Unusual challenges necessitate unconventional thinking, and this was very much the case in finding a simple yet effective solution to the double challenge of water scarcity and human-wildlife conflict in the remote settlement of Shokomokwa in Ngamiland. Residents fetch water from the river daily, often encountering dangerous wildlife, even lions and elephants, along the way. As much as collecting water for basic needs, such as bathing, cooking and cleaning, has become a way of life for many in the community, Kgosi Pelonomi Seguma laments the danger his community faces doing so. When the annual inundation is not in the area, ladies in the community either walk or travel by donkey cart more than 7 km to Shorobe to collect water. When the Delta waters are in, the walk to the river is 2 km, and wildlife is encountered on both routes. As Kgosi Seguma likes to say, “Water is life; you can’t do anything without it”. However, a closer, consistent supply of water would not only eliminate time wasted in travelling down to the river but would also keep his people out of harm’s way.
Leveraging the culture of open dialogue and consultation Okavango Wilderness Safaris (OWS) enjoys with communities across Botswana, a unique idea was born. OWS worked with Karin Fröhlich, Wilderness Safaris’ Germany-based sales partner who raised additional funds to innovatively solve a genuine community challenge: to revive and donate a derelict borehole in Shokomokwa settlement. Located 11 km outside Shorobe on the road heading to the Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park, it is just a few hundred metres from the last house in Shokomokwa. Bringing life – and metsi – to the community, the borehole is very close to the homesteads, which reduces the hazardous and long walk to the river.
“It is a privilege to be able to work with the community on this. This water is primarily intended as a gift for the people. Water is essential for vegetable farming on the plot, for drinking water and for sustaining livestock. Water security is not something that everyone freely has, and we want to change this where we can. Our secondary intention post-water-security for the people, was to help reduce the incidents of human-wildlife conflict when people walked far distances to water points to collect water, oftentimes the same place where wildlife congregate. We saw an opportunity to address both these issues”, said Kim Nixon, Okavango Wilderness Safaris MD.
The borehole already existed and was a point from where mobile safari operators historically collected water before heading into the Moremi Game Reserve, as well as where the Tsetse Fly Control Department sourced water in the early 80s. The borehole fell into ruin years ago, and soon became defunct. “We located it, reconditioned and cleaned it up, and then equipped it with a durable and functional pump, as well as the other key fittings and pipes required”, Kim noted.
Attending the handover of the revived borehole to the community, Attorney Vasco, Okavango Wilderness Safaris Sales Manager, said, “We have been working with the Shorobe community for more than two years, and especially lately have been engaging to help alleviate the negative impacts of COVID-19 on residents. Shorobe is also where the management for other settlements, including Shokomokwa, is administered. A relationship of continued engagement with the Okavango Community Trust on ideas to drive the economy in the area has been paramount and continues to date. During our engagements, Kgosi Seguma and Honourable Councillor Oabile Chombo noted the need for water at Shokomokwa. It’s exhilarating to see the progress and the impact thus far, with a simple solution to two very real challenges”.
The handover was attended by Karin Fröhlich, Kgosi Seguma, the Village Development Committee (VDC) Board, representatives from the Shorobe Primary School and the Botswana Police, as well as Councillor Chombo. “You have brought a great relief to the community and its future generations”, the Councillor noted, while a village elder, Mrs Selelo Manga, said in gratitude, “If only I had wings to fly around in the sky to show my happiness”.
Metsi ke konokono ya botshelo (“Water is the means of life”). Here’s to finding community solutions to community problems, together.
By Taazima Kala