botswana.
The advent of the Botswana Wildlife Producers Association (BWPA) in 2002 and a crucial government decision to allow full rights ownership over animals stimulated the fledging industry. It is reported that there are now over 100 game ranches in the country.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”