Land degradation through human activities, such as cutting down trees for firewood as is culturally common in Botswana, is said to be a major contributor to climate change.
The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) assessment report on land degradation and restoration of 2018 suggests that land degradation is undermining the well-being of at least 3.2 billion people, as it increases the number of people exposed to hazardous air, water and land pollution. Particularly in developing countries like Botswana.
To ensure the protection and management of forest resources in Botswana, the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng says they are finalizing the development of a Forestry Bill.
“We are also implementing the Integrated Strategy on the Management of Prosopis (Sexanana), which is one of the most invasive alien species found in the Kgalagadi, Gantsi and Central Districts,” she adds in light of the 2021 International Day of Forests.
The plant, which is said to possibly be lowering important fresh-water aquifers and clogging boreholes with its extensive root system, has properties that have enabled it to out-compete and replace most of the indigenous vegetation, forming dense thorn bushes, consequently degrading rangelands and reducing biodiversity.
In July 2020, Bokspits, Rappelspan, Vaalhoek and Struizendam communities, constituting The BORAVAST Community Trust, were trained to utilize Prosopis for the production of charcoal and fodder.
The same, Kereng says, applies to the management of bush encroachment in Lake Ngami through utilization of deadwood for the production of charcoal.
For Bio-Watt Botswana, the story is slightly different. In an effort to reduce deforestation in the country, the youth-owned citizen company is producing charcoal and briquettes from organic waste.
“Not only is it sustainable and affordable for the poor, it releases zero emissions,” says Obuile Morewane, CEO of Bio-Watt Botswana.
With this waste biomass product, Morewane believes communities no longer need to cut down trees for energy access.
“With this product we are offering a renewable energy source, especially for those in rural areas where energy access is a challenge,” he added.
For a country which still largely depend on fossil fuels such as coal for electricity production, Morewane’s product is a welcome development that will promote human health and inspire forest reserve conservation.
“It’s not easy to tell rural dwellers to stop cutting down tress for firewood without giving them an alternative source of energy,” he said.
According to Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll), Botswana’s national overall electricity access rate is 60 percent. In urban areas, access is said to have reached 77 percent of the population, but it is 37 percent in rural areas. The Botswana government has set a national electricity access target of 100 percent by 2030.
The hope is that a plausible renewable energy transition will be witnessed, subsequently translating to sustainable land restoration.