The Okavango is unique. The river's waters slowly trickle through a system of lakes and canals, and are absorbed by the soils or evaporated into the air. The river provides life to many unique species and habitats that together make up a landscape of stunning beauty.

The Jewel of the Kalahari

 The people in the Okavango Delta use a wide range of livelihood strategies. They include floodplain farming, dryland agriculture, cattle rearing, and craft and tourism related activities. The diversity of livelihoods is closely interwoven with the diversity of the Delta‚Äôs natural resource base.

Draining the delta dry?

Increasingly the Delta's biodiversity is under pressure. While the Okavango's goods and environmental services have been used for centuries by local communities, the unmanaged and uncontrolled expansion of human activities and unclear ownership of resources are threatening the livelihoods of the Delta's inhabitants. The basin's resources for development purposes, including large-scale irrigated agriculture, mining and domestic use, both upstream and around the Delta are further threatening the health of the river system. 

Choosing the future

The lack of a comprehensive natural resources management plan, accommodating local participation and sustainable resource use, hindered the sustainable development of the wealthy Delta. Rather than letting developments get out of hand, several parties came together to make a deliberate choice for the future of the Delta. The goal was a management plan for the Okavango Delta that set out the best way to manage its natural wealth. Two ingredients were vital: one was a sound knowledge of the link between the Delta's ecology and the livelihoods it supports, and the other was the full participation of the various stakeholders and beneficiaries. However, the future of the Delta is not limited to Botswana alone. The actions of Angola and Namibia upstream also have an impact on the water that feeds the Delta. It was therefore important to involve those countries and create a regional system of collaboration.

Taking small steps

One of the first steps was to develop an integrated approach for different government agencies and institutions to work together. A specific committee with representatives of ten agencies was made responsible to lead the process. The Okavango management project brought together economic, social and environmental information to analyze resource use and abstraction. It then used extensive participation to define strategic development options in a Master Plan and assessed the economic, social and environmental impacts of these options. 


Government of Botswana, OKACOM, tour operators and tourism associations, community groups

Duration and cost

5 years at US$ 7 million