Local filmmaker, Jack Ramsden has released a documentary showcasing the impact of wildlife on Botswana communities from the hardest-hit people’s perspective. Ramsden was moved to put the film together to balance the popular Western narrative around Botswana’s lifting of the hunting ban, which was met with global outrage.
“Voices from the Frontline: Communities & Livelihoods in Botswana” gives a fresh perspective from the ground and seeks to balance the often over sensationalised reporting of the situation by Western media as the ‘massacring of elephants.’ The documentary gives affected communities the opportunity to drive their own narrative, to tell their stories based on their firsthand experiences. The film, which focuses primarily on Northern Botswana areas such as the Okavango, Chobe and Boteti, also features an interview with President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, who is a fierce proponent of the lifting of the hunting ban.
“To our critics, we say we have the right to determine our people’s path of development and we are going to do it,” he is quoted in the documentary.
The film also features leading academics in tourism development and rural livelihoods such as Professor Joseph Mbaiwa, who advocates for scientific-based policy decisions. Discussions following the film’s debut advocated for a robust global communications strategy as well as the need to empower communities as shareholders of natural resources.
In a panel discussion following the viewing of the film, Professor Mbaiwa called for integrated policies that balance the need for ecological conservation while recognising the dignity of human beings.
“When the hunting ban was introduced as a temporary solution, there was so much excitement, now that we are lifting it there is so much global uproar as if there is going to be a massacre of sorts on wildlife, yet we know that hunting is controlled and targets old bulls,” he stated.
He underscored the need to ensure that communities stand to benefit from policy initiatives if they are to support them.
“CBRNM policy needs to be reviewed to ensure that it speaks to the needs of the community with their involvement,” he said.
Professor Brian Child of the University of Florida applauded Batswana for being at the forefront of Africans taking charge of the wildlife narrative.
“The quality of discussions I heard while interacting with community members is better than some of my masters and PHDs students,” he stated.
The film also features community-based organisations and trusts who argue that the need to have the ban lifted had become a human dignity issue.
American conservation organisations pay courtesy call on President Masisi
Meanwhile, President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi this week welcomed several members of key conservation organisations from the United States of America to the Office of the President.
The team were in Botswana to attend the official screening of the documentary “Voices from the Frontline: Communities & Livelihoods in Botswana.” The documentary follows Jack Ramsden, a Maun cattle rancher as he traverses northern Botswana to document the impact of the Human-Wildlife Conflict, particularly as a result of the spiralling elephant population, on communities and their livelihoods.
The representatives were from the following organisations; Conservation Force, the Dallas Safari Club and DSC Foundation, SCI Foundation and Safari Club Foundation.
Reference: BOPA / Featured image source: conservationaction.co.za