How Botswana is shaping the future of sustainable travel

How Botswana is shaping the future of sustainable travel

Botswana truly is the jewel of Southern Africa, with extraordinary landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and some of the best opportunities for spotting rare wildlife on the planet. Little wonder that veteran travel writers single it out as the must-visit safari destination.

To preserve its rich natural gifts, Botswana has long had an unwavering commitment to the preservation of its environmental and cultural heritage, with over 38% of land officially protected.

It’s also a nation that is far ahead of the game when it comes to promoting sustainable tourism. Millennials are increasingly championing this concept in their hungry pursuit of ‘authenticity’ on social media, and in their desire to be seen to ‘leave things better than you found them’. 

Botswana promotes experiences through grassroots organisations that support sustainable practices and actively encourage tourists to learn about and get involved in conservation schemes. Xudum, an &Beyond lodge situated in the country’s famous Okavango Delta, emphasises the importance of guests re-using and recycling at all times. The camp features artfully recycled everyday objects, such as broken garden spades which have been turned into surprisingly comfy chairs. 

While Kingspool, a Wilderness Safaris lodge further North in the Okavango Delta, now operates entirely on solar power. This pioneering system saw Wilderness win the National Energy Globe Award for Botswana two years ago, and guests are given a ‘back of house’ tour to see how it works. 

Kingspool’s in-house conservation team also conduct ongoing research and educate local people about the value of protecting flora and fauna, a vital component in protecting the very things tourists travel to experience. 

Keitumetse Setlang is Public Relations and Communications Manager at Botswana Tourism Organisation, which supports businesses as they strive for excellence in sustainability and in improving the lives of local people.

Setlang says: “Sustainable tourism is incredibly important in Botswana. We have a grading system called the Eco- Certification Programme which awards ratings to tourism operations looking at at the whole eco system; the people, their culture, heritage, wildlife and all other resources. You cannot sell a product and divorce it from its people.”

Botswana recently held it’s fifth annual Travel and Tourism Expo in Kasane in the North of the country. “The Expo is a platform for the travel industry in Botswana to meet with global travel trade operators from around the world,” Setlang says. “It’s also a chance for the tourism industry from around the world to experience Botswana first hand, to see how untouched and unspoilt Botswana is and to enjoy all that we have to offer, in order to help the industry to expand. 

“Our main aim is to increase the length of stay of tourists to Botswana. Currently its seven to 10 days, but we want that to influence an increase in the length of stay by  training tourism wholesalers and retailers on the various products on offer so they may add more destinations to traditional packages.”

The contrast of the punishing dryness of Makgadikgadi salt pans to the lush Okavango Delta’s wetland system can make a trip to Botswana feel like visiting several countries at once. But as well as the diversity, its the abundance of wildlife - and the specialist care for it - that truly marks Botswana out as special. 

The country is thought to be home to more than 200,000 elephants, the largest number in any one African state. Unlike neighbouring Namibia and Angola, where elephant poaching is still at epidemic levels, Botswana is wholly committed to the prevention of such slaughter.  

The government of Botswana has long recognised the economic importance of ensuring game reserves remain protected and local communities benefit through conservation and good tourism practices. 

As such, Botswana was one of the four founding members of the Giants Club, along with Gabon, Kenya and Uganda, an initiative run by conservation charity Space for Giants, whose mission is to protect at least half of Africa’s remaining elephants by 2020. 

Next year Botswana’s President, Lieutenant General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama, in partnership with the country’s endangered wildlife organisation the Tlhokomela Trust, will host the 2018 Giants Club summit.

The event, to be staged in the country in March 2018, will bring together Heads of State, leading businessmen, conservationists and philanthropists to address the major, long-term challenges facing African elephants.

Tshekedi Khama, Botswana's Minister for Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, and a board member of the Tlhokomela Trust, said: “With the Giants Club we believe that we’re now on the right path to go to exactly where we want to be, which is the preservation and the continued protection of endangered wildlife. 

“This is urgent work, and it needs this kind of immediate action. I’m certain that we will go much further with a raft of new interventions that will flow from the Giants Club Summit 2018.”

The Summit will be staged in the final month of President Khama’s time in office. During his decade in power he has led the way in demonstrating how an African state can combine economic progress with successful and sustained commitments to conservation.

Botswana is leading the way in re-shaping sustainable tourism, and in doing so it proves that the planet and profit can thrive together.

For more information about the Botswana Travel and Tourism Expo visit www.botswanatourism.co.bw

For more information about Tlhokomela Trust visit www.tlhokomela.org

Farming awards recognise integrated farm that uses hybrid gas/solar renewable energy system

The first-ever Botswana Farming Awards, held at the Tlotlo Conference Centre in Gaborone recently, saw 13 farmers win big.

This week, Voice Money caught up with one of the winners, Richard Molosiwa of Richlife Farms’ to unpick his fascinating story.

Richlife Farms scooped the Agrishop Integrated Exceptional Farmer of the Year Award – after a short chat with the down-to-earth Molosiwa, it is not hard to see why!

Operating along the Molepolole road, the farm practices dry land farming.

Crops are rain-fed on a 12-hectare horticultural undertaking that produces lablab, maize and sunflower as well as an orchard of various fruit trees.

The impressive set-up sells vegetable seedlings and Napier grass seedlings sown in the farm’s 120, 000 capacity seedling nursery.

Richlife also practices pastoral farming, rearing small stock (sheep and goats), cattle and operates a high pedigree dog breeding enterprise, specialising in both German and Belgian Shepherds.

Perhaps the most fascinating of all the activities at the farm is the home-made organic gas manufacturing operation, which uses cow dung to generate gas for cooking, lighting and heating.

According to a visibly proud Molosiwa, the Cow Dung Bio-Gas Digester, used in conjunction with the solar power energy converters that feed the household and pump water from the borehole, has helped the farm get off the power grid completely.

He is particularly pleased of his five permanent employees, who themselves have initiated certain project within the farm, such as a chicken run, some farm benches and parameter fencing.

Talking about his recent award, Molosiwa dedicated it to the team at the farm.

“It is through their hard work and dedication that we have been given this recognition,” he said, adding that the farm’s vision is to become an Agro Tourism Centre of repute in Africa

“We allow for benchmarking exercises and also sometimes have students visiting us to learn about different farming ventures,” he explained.

As with most success stories, Molosiwa’s journey has not been without its challenges.

“The local horticultural sector is growing but we are failing to get fully absorbed into the market,” he said, pointing a finger at farmers working alone instead of together.

“As farmers we need to work differently by coordinating cropping plans to ensure we supply all array of vegetables demanded by consumers,” he urged.

The determined Molosiwa stressed the need to embrace innovations such as branding and packaging farming produce.

He called for product grading, which he believes will prove to customers that ‘local produce is just as good as those from elsewhere’.

“We should be producing local products such as tomato sauce and puree and for that, we need a high capacity processing plant,” he said, adding that locally processing Botswana produce would create further employment.

The passionate farmer noted that the growth of the horticultural sector would rise if the Lobatse Town Council could emulate the Selibe Phikwe Diversification Unit (SPEDU) model for a processing plant.

Lame Modise The Voice Newspaper - 8 Dec 17

BPC appoints new 'General Manager - Generation' to drive solar projects

From Mmegi website:

BPC engages Eskom expert to drive solar projects

The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has engaged former Eskom expert, Zwilithini Witbooi as the new general manager in charge of generation activities, a position that is critical in driving the corporation’s new production projects centred along solar energy.

The government has signed the Paris Agreement to increase green energy mix by 25% within the next seven years, which means that Botswana needs to establish 250MW on solar capacities by 2025.

As part of the agreement, Botswana has also pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emission to zero by 2036. According to a statement from the corporation, in his role Witbooi will lead the delivery results from the corporation’s entire existing generation portfolio as well as be instrumental in the transition to 50% of Botswana’s electricity being generated by solar power as mandated in Botswana’s Vision 2036.

“The depth and breadth of his track record of his past projects adds to BPC’s increasing strength and ability to overcome the current challenges in the BPC generation fleet,” read the statement. The corporation plans to apply for $200 million funding from the Climate Change Fund next year to finance solar power plants.

The projects include construction of a 100MW Solar Power Plant next year as well as the electrification of more rural areas which are distant from any of the corporation’s grid by building 1MW Solar Power Plants and the distribution network in 20 rural villages.

The corporation will also establish solar Grid Tide Power Plants of the size of 1 to 3MW in 12 dedicated villages with an overall capacity of 60MW.

According to BPC, Witbooi’s footprint at Eskom also included extensive experience in resolving complex problems at brown field projects with challenges similar to Morupule A and B. “He has been involved throughout his career in South Africa with comparable projects successfully de-mothballing of old power projects being in cold storage for more than 15 years,” read the statement.

According to the statement, Witbooi has led the modernisation of power plants where new versus old technologies are integrated using a combination of engineering approaches such as refurbishment, retrofit, re-engineering of plant components equipment, systems and processes.

Witbooi was later assigned to establish engineering capability to operate and maintain the Camden Power Station after it was returned to service and its performance has deteriorated to unacceptable levels. He was a key leader in the recovery of Camden’s technical performance to become one of Eskom’s top five performing stations. Camden Power Station now remains one of Eskom’s best performing station despite the fact that it was built in the 1960s.

“His success at Camden Power Station resulted in his deployment as Technical Plant Manager to various major power stations with serious technical challenges to help Eskom steer its way out of the load shedding experienced due to poor performance of these power plants. After he led the recovery of the plant’s performance as well as the overhaul of its deteriorated management systems,” said BPC. 

Witbooi is an electrical engineer graduate from Wits University and also completed a Senior Management Programme with the Henley Business School.

BPC is currently going through a transformation, which will see most of the parastatal generation driven by independent power projects.

After the disposal of the 600 MW Morupule B power station, BPC will only be left with the 130MW Morupule A.

Chobe Game Lodge Goes Solar

From Chobe Game Lodge website's News Page:

Fresh from Chobe Game Lodge, just a week after we proudly accepted the coveted Best in the world for Carbon Reduction Award at the World Travel Market 2017 event in London, we have more exciting news to share. We have a brand new solar plant currently being built at Chobe Game Lodge! This solar project has been a while in the making and after much planning, the construction of solar plant is officially underway.

The new solar panels which arrived earlier this month are being carefully installed on the roof of the back of house workshop, where the electric vehicles are charged and maintained by the dedicated team of Eco-mechanics. 313 solar panels are being installed on the roof to create a field of solar receptors. The panels will supply approximately 20+% of the lodge’s daily power requirements, reducing Chobe Game Lodge’s demand for power which is supplied from the hydroelectric plant in Livingstone. Once compete, the power plant will have a live link, which can be used to view the stats of how much power is being supplied by the solar panels. This will not only help our management team measure the impact of the project, but it will also allow our guests to gain insight into the project while on our back of house eco-tour.

In addition to this solar field, another one is planned for the roof of the new spa and wellness centre, another exciting project due to start soon. These solar panels will provide all the power needed for the spa with any excess being fed into the lodges main grid.

This project once again highlights Chobe Game Lodges’ commitment to responsible tourism, leading the way in developing sustainable tourism projects aimed at reducing the lodges carbon footprint. It is yet another step in creating greener safaris in Africa. We are very excited about the future at Chobe Game Lodge and look forward to sharing updates with you as the project reaches completion.

93kWp grid tied solar pv system installed by Widowbird Solar at Chobe Game Lodge

93kWp grid tied solar pv system installed by Widowbird Solar at Chobe Game Lodge

Botswana's Ministry of Environment releases EOI for 200MW of solar power

Through the Department of Meteorological Services, the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism ("MENT")  has released an expression of interest for 200MW of solar power.  The EOI proposes 100MW of on grid solar power, 50MW of off grid power for the town of Kasane and 50MW of additional off grid solar power for selected communities and institutions at strategic locations around Botswana.  

The Ministry states as its aim for the projects as being energy security, a reduction in tariffs and to ease access to clean power for rural communities.

Bidders must be able to demonstrate that they have completed projects of at least 300MW in the last 4 years.

The successful bidders will be assisted by MENT to access the green climate fund through the identification of a national implementation entity.  The bidders should also be open to manufacturing solar panels in Botswana.