In 1988, the Nata Conservation Committee recognized a need to establish a conservation area near Nata village, Upon request, the Kalahari Conservation Society assisted the committee with expertise in the development of such an area. Up until then, the area had been used by residents of Nata, and neighbouring settlements, for grazing and watering their livestock.
For this reason, extensive discussions were then undertaken with local farmers. A series of kgotla meetings was held in order to gather their opinions as to how the proposed conservation area could best be managed [a kgotla is a traditional meeting place where people come to discuss local issues]. The final report was then drawn up and the result is today’s Nata Sanctuary which opened it’s gates to the public in 1993. In the same year, the sanctuary was awarded the Tourism for Tomorrow award for the southern hemisphere.
Although most conservation areas in Botswana are state run, the Sanctuary is a non – profit community operation. The Botswana government is of the opinion that community based natural resource management [CBNRM] can play an important and sustainable role in rural development. For this reason, several local community trusts have been set up in northern Botswana – their aims include, not only to preserve the local environment in a pristine state, but also to use the income raised from the payment of entry, camping and other fees by visitors to improve the lives of local people. It is only when local people benefit financially that they will now begin to appreciate the need to conserve the environment, including plants and animals.
The Sanctuary is the responsibility of a Board of Trustees who are selected from the four nearby villages of Nata, Maphosa, Mmanxotae and Sepako. The Board consists of eight members and include important office bearers such as Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer. In addition, there are nine ex – officio members who include two members from each village [chief and one member of the Village Development Committee] and the Manager of the sanctuary. A Technical Advisory Committee, comprised of government employees, gives technical advice.
Income from entry and camping fees is shared is shared by the four villages for whatever development projects they decide upon and need. For example, money has been used to help build homes for destitutes and also to provide toilets for people cutting grass around Nata.
Since it’s inception, the Sanctuary has succeeded, to some extent, in fulfilling it’s aims, this has since paved the way for the establishment of other community trusts, especially in areas adjacent to the Okavango Delta and the game parks in the north of the country.