In Botswana’s vast Okavango Delta, it was especially important to build community support for a comprehensive water management plan. Community meetings were backed by a series of pilot projects, to address priority issues such as clearing weeds from navigation channels to improve transportation and fishing, increasing cultural tourism and managing waste to protect water quality. Community activists successfully pushed to incorporate gender, poverty and HIV/AIDS components as well.


Botswana’s Okavango Delta is one of the largest remaining inland wetland ecosystems in the world, as well as a Ramsar Site (a wetland of international importance). The delta’s rich biological diversity and myriad of land and water habitats are major attractions for international tourists. Along its outer margins are both wildlife management areas and villages, where fishing and agriculture form the major livelihoods.

Land use conflicts are common and resource management strategies are not always in harmony. Over the decades it became apparent that a wetland management plan was needed. During its development and implementation, the Okavango Delta Management Plan (ODMP) Project was designed for accountability and active participation of all stakeholders.

WANI collaborated closely with the Government of Botswana, donors and partners, including the University of Botswana, to provide data and coordinate development of the plan.  The Okavango Delta Information System incorporated the results of a series of assessments on poverty, hydrology and fisheries. A set of plans covered management of wildlife, fisheries, livestock, waste, fire and tourism.  A strategy to resolve conflicts – such as human-elephant conflicts – was proposed. An economic study of the delta promoted wider recognition of the value of the delta’s ecosystem services. With all this information in hand, stakeholders from villagers to national officials expressed their priorities and aspirations for the delta. Finally, a shared vision for the delta’s future emerged.

Coordination among government departments –  some with conflicting mandates –  and between community, basin and national institutions was key. Local meetings with community focal persons helped to built community ownership of the planning process. These meetings were backed by a series of pilot projects designed to address community issues and generate immediate benefits for local people.

Gender, poverty and HIV/AIDS emerged as important components of the delta plan, resulting in dissemination of relevant information and incorporation of these priorities into the ODMP. The final management plan for the Delta was accepted by the ODMP steering committee in December 2006. It was later adopted into the Ngamiland District Strategic Plan and key actions are included in the Botswana National Development Plan.

Since 2008, the ODMP has progressed from planning to implementation, and sectoral plans and programmes are underway. The participatory platform and pilot schemes that the ODMP convened has led to greater community involvement in planning processes and in finding solutions for the resource management of the delta. ODMP Video Link.


Story: Okavango DeltaEvaluating the economic importance of the Okavango Delta’s natural resourcesChallenge and Vision of River Basin Management and the Okavango Delta

An introduction to The Okavango Delta Management Plan, DEA 2009.

Okavango Delta Management Plan (2008)

Okavango Delta Valuation FINAL REPORT 2006