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Trust pins hope on partnership with Kenya company.

Lake Ngami Conservation Trust has high hopes that partnering with Stay Well of Kenya, will open doors for the charcoal production project, which has been struggling to secure a huge market.

The trust ventured into the project through the assistance of the UNDP, which ensured that residents engaged in the project to reduce bush encroachment into Lake Ngami and surrounding areas.

The trust uses wood after de-bushing some areas to allow for regeneration of grasses and currently, it has been producing less charcoal because of lack of market.

The trust chairperson, Mr Sekano Bodio confirmed in an interview that the company, which is now operating in Gaborone, submitted a proposal advancing interest to partner with the trust in the charcoal project.

The company also promised to drill trust beneficiaries on another new technique of manufacturing charcoal, teach them how to manufacture stoves which use charcoal and also to assist in marketing the products.

Mr Bodio said they had a meeting with the director of the company recently and requested him to revisit the proposal and indicate the beneficial aspect for both the company and the local community before they could cement the deal.

Once the deal is sealed, he said ten beneficiaries from each village affiliated to the trust would be trained on the new technique through financial assistance from UNDP, with an aim to increase charcoal production.

He admitted that they had been producing less charcoal, stating that at the moment, they had 1 360 bags of charcoal in the storeroom.

Mr Bodio said they had been supplying one restaurant in Maun on request with 30 bags which makes a profit of P850.

The trust's target was to produce 1 500 bags of charcoal but they managed to produce only 300 bags due to lack of market.

They have 36 kilns/pots with capacity to manufacture 6 000 bags.

Mr Bodio revealed that currently, the trust had hired six members of the community and hoped things would change for the better once they seal the deal with the Kenyan company.

When the project started, there were some reports that the trust had secured a lucrative market in Namibia, where some community members were sent to learn about production of charcoal.

But Mr Bodio said there was no formal communication with regard to the said market.

He noted that it was verbal communication but they had written to the concerned company as their intention was to advance the deal.

'The Namibian company promised to buy 30 tonnes of charcoal every month which is worth P190 000,' he added.

Meanwhile, some residents recently complained during kgotla meetings that they had not benefited from the trust and that the trust had failed to account for the over P4 million received from the government.

In response, the trust chairperson attributed their complaints to lack of understanding and education, stating that benefits could be a broad term.

Mr Bodio said creation of employment opportunities for members of the community was one of the benefits and that residents should appreciate that the trust has hired some young people in their villages.

As such, he said the affiliated villages had benefited and would continue to benefit. With regard to the funds, he said the communities should understand that the money was not deposited into the trust's account, as they were assisted through the office of the district commissioner to utilise the funding.

Mr Bodio also revealed that when the new committee took over, they made efforts to request the office of the district commissioner and the council to assist them in auditing their books so that they could start on a clean slate. He said the response was taking long as it was over two months since they submitted the request. The chairperson also pointed out that the management plan for trust ranch at Heinaveld had been completed and they would soon meet and map the way forward.

The trust has also been allocated a plot to construct offices and is currently awaiting funding from UNDP to start the project.
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Publication:Botswana Daily News (Gaborone, Botswana)
Date:Jul 11, 2019
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