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Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network

Wildlife Friendly Certification Expands to Botswana

Wildlife Friendly Certification Expands to Botswana

In the heart of the Okavango Delta, often referred to as the Jewel of the Kalahari, local herders and subsistence arable farmers are making significant strides in wildlife conservation by achieving Certified Wildlife Friendly® status. This unique region, renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and remarkable biodiversity, is home to a myriad of iconic species, including elephants, lions, and countless bird species. By adopting sustainable and Wildlife Friendly® practices, cattle herders and millet farmers are playing a crucial role in conserving the delicate ecological balance of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.


In Botswana, livestock depredation by lions, leopards, and other carnivores has long been a source of tension between farmers and local communities. CLAWS Botswana is spearheading innovative approaches that promote human-carnivore coexistence, ensuring the survival of these apex predators while safeguarding the livelihoods of local communities.

Through a profound understanding of the intricate relationship between carnivores and the ecosystem, CLAWS Botswana developed and is implementing a Communal Herding Program that provides socio-economic benefits to partner communities and ensures conflict mitigation measures are implemented to minimize livestock losses.

The Program is implemented across 1,000 km2 of floodplains and woodland areas along the northeastern edge of the Okavango Delta, Botswana. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Delta is located in the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area, home to one of the largest populations of African elephants and African lions in southern Africa. While the Delta is reputed for its high plant (>1,000 species), bird (480 species), and mammal (130 species) diversity, cattle are also a prominent part of the landscape.

Photo credit: Helicopter Horizons

Recognizing the significance of traditional herding practices, the CLAWS Botswana Program has been implemented with a deep respect for these customs, offering economic opportunities to community members.

Extensive training is provided to herders covering various aspects crucial for sustainable herding practices, including subjects such as rangeland ecology, basic veterinary health for cattle, conflict mitigation techniques for dealing with predators, and the implementation of planned grazing strategies.

Through the Herding 4 Health protocol, herders are empowered with the knowledge and skills necessary to manage their livestock while also safeguarding the surrounding rangelands and wildlife habitats. Preliminary results are also showing that areas of planned grazing have higher wildlife diversity. been a noticeable improvement in both the health of the rangelands and the well-being of the wildlife populations in the area. As a result, there has not been one single livestock loss to lions over the past 3 years and farmers in the program agree not to kill or poison lions.

Photo credit: Alexandra Carvache

After a thorough evaluation of the product’s adherence to wildlife conservation standards, we are delighted to announce the Wildlife Friendly® Certification of beef produced under the CLAWS Botswana program. This certification underscores our commitment to sustainable practices that not only support local communities but also prioritize the protection of wildlife and their habitats.

“This combination of respect for tradition with modern conservation practices is not only enhancing the livelihoods of local herders but also contributing to the conservation of Botswana’s iconic rich natural heritage”, said Christine Lippai, Executive Director at WFEN.

Local herders are now gaining access to better markets for their beef, securing premium prices as Certified Wildlife Friendly® and with new markets opening up for products that conserve wildlife, improve community livelihoods, and enhance human-carnivore coexistence in Botswana. Buyers and supporters including luxury safari travel company Wilderness Destinations.


Photo credit: Ecoexist

Sharing a landscape with the largest population of elephants on the planet is not easy. For over 12 years, Ecoexist, a Botswana-based NGO, has worked tirelessly with communities to reduce conflict and promote coexistence between people and elephants in the panhandle area of the Okavango Delta, Botswana.

“A critical component of our holistic approach is addressing the cost/benefit imbalance among rural subsistence farmers living with elephants”, said Graham McCulloch, Director at Ecoexist.

The team at Ecoexist facilitated the emergence of an ‘elephant economy’ by supporting innovative elephant-themed enterprises, providing key resources, offering training support, and facilitating market linkages to entrepreneurs, syndicates, and cooperatives to ensure their viability and sustained success.

“We are thrilled to be accepted as a member of the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network and acquire the Wildlife Friendly® certification of our “Elephant Aware Farming” model, contributing hugely to our efforts to make coexistence easier for subsistence farming communities”, said Dr McCulloch, adding that ‘Wildlife Friendly® certification brings global recognition and significant value addition to surplus produce harvested each year under certified ‘Elephant Aware Farming’ practices, boosting the potential to link farmer cooperatives to new markets that ultimately reward and incentivize continued coexistence with elephants.”

Creating an ‘Elephant Economy’

Ecoexist’s efforts have led to hundreds of households benefiting from newly established start-ups, joint venture partnerships, and formal cooperatives that form part of this elephant economy. Developing an ‘Elephant Aware Farming’ value chain now offers additional, sustained opportunities to local communities in the agriculture sector and brought together numerous partners and supporters of their work.

Photo credit: Ecoexist

To mitigate human and elephant conflicts, certified Elephant Aware farmers a) respect and avoid cultivating on important elephant movement corridors, b) protect their property and crops using effective, passive forms of elephant deterrents, and c) adopt more sustainable conservation agriculture practices. This requires significant effort and commitment. In return, Ecoexist has linked Elephant Aware Farming Cooperatives to new markets that pay a premium price for their surplus produce.

Photo credit: Ecoexist

For example, an emerging food and beverage manufacturing sector in the Okavango is now supporting these farmers and selling premium products like craft beer back to the tourism industry and general consumer, investing in supply chains, diversifying the wildlife economy, and ensuring that the benefits of conservation reach the grassroots level.

“To monitor the supply chain and provide transparency, Ecoexist signs contracts (Conservation Agreements) with farmers, which together with Wildlife Friendly® certification provides confidence in the marketplace and trust among the general consumers“ said Graham McCulloch.

Creating market opportunities for Certified Wildlife Friendly® and Elephant Aware Farming products is transforming the daily challenges of living with elephants into

valuable opportunities for economic growth and environmental stewardship.

“As more farmers adopt these non-lethal coexistence practices and more markets recognize the value of Certified Wildlife Friendly® products, such pioneering conservation and business strategies that provide tangible benefits to local communities and wildlife conservation will become the new ‘business as usual’”, said Christine Lippai, Executive Director at WFEN.

About CLAWS Conservancy

Claws Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) registered public charity that is focused on using science-based projects to reduce conflict between people and predators worldwide, and creating innovative approaches to promote human-carnivore coexistence.

About Ecoexist

Ecoexist is a conservation based NGO that seeks to reduce conflict and foster coexistence between elephants and people in Bostwana.

About Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN)

WFEN is a global community dedicated to the protection of wildlife in wild places and on agricultural lands, promoting sustainable livelihoods through the certification of products and services that adhere to the highest standards of wildlife stewardship and habitat conservation. Our Wildlife Friendly® certification programs ensure that consumers can make informed choices that contribute to the conservation of biodiversity.