Meno A Kwena

Water for life project

The background

Meno A Kwena Tented Camp stands overlooking the bed of the Boteti River, which forms the north-western boundary of the Makgadigadi Pans National Park. The Boteti used to be an important water source for the Makgadigadi's zebra migration, as it moved between the Makgadigadi Pans and Central Kalahari.

Following a drought in the early 1980s, the Boteti River has generally been dry for most of the year, flowing increasingly rarely. For four years now, Meno A Kwena Tented Camp has been pumping water to a waterhole which sits in the dry riverbed, below the camp. This has been very popular with the park's wildlife – attracting large herds of zebra, wildebeest as well as many general game species.

In 2003, the Botswana government started to erect a new fence on the western side of the Makgadigadi National Park, roughly following the line of the Boteti River. This aimed to stop conflict between wildlife and cattle along the border of the park. However, the precise route of the fence excluded much of the riverbed from the national park, Thus whilst it is helping to safeguard the cattle prom predation, the fence has posed new problems for the wildlife by reducing their access to water in the Boteti riverbed – and by interrupting the zebra's natural migration path.

Fortunately, Meno A Kwena and its waterhole have been left on the east side of the fence, with no fence between it and the nation park. This waterhole is now the one of the very few permanent sources of water for the wildlife in the north-west of the national park.

The problem

With many animals, and very few different sources of water, life for the animals has become very difficult. The good grazing in the immediate area is under pressure; exhausted animals have to travel further each time between water and food. This is especially and issue for young or old animals which simply die due to lack of water or starvation combined with exhaustion.

For most prey species, drinking is one of the most stressful things they do each day. The pressure of sheer numbers, as well as the weakened condition of many individual animals, means that many make easy meals for the local lion population. Lions in the area have learnt that driving frightened animals into the fence results in much of the hunting work being done for them.

In the last year or two, it's become increasingly obvious that one water-point is simply not sustainable to support this area's wildlife in the long term. It is imperative that additional water supplies are created north of Meno A Kwena, at sites along the zebra migration route and closer to the dry season range of the animals.

More water points further away from the fence, and along the natural line of the river bed, would help to alleviate this problem, and allow the wildlife movements to regain some of their natural balance.

The solution – Water for Life

Meno A Kwena's 'water for life' project involves the creation of more waterholes situated in areas where zebra graze during the dry season. This will reduce the wildlife/fence conflict, the strain on grazing areas and the stress on animals from predators and the limited water available to them.

The first proposed waterhole is to be located approximately 10km from Meno A Kwena, near Moreomaoto Village. David Dugmore has already sourced much of the funding for this waterhole to go ahead and is now just waiting on the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks' final approval.

To give an idea of the costs involved, building one waterhole costs about P113,4000 (USD 20,630), and then fuelling and maintaining it will cost about P5,000 (US$900) per month.

Each of the new waterholes must be located in, or close to, the Boteti River's bed on the east side of the fence. Although the Boteti River is now dry, and has been since 1993, the water table is only 2m below the surface.

The pump is operated by a system that combines solar power supported by a diesel engine.

Security and elephant-proofing is also a major consideration. Methods of concreting over and hiding the pipe into the waterhole are continually tested. Elephants have a preference for the freshest water and will do what they can to get as close to the source as possible. As yet, a totally elephant proof method has not been found but it gets harder for them each time. The whole operation is a lengthy and costly task but the long term effects will ensure the continued conservation of the area and the populations of the zebra and other animals.

Another reason for having the first waterhole set up near the Moreomaoto village is, with the help and guidance of Meno A Kwena, it will allow the village to set up a community-based campsite in this area, creating an income from tourism and a reason to conserve the wildlife and environment in the area.

It is proposed that David Dugmore will develop, manage and market the campsite for the village. The emphasis will be to build a simple campsite in order to keep the development expenditure low. This will allow the campsite to generate income and profits itself which will then be channeled into further community developments. Emphasis will be on the maximizing the employment benefits to the community. Tourists who use the camp will also help provide demand for small businesses such as arts and crafts.

Small Meru tent | Water for life project |