Gaborone – De Beers and National Geographic have launched a partnership agreement code named Okavango Eternal, to protect the source waters of the Okavango Delta and the lives and livelihoods they support.
In a combined statement the two organizations said the five-year commitment represents critical inward investment in Botswana’s resilience and long-term recovery in the years ahead, and is focused on working together with communities in the Okavango to deliver ecological solutions that lead to collective economic opportunity.
The Okavango Basin, spanning southern Angola, Namibia, and Botswana, is the main source of water and food security for many communities and the Okavango Delta’s health is dependent on these source lakes and rivers.
While the Delta itself holds protected status as a UNESCO World Heritage site, parts of the Okavango Basin that feed it does not.
The partnership’s primary focus in Botswana is to protecting the natural world, provide long-term wildlife corridor protection for the movement and proliferation of endangered species, supported critical conservation research through funding expeditions to gather new data, installing monitoring technology and building capacity of local researchers through grants and training and supporting local communities.
It also seeks to help ensure water and food security for local communities, developing livelihood opportunities in the region and enabling increased resilience to climate-related impacts.
Commenting on the partnership Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, said: “Supporting Botswana’s long-term sustainable development is a central priority for De Beers Group, and we continue to have a clear focus on identifying the best ways to support Government with its response to the immediate challenges presented by Covid-19. While we are proud to have worked to help support the country’s most pressing needs, we also know that there must be a focus on the longer-term recovery and rebuilding following the effects of the pandemic. We are committed to investing in Botswana’s future and this partnership with National Geographic will play an important part in this vital recovery work, supporting lives and livelihoods – especially those in the crucial eco-tourism sector which has been so hard hit due to restricted travel. The Okavango Delta is truly a natural miracle, and we must ensure its long-term health, both in support of Botswana’s economic future, and in support of all the people and wildlife that depend on it.”
He added that “There is no doubt that the Okavango River Basin is under threat. How we treat this delicate ecosystem in the coming years will dictate its vitality — for its people and its wildlife — for future generations. This is our last chance to help protect this natural wonder and we are pleased to partner with De Beers on this critically important project,” said Dr. Steve Boyes, National Geographic Explorer and leader of the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project.”
He emphasized that the partnership will leverage collective resources to scale efforts to facilitate long-term, sustainable management of protected areas in the region by helping establish and further partnerships between governments, NGOs, and local communities through a sustainable conservation economy.
Botswana Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism said. Phildah Kereng said, “The Okavango Delta is a place of remarkable natural beauty and profound importance to every generation of Batswana. It is our privilege to be able to experience its wonder, but we cannot take this privilege for granted. With this in mind, I commend the commitment shown by De Beers and National Geographic to work alongside stakeholders in the region to ensure the Okavango Delta’s source waters are protected so that it can continue to provide us, our children and our children’s children with water, with jobs and with inspiration.”
She also said, “It is exciting to see this level of support and partnership at a time when coming together to protect this one-of-a-kind place is so urgently needed.”
Meanwhile National Geographic Explorer Keketso Mokkodi and Botswana Country Director for the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project said the partnership will go a long way in conserving natural resources.
“The people of the Okavango Basin rely on its life-giving waters and we must unite our efforts and do everything in our power to ensure that they continue to flow for the future of the people and the wildlife that call this place home, ” she said.
The Okavango Eternal partnership will support a range of specific activities in Botswana, including developing livelihoods opportunities for communities in the Delta, supporting biodiversity and raising awareness of the Okavango Delta and its benefits through storytelling.