Country Profiles

Botswana - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Botswana is made up of seven distinct eco-regions (Kalahari Acacia-Baikiaea Woodlands, Southern African Bushveld, Zambezian Baikiaea Woodlands, Zambezian and Mopane Woodlands, Zambezian flooded grasslands, Zambezian Halophytics and Kalahari Xerix Savannah). Of these seven eco-regions, two form part of the Global 200 eco-regions, i.e. the central and eastern Miombo woodlands and the Zambezian flooded savanna (Okavango system) which are eco-regions of global conservation priority. Both of these regions have recently had their conservation status classified as Vulnerable.

Within Botswana, land use is divided up into Protected Areas, Wildlife Management Areas, Pastoral Residential Areas, Farms and Mining Concessions. As Botswana is a large country with a low population, it has been possible to establish expansive protected areas with over 45% of the country under some form of environmental management.

Botswana has a high biodiversity, especially in and around the Okavango Delta with a species richness index between 9.3 and 15. Plant species are estimated at between 2,150 and 3,000, of which 15 are endemic and 43 on the IUCN Red List. There is a rich and diverse number of fauna with 150 identified species of mammals, of which three are endemic and 112 are red-listed, 570 species of birds with 1 near endemic species and 15 red-listed, 131 species of reptile with 2 red-listed, 34 species of amphibian and 99 species of freshwater fish. There is still much missing in terms of available data, distribution of species, breeds and varieties. This lack of knowledge on diversity, status of some species and critical habitats seriously complicates conservation efforts.

Cattle ranching in Botswana is extremely important as a source of livelihood and subsistence agriculture employs about half of the workforce. Data on agro-biodiversity in Botswana is limited but still thought to be relatively rich. Botswana is thought to be the center for Vigna (Cowpea) species and a secondary centre of diversity for Citrullus species (wild melon).

The seasonal flood plains around the Okavango and Zambezi and extensive wilderness areas support high densities of large mammals and some of the major wildlife migration routes in Southern Africa, making Botswana one of the last refuges for species requiring open range. It is also home to 12 Important Bird Areas (IBAs), with the Okavango delta supporting 463 species. This has resulted in excellent opportunities for Wildlife Tourism, of which Botswana has taken full advantage. High-end safari and birding tourism have allowed Botswana to diversify its economy from what was traditionally diamond-dependent with tourism now accounting for 12% of the GDP. Unfortunately, some of the main threats to biodiversity in Botswana are tourism-related with unregulated motorbike tours threatening fauna in the Magadikadi Pans, and sightseeing parties and vehicles disturbing water bird breeding sites.

Other ecosystem services are also related to the Okavango and Zambezi which provide drinking water, fish and lilies (as a source of food) for indigenous people and rural communities. As a transboundary system, these services are also important to Namibia and Angola.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The main threat to biodiversity in Botswana is habitat reduction/destruction and barriers to species movement, although the scale of these threats is dependent on location. Threats from invasive species are still relatively low although, in the southwest of the country, Prosopis glandulosa is starting to become a problem while, in the Okavango Delta, Salvinia molesta poses a threat to the aquatic environment. An invasive bird species, the Indian Myna (Acridotheres tristis), has established itself in Gaborone however little is known about its impacts within Botswana.

Of the seven main eco-regions in Botswana, four are vulnerable. The South African Bushveld is threatened by deforestation, overgrazing through unregulated cattle grazing, range degradation and veldt fires. The Zambezian Baikiaea Woodlands are faced with increased encroachment from unregulated cattle grazing resulting in changing vegetation communities. Zambezian Halophytics are threatened by mining, rangeland degradation, bushfires, wind erosion, increased water extraction for irrigation resulting in increased salinity, disruption of migration routes through fencing, overgrazing, lack of protection for avian breeding sites and uncontrolled tourism.

Climate change is emerging as a major threat to biodiversity in the Okavango Delta. An integrated hydrological model, developed to assess the Okavango Delta hydrological response to various natural and anthropogenic scenarios, projected that climate change will potentially have the greatest impact on the Kalahari basin and the delta.

Other specific threats to species are related to poaching, particularly to flagship species such as Rhinos and Elephants; there are however extensive anti-poaching measures in place.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Botswana developed a National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan between 2002 and 2004 which was revised in 2007 and established 11 targets, of which none were fully achieved, although at least some progress was made towards all of them.

The National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan of Botswana (2011-2020) implemented by the Department of Environmental Affairs is set to be fully updated by 2014 although national targets have already been established.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Through the recognition of the immense value of environmental resources, and the national asset they constitute, good efforts are being taken by the Government of Botswana to try and achieve the 2020 targets. Attempts have been made to connect protected areas through habitat corridors however, due to animal disease control programmes in Botswana, veterinary cordon fences have divided protected areas in Botswana into two systems. However, Botswana’s extensive networks of protected areas do provide extremely valuable refuges for species of fauna throughout southern Africa. All of the protected areas in Botswana either have a management plan or a draft that outlines management strategies and monitoring programmes that addresses sustainable conservation of natural resources. Botswana has also adopted and continues to adopt a number of policy frameworks, including for the management and governance of protected areas. These policy frameworks not only guide direct activities of various stakeholders in favor of conservation and protection, but also evaluate the effectiveness of existing methods, criteria and indicators used to manage and govern protected areas for better and improved methods and indicators.

With respect to indigenous knowledge, Botswana has two main objectives: to establish an indigenous knowledge policy, and to develop a national policy framework on indigenous knowledge with special provision for traditional medicinal research and use. The Community Based Natural Resource Management Plan (CBNRM) (2007) outlines activities that will ensure that there is equitable sharing of cost and benefits from protected areas and the participation of local communities in protected areas management. Attempts have also been made to strengthen public awareness of biodiversity issues through the radio, television and workshops.

The Government of Botswana has also made significant efforts to demonstrate its determination to take a leadership role in environmental and sustainability issues in Africa, including hosting a Capacity Building Workshop in 2011, a Summit on Sustainability in Africa in 2012 and a meeting of the African Leadership Group (ALG) in 2012.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Botswana has comprehensive environmental legislation, mainly built around the tourism industry and designed to protect environmental assets. The Environmental Impact Assessment Act (2005) makes explicit provisions to ensure that biodiversity issues are addressed in all EIAs. Establishing overarching policy and legislation to address conservation of biodiversity, biosafety, benefit-sharing, genetic resources and invasive species regulation remain a future priority.

Most funding for environmental initiatives in Botswana is received through traditional government allocations, but some are co-financed through the Ministry of Environment Wildlife and Tourism, Department of Environmental Affairs, in cooperation with the UNDP. The European Commission has also funded several projects within the Department of Wildlife, including a taxonomic survey study for five protected areas.

In 2012, during the meeting of the African Leadership Group (ALG), a strategic plan was established for mainstreaming biodiversity conservation efforts at a national and district level. Other support initiatives in place which help to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets include projects such as the Community Based Natural Resource Management Programme (CBNRM), designed to incorporate indigenous knowledge into land use management, contribute to capacity-building and empower rural communities. The Okavango Delta Management Plan (ODMP) is also in place and was designed to spearhead the Ecosystem Approach through an integrated and participatory approach in planning. Composed of 12 sectoral components, the management plan aims to protect Botswana’s most important environmental resources. The Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) (1994) also advises the three riparian states that share the Okavango river system (Botswana, Namibia and Angola), alerting these Governments about transboundary issues in the basin and facilitating ongoing dialogue among the basin's stakeholders, among other functions.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Although wildlife monitoring is done routinely for birds and wildlife within the National Parks, most taxonomic groups are overlooked. In addition, the majority of the ecological research and monitoring exercises are conducted by academic institutions and private research institutions. Interaction between researchers, users, managers and communities is limited, meaning that updated scientific information is rarely implemented in management procedures. In addition, the establishment of ecological baselines is necessary in order to facilitate standardized monitoring. The lack of institutional responsibility and accountability for biodiversity surveys and monitoring makes it very difficult to establish and verify trends.

In 2009, a National Planning Workshop took place at which issues that included the need for a court specifically designated to determine disputes with an environmental dimension, and the lack of effective implementation and monitoring of existing environmental laws, were highlighted. Gap analysis initiatives were also established in 2010 in order to address failures to achieve the 2010 targets and ensure that better efforts are made to achieve the 2020 targets.

A lot of resources have gone into establishing a biodiversity Clearing House Mechanism / Environmental Monitoring System but these systems are not yet operational due to technical (computer) and data ownership issues.