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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - April 21, 2003: Botswana Ecotourism Project - 2003-04-20

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

An ancient community in Botswana has launched a new program that will help development in that southern African country. The Bukakhwe (Bu-KA-kweh) San Bushmen have opened a center for visitors called Gudigwa (goo-DEE-gwa) Camp. The project will teach visitors from other countries about the ancient San culture and protect wild animals living in the area. This kind of project is called ecotourism.

The San culture dates back thousands of years. The people support themselves by hunting and eating locally grown plants. Bukakhwe hunters, or Bushmen, are considered experts at searching for animals. They have the ability to discover the movements of animals from marks left in the sand.

Bukakhwe leaders hope to protect and continue their traditions through the Gudigwa Camp. Sixteen people will be able to visit the camp at one time. They will stay in grass huts modeled after traditional San Bushmen shelters. Local community members will take visitors on walks. They will teach the visitors about San culture, using plants for medicine, gathering water during the dry season and traditional storytelling, songs and dance.

The international environmental group Conservation International and the organization Wilderness Safaris helped the Bukakhwe Bushmen launch Gudigwa Camp. The project is fully owned by the Bushmen. All money made from the camp will be reinvested into community development projects.

The goal of the camp is to reduce pressure on wild animals in Botswana’s Okavango (Oh-ka-VAN-go) area by providing other ways for the Bukakhwe people to earn money. Hunting, increased human settlements and more farm animals have threatened many of the area’s rare animals. Among the threatened animals are the African elephant, the African wild dog and wild birds.

Pelonomi Venson (Pee-la-NO-May VIN-son) is the Minister for Environment, Wildlife and Tourism in Botswana. She says Gudigwa Camp is a socially responsible project that is good for everyone. The community, she says, will be able to continue its ancient customs. Visitors will experience the rich culture of the Bukakhwe San Bushmen. And the wild animals in northeastern Botswana will be protected.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.