Commodication and Governing Wilderness Landscapes for Tourism Development: The Case of the Okavango Delta, Botswana (13327)
The Okavango Delta is one of Botswana’s leading tourist destination areas because of the rich wildlife resources it sustains and its scenic beauty. This paper analyses state policy and regulatory instruments and associated outcomes in the management of the Okavango Delta both as a socioeconomic resource base and as a natural ecosystem. Drawing on field research and guided by the sustainable tourism approach, results indicate that state policy and regulatory instruments have led to the commodification and sub-division of the Okavango Delta into concession areas designed for nature-based tourism. Prime and core areas of the Okavango Delta have become exclusive and lucrative for the up-market international tourism business. Conversely, marginal and peripheral concession areas are allocated to local people for community-based tourism through the Community-Based Natural Resource (CBNRM) programme. In this regard, state policy and regulatory instruments have denied access rights to land and natural livelihood resources in prime and core areas of the Okavango Delta to local communities. Institutional interventions – in particular the establishment of the Moremi Game Reserve, the adoption of the Wildlife Conservation Policy, Tourism Policy, CBNRM Policy, Okavango Delta Management Plan and erection of veterinary fences – have served to privilege a foreign-owned and dominated international and nature tourism industry in core areas of the Okavango Delta. As such, officially sanctioned barriers to traditional uses and access to natural resources, and the non-recognition of historically embedded traditional land uses have resulted in higher poverty levels in the Okavango Delta as natural resource-based subsistence economies-livelihoods and CBNRM fail. Stakeholder conflicts over preferential rights and access to resources and opportunities, notably core areas of the Okavango and to wildlife and veld products have also emerged. These outcomes have the potential to negatively impact on the longer-term sustainability of the Okavango Delta both as a socioeconomic resource base and as a natural ecosystem.