Responding to questions posed by Sunday Standard the Fund’s Desk Officer, Edward Ntsima said the Fund was established by Parliament through Statutory Instrument No 12 of 1999 under the Finance and Audit Act (cap. 54:01) and commenced effective from February 8, 1999.
He said the founding of the Fund was motivated by global moratorium ban on the trade of ivory in 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) aimed to protect elephants from further decline, after their numbers in Africa were reduced.
“Prior and during ban, government storage facilities had stockpiles of ivory harvested from culls, natural deaths and seizures of illegal possessions. The continued increase in stock piles prompted governments to find prudent ways of disposing the ivory. Some governments such as Kenyan burnt their ivory whilst others including Botswana opted to sell the ivory and use the proceeds wisely,” explained Ntsima.
He explained that at the 10th CITES conference held in Zimbabwe, the elephant population of Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe were down-listed to Appendix II which would allow for a once-off sale of ivory stock piles but with conditions. All funds accrued from the sale of ivory to Japan should then be deposited into the Trust Fund which would be exclusively used for elephant conservation projects and development of projects for communities living within the elephant range.
“Only projects originating from and executed within the elephant range are eligible for funding. In this respect the elephant range is defined as all areas of Botswana above 21 degrees parallel as well as the whole of the Bobirwa Sub District,” he said.
As examples of eligible projects, Ntsima sighted monitoring of elephant populations movements, water development for elephants, anti-poaching, training of communities on problem of animal control operations; Review of elephant management, vegetation impact by elephants, preparation for the next annual CITES conference, public awareness creation concerning elephants. Secondly, community-based projects which include, not limited to; erection and electrification of drift fences, enhancement of expertise involvement in community trusts, management training, financial management, awareness creation in the communities.
On whether the Fund can play a role in fire fighting endeavors, Ntsima said it would depend if there was reasonable cause to believe that such acts would contribute to elephant conservation or improvement of lives of communities living in the elephant range.
The question was informed by the fact that following heavy rainfalls the past year and early this year, there are justifiable fears that fuel load for veld fires is high as vegetation has grown thick.
“Communities are advised to apply for funding for such projects that can be self sustaining, environmentally friendly but again profitable to be able to carry out other activities that would not necessarily bring them direct income but are of importance as well,” he said.
All NGOs, governmental departments, and private researchers acting on behalf or working with Community Based Organisations within the elephant range are encouraged to assist them to apply for funding in collaboration with local based Technical Advisory Committees who will assist in developing and submitting proposals for viable and sustainable projects.