By Nudge Sustainability Reporter Oratile Mothibedi
It is time to involve local communities in the issue of their developments. This can be easy if we introduce innovative ideas that will benefit both the communities and the world at large. As conservationists and researchers let’s treat rural residents as respected & valued partners and they will then become the solution to conservation of the environment and not the problem!
The innovative ideas can all come together in a resource centre in Bokaa Village, located in the Kgatleng District and just a few kilometres away from Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. Still nothing more but plans, the village leadership and the Village Development Committee have a desire to turn the area into a community trust and monumental site.
The main goal of the resource centre is to research climate change, the consequences for Botswana and how to deal with them. The main focus lies on water management, waste management, deforestation and overgrazing. People from the area or other interested people can come to relax and at the same time learn about their surroundings and how they can contribute to conserving the environment.
This initiative came in the forefront after members of the University of Botswana Wildlife and Environmental conservation society approached the village leaders about the area and it’s usage. The village currently does not have a focal environmental group which focuses on natural resource use, conservation, and environmental education dissemination hence the intervention by the University of Botswana - with assistance from other relevant stakeholders.
Due to the need to empower and improve the livelihoods of the people, a community trust was started by the University of Botswana in partnership with the village leadership. This trust will be responsible for the sustainability of the resource centre.
The resource centre will offer botanical, historical, environmental and cultural experience and knowledge and will include the following attractions:
- Permaculture garden
- Camping sites
- Rest benches
- Native shade trees
- Native fruit trees
- Cultural house
- Outdoor teaching are
Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles aiming to simulate or directly utilise the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems. It guides us to mimic the patterns and relationships we can find in nature and the system can be applied to all aspects of human habitation, from agriculture to ecological building, from appropriate technology to education and even economics (Geoff Lawton, Australia Research institute).
By adopting the ethics and applying these principles in the resource centre we can make the transition from being dependent consumers to becoming responsible producers. This journey builds skills and resilience at home and in our local communities that will help us prepare for an uncertain future with less available energy.
The techniques and strategies used to apply these principles vary widely depending on the location, climatic conditions and resources that are available. The methods may differ, but the foundations to this holistic approach remain constant. By learning these principles we will acquire valuable thinking tools that will help us become more resilient in an era of change. The government has introduced the poverty eradication programme in Botswana but there is no measures taken to make sure that the beneficiaries follow steps that are environmentally friendly. By introducing these principles to the community, they will become environmentally aware and also appreciate the relationship between them and the environment. The permaculture techniques use organic materials therefore there is no threat of environmental damage and contamination hence a green solution.
The campsites attract people of different backgrounds to the area. For example, people with and without environmental knowledge. As they interact they will share ideas on how the environment can be conserved and how the resource centre can be kept alive for a very long time, sharing ideas and experiences on how to sustainably use and revive gardens of this nature.
Native shade trees and fruit trees
Native shades and fruits trees will be used because they are drought resistant, not poisonous and give clean fruits that are not genetically modified. People will learn about the native trees available in Botswana and particularly the ones found in the Kgatleng region that are used for their shade and fruit. The trees are so versatile they can even be used for building homes! The people who come to Bokaa will also learn how the native trees in the village are preserved and protected to encourage them plant these trees in their surroundings. Some native trees have a great medical importance and most of them are used traditionally by residents to heal certain illnesses. For example, monepenepe (Cassia abbriviata) is used to cure many ailments in Botswana.
Outdoor teaching area
Teaching people about conservation is of great importance. The garden will focus the conservation of natural resources in a practical manner. It will also give people the opportunity to interact directly with the environment.