Mining giant De Beers and the National Geographic Society have announced a partnership to protect the waters and endangered animals of Botswana's iconic Okavango Delta. The vast UNESCO World Heritage wetland is threatened by climate change and agricultural activities.
The five-year project, “Okavango Eternal,” will see De Beers and National Geographic work with local communities to deliver ecological solutions aimed at preserving the 16,000 square kilometers of the delta.
Bruce Cleaver, De Beers Group CEO, says in a statement the company is committed to preserving the delta for future generations.
He says the project will help protect the delta’s source waters and ensure the protection of wildlife corridors to ensure the free movement of animals.
Cleaver says it is important to support livelihoods, particularly in the eco-tourism sector hard hit by COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Koketso Mookodi, National Geographic country director for the project, says the protection of the delta is an “urgent” priority.
"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. The people of the Okavango basin rely on its life-giving waters, and we must unite our efforts to 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 Delta forms part of a large conservation area known as the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA), which covers five southern African countries.
Nyambe Nyambe, KAZA executive director, says the project presents an exciting opportunity for local communities and protecting the environment.
"It is a welcome development," he said. "The threats that the Okavango Delta faces are real [and] range from climate change, potential for agriculture development, large-scale water abstraction and infrastructure development, and related threats. All these threats cannot be addressed by one entity, so partnerships are very welcome."
The delta is one of Botswana’s prime tourist attractions, drawing an average of 50,000 visitors per year.