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09 October 2014

Ecotourism and its impacts on gender relations in rural Botswana

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

The Botswanan government is increasingly trying to diversify their tourism market and ecotourism accreditation is one of the ways through which they are trying to do so. This diversification is not surprising considering tourism currently contributes significantly to Botswana’s GDP (in excess of 7.5%) despite it being concentrated in the Okavango region.

To discuss this further, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) invites you to a seminar on Ecotourism and its impacts on gender relations in rural Botswana.

The seminar will be presented by Claudia Hirtenfelder, Research Specialist in the Sustainable Development Programme of the Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) division of the HSRC.



Details of the event:

Date       : 10 October 2014

Time      : 12h30 – 13H30  

Venue   : 1st floor HSRC Building, 134 Pretorius Street, Pretoria

For media enquiries contact Adziliwi Nematandani on 0827659191 or 012 316 9729,

Issued by the Human Science Research Council (HSRC)

Notes for the media

The key driving policy on ecotourism in Botswana is the 2002 National Ecotourism Strategy (NES) which is in tune with the tenets of sustainable development and tourism. However, what is surprising in the document is it’s taken for granted assumptions circulating gender. It does note that tourism can have both positive and negative social impacts including changes to family structure but goes on to explicitly state that ecotourism will create new opportunities for women but may result in anxiety for men. These assumptions are made despite limited research on how the impacts of (eco) tourism influence people’s lived realities both at work and home.

Meno A Kwena is a small ecotourism camp in Central District Botswana. It is only one of a handful of camps in the country which has the prestigious accreditation of ‘eco’; the highest of a three tie certification system. In order to identify some of the ways in which people’s gendered lives are shaped by that of an ecotourism camp I visited the camp and interviewed 40 participants as well as conducted participant-observations. The majority of the participants were those working at the camp but many living within its neighbouring community, Moreomaoto were also interviewed.

Unsurprisingly, it was found that the financial benefits of ecotourism are more felt by those working at the camp, both male and female, but that the camp did little to disrupt gender roles (despite the NES stating that the ecotourism will provide for new opportunities). Women were, like in much of the tourism worldwide, and concentrated in housekeeping where as men were located primarily in maintenance. Using Acker’s inequality regime I was able to map how the organisation operates on the basis of a series of inequalities both racial and gendered. Using Gluckmann’s Total Social Organisation of Labour I found that ecotourism existed within a much more complex and diverse arrangement of labour (both paid and unpaid) in which adults, children, men, and women are driven by varying desires and anxieties many of which circulate around the availability of water (rain and the river) as well as the limitation of land (tensions between cattle farming and national parks for tourism).

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