By Michael J. Murphy
Nature has blessed Botswana with an abundance of natural resources that support the people of this beautiful country.
I am not referring only to diamonds. Botswana's rich biodiversity and its abundant wildlife have been central to the country's prosperity. In 2012, eco-tourism generated 8 billion Pula for Botswana's economy and produced 49,500 jobs. The value of Botswana's wildlife and its importance to the average Motswana will only continue to grow. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, only eight countries in the world will see their economic growth more dependent on tourism than Botswana. By 2022, tourism-related activities will almost double to bring in over 15 billion Pula for the country - but that will only happen if we all work together to preserve Botswana's environmental wealth.
Through its efforts to protect and preserve these precious resources that benefit so many, Botswana has distinguished itself as a global leader in wildlife conservation. Much of the credit rightly goes to His Excellency the President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, for his recognition not only of the value of the nation's wildlife to Botswana's development, but of its importance to the world's biological heritage. Previous generations of leaders wisely prioritised conservation as well. This included facing down a wildlife trafficking threat in the early 1990s through direct engagement and enforcement efforts by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF). The BDF established and maintained a regimen of foot patrols and aerial surveillance over an 80,000 square mile frontier region that suppressed large animal poaching for over 20 years. That effort averted an ecological catastrophe and enabled the stunning growth of Botswana's world-class eco-tourism sector, an economic pillar that now contributes 12 percent to Botswana's gross domestic product.
America has been proud to stand with you as Botswana works to preserve its natural resources. In 2009, President Obama remarked that in today's world, boundaries between people are overwhelmed by our connections, and he underscored the United States' commitment to partnering with African countries to build the future we want for all of our children. We have sought to do just that here in Botswana when it comes to protecting your country's wildlife and ensuring future generations can appreciate and benefit from it. More....