In a recent review of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) development needs, the KAZA Secretariat identified six regions targeted for conservation efforts, including the Hwange-Makgadikgadi-Chobe Wildlife Dispersal Area (WDA). Recognized as an essential core wildlife area within this WDA, the 3900-sq-km Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans are a seasonal dispersal designation from the Hwange and Chobe National Parks, and the Okavango Delta. An example is the recent documentation of the migration patterns of the Burchell’s zebra revealing the longest large mammal migrations in Africa from the border of Namibia and Botswana south to Nxai Pan and return.
Served by the River Nata of Zimbabwe and the recent returning waters of the Boteti River from the Okavango Delta, the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans are experiencing increasing resident wildlife populations, supporting elephant, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra and their predators, and as a result an ever-expanding tourist destination. Following the rains, in addition to the large mammal migrations, the pans also host the arrival of migratory birds such as duck, geese, Great White Pelicans and one of only two breeding colonies of Greater Flamingos in southern Africa.
The greatest land use incompatibility are livestock, fencing and wildlife dispersal as multiple control fences interlace the region. Sharing its northern boundary with Nxai Pan National Park, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park is bordered to the east and south by Wildlife Management Areas and to the west by communal land that is partly separated by a secondary buffalo proof fence. Beyond the communal lands and fences lies the Central Kalahari Game Refuge. Prior to the construction of the Major Cordon Sanitaire (veterinary fence), a significant feature of the entire region, the wildlife migrations from the Chobe and Okavango through the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans to the Central Kalahari Game Refuge were the largest in all of Southern Africa.
Utilizing traditional knowledge and conservation science we will produce an ecological assessment and adaptive climate change strategy to expand resident wildlife populations and migratory access from the Okavango Delta, Chobe and Hwange National Parks and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
We have developed four priority projects for the Makgadikgadi-Nxai Pans Core Wildlife Area.
- Ecological and Cultural Assessment and Decision-Support Tool
- Corridors, Wildlife &Commodity-Based Markets
- Land-Use Planning and Implementation
- Conservation Agreements and Community Financing
Ecological and Cultural Assessment and Decision-Support Tool
The Makgadikgadi-Nxai Pans Core Wildlife Area Ecological and Cultural Assessment will identify core and critical areas for ecological and cultural sustainability, employing state-of the art methodologies for large landscape and natural resource conservation analyses, explicitly incorporating Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK).
Baseline Information Gathering and Development
A foundation part of the work is to gather existing and develop new baseline information about ecological, cultural, land use and occupancy values across the region to support the region-wide ecological and cultural assessment. This will include compiling existing and gathering previously undocumented TEK about these values including both spatial and non-spatial information. The TEK, available science-based and community information will be used to develop region-wide maps of seasonal wildlife habitats including relative habitat quality, critical habitats, important wildlife movement corridors; human use and existing infrastructure including roads, fences, water points, settlements, ancestral lands and other human use areas; and livestock information including grazing areas, stocking levels, and range conditions.
Additionally, TEK, community information and science-based information will be used to identify spatial and temporal patterns in ecological, community and cultural values due to changing climate and landscape conditions already being experienced. We will identify the key climate and human use drivers underlying recent change and likely to contribute to continued change into the future, and compile any existing information translating these drivers to potential future conditions within the region.
As needed, we will develop predictive models to fill in spatial information gaps for key ecological or cultural values, as required to provide the ‘wall-to-wall’ coverage of baseline and potentially future conditions needed to appropriately assess the spatial extent and configuration of current and predicted future conservation values across the region. At a minimum, these models will include seasonal wildlife habitat values and connectivity, range conditions, and the underlying key disturbance dynamics that drive seasonal and inter-annual patterns of both ecological values and human use.
The products of this phase both feed into the regional analyses and are of value as stand-alone products representing the best current information on a wide diversity of ecological and cultural values. The datasets and models will be compiled into a data library, allowing for ease of use and maintenance of the library, individual datasets and models.
Regional Assessment and Incorporation of Climate Drivers
The regional assessment will integrate across these diverse values and drivers of change to identify current and potential future areas of importance for wildlife including cores and connectivity, and areas of importance for community values including infrastructure (settlements, water), livestock production and grazing and tourism opportunities. The assessment will use both conventional and probabilistic site-selection approaches that incorporate the drivers of change including predicted land use change and various climate change scenarios to develop a suite of spatially-explicit regional scenarios that capture the underlying variability and potential spatially-explicit options for achieving community and conservation goals. Our ability to develop spatially-explicit predictions of potential future conditions will be evaluated, and efforts will focus on approaches that are rigorous and defensible. Integrating climate change meaningfully into the regional analysis dramatically increases complexity of the effort, but conservation networks designed for only current climate conditions may fail under future conditions.
Makgadikgadi-Nxai Pans Core Wildlife Area Decision Support Tool with scenario development capability
The datasets and products from the regional assessment will be integrated into a GIS-based K-N Decision Support Tool (DST) with the capability to develop and assess spatially-explicit scenarios under varying assumptions about current and future conditions and priorities. The DST will be a valuable asset for testing assumptions and exploring options to achieve explicit conservation targets across the study area.
The DST will be an integrated conservation science and TEK informed planning tool to support land management decision making, including potential land use zoning configurations to achieve ecological, socioeconomic and cultural objectives. Importantly, the assessment and scenarios developed through the toolkit will identify areas of potential overlap between potentially conflicting values (e.g., livestock grazing and core wildlife habitat), therefore allowing the development of strategies to mitigate these challenges. The DST can be used to explore the design of land-use zones designated for livestock production, settlement, wildlife productivity and movement, tourism activities and the removal of barriers to connectivity, with scenarios developed that vary priorities around each of these as well as the assumptions about future conditions. Each scenario provides spatially-explicit configurations of potential land management to meet priorities for each value.
Corridors, Wildlife & Commodity-Based Markets
In Northern Botswana seven major disease control fences were built marking various expansions of the livestock industry. Beginning in the 1950’s the first erected cordon fence, called the Makalamabedi fence, separated northern Botswana Ngamiland District from southern Ghanzi and Central Districts. The southern and northern buffalo fences surrounding the Delta followed in the 1980s and 1990s respectively and the fences, of Samochima, Ikoga and Setata, were erected in 1996 to control cattle movement and the spread of Contaious Bovine Pleuro-pneumonia. Despite these and other efforts to meet international standards and stabilize a beef export economy, the Botswana beef industry remains unstable and is currently in jeopardy.
Due to existing cooperation and purchasing of local beef by partnering Natural Selections safari lodges, the Makgadikgadi-Nxai Pans Core Wildlife Area may serve as a “proof of concept” for the rest of the KAZA landscape to demonstrate the opportunities afforded for both a thriving livestock industry and increasing wildlife populations and wildlife connectivity. This project will focus on producing a functioning commodity-based meat industry with developed local capacity to meet the OIE’s conditions for commodity-based beef processing that will facilitate community economic development and the resident wildlife and regional connectivity.
Land-Use Planning and Implementation
The Makgadikgadi-Nxai Pans Core Wildlife Area Decision Support Tool (DST) with its scenario development capabilities will assist in informing land-use zones designated for livestock production, settlement, wildlife productivity and movement, tourism activities and the removal of barriers to connectivity. The designed conservation network complete with core and critical areas for ecological and cultural sustainability will incorporate climate change scenarios depicting possible necessary land zone changes into the future to best ensure a resilient conservation network.
Translating this technical work to on-the-ground implementation may be achieved through a suite of implementation strategies. A cornerstone for success is developing a community-supported land use plan that identifies and designates land use zones supporting the long-term community and conservation visions. We will engage with the communities at project initiation to seek their guidance and support in the effort, and to develop a strategy for development of a community-based land plan that incorporates the information provided through the regional assessment.
Conservation Agreements and Community Financing
Ultimately, we hope the community-based land planning will result in approval for proposed land-use zones for livestock, wildlife, tourism and settlement. Adherence to the land use plans by the affected communities is central to the success of such community-based conservation programs and to the achievement their wildlife goals of the developed conservation network. Enforcement of land use plans is challenging due to a variety of financial and political reasons, and a diversity of implementation mechanisms should be explored to increase opportunities for long-term success of the conservation and community vision.
This project’s development of a commodity-based meat industry that requires utilizing wildlife-friendly methods facilitates the development of important economic incentives for adhering to the land plan. The construction of incentive-based agreements will involve multiple parties including the community and its beef producer to the market and its consumer.
Demonstrated land use compliance should facilitate access to further incentives such as scholarship or work training programs through the creation of a Makgadikgadi-Nxai Pans Community Conservation Fund. The project partners will develop such a fund both in terms of its operations and seeking its donors.