Visit to Chobe Junior Secondary School – Kasane

As Prepared For Delivery | March 13, 2015 | Kasane

Good morning boys and girls. It is a pleasure to be here with you today.

My name is Earl Miller, and I’m the Ambassador of the United States Mission to Botswana. I arrived in your beautiful country about 2 months ago to be America’s new Ambassador at our Embassy in Gaborone.

I represent Barack Obama, the President of the United States, in Botswana. So when your government, your President, wants to communicate with my government, he doesn’t call Washington, he calls me.

And just like people can be friends, countries can be friends too. Botswana and America have been friends for a long time. My job is to make our friendship stronger. And the more I learn about your beautiful country and its wonderful people, the stronger our friendship becomes.

There are many things I admire about Botswana and Botswana’s culture. For example, the principle of botho is a beautiful thing.

It appears it’s difficult to find one word in English that accurately defines botho. The English word compassion comes close. I learned a saying in Setswana that describes botho.  Allow me to attempt to say it in your language: Motho ke motho ka batho. I’m convinced that botho is one reason that Botswana is an oasis of peace and tranquility in the region.

And the Chobe District is a particularly interesting corner of Botswana. One thing i noticed about Kasane is that there are many foreign visitors here, people from all over the world.

I’ve noticed visitors from the United Kingdom, from Germany, from Japan, from Australia, from my country the United States, and from many other countries.

For most of these visitors, traveling to Botswana is a long and expensive journey. For example flying to Botswana from the United States involves several airline flights, one of which is 16 hours long. Imagine sitting on an airplane for 16 hours!

So why have these visitors gone to all that time and expense to come here? Why have they come to Botswana?

Most visitors come here to see Botswana’s beautiful wildlife.

This brings up the next question: Why are people interested in wildlife?

Well, let me ask you this:

How many of you have seen a kudu?

Almost everyone. But in America, very very few people have ever seen a kudu.

How many of you have seen an elephant?

Again almost everyone. But, in America, very very few people have seen an elephant outside of a zoo.

People are interested in things they don’t see at home. There are no elephants in America, there are no lions in Japan, there are no kudu in Germany  – so people come here to see them.

This industry of people traveling to see wildlife is called ecotourism. It is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. Economists say that ecotourism is worth almost eight billion Pula a year in Botswana. Eight billion Pula! That is an enormous amount of money. Economists also say that ecotourism accounts for almost ten percent of Botswana’s economy, and ten percent of all the jobs in Botswana. So we see that Botswana’s ecotourism industry, and the wildlife on which it depends, are very important for Botswana’s economy.

Maybe some of you will work in the ecotourism industry when you grow up.

What kinds of jobs are there in the tourism industry?

There are jobs in lodges — cooks and housekeepers, guides, and managers.

There are jobs at the airport and at Air Botswana. The pilots and flight attendants who fly tourists into Botswana depend on the ecotourism industry, as do the other airport workers.

Tourists also help the economy by buying souvenirs in the local shops. And they help farmers who supply the vegetables and beef for the restaurants the tourists eat in.

Because wildlife is important to the tourism industry, we also need scientists to study wildlife. These scientists are called ecologists.

As we can see, ecotourism supports many different types of jobs in Botswana – from farmers to pilots! I hope some of you will be the lodge owners, the pilots, the guides, and the ecologists who work in Botswana’s ecotourism industry in the future.

Now I realize that wild animals sometimes cause trouble for people who live in the Chobe district.

Elephants sometimes eat maize or watermelons, and sometimes they scare people. Lions sometimes eat cattle. These problems are called human wildlife conflict.

So we see that wildlife are a source of great wealth for Botswana. But they also sometimes cause problems for people who live here.

We need to balance the benefits and the difficulties that arise from wildlife.  Our government has been working with your government for many years to find this balance. Together we’ve developed a program called Community Based Natural Resource Management or CBNRM. CBNRM ensures that the communities that live with wildlife receive direct benefits from that wildlife. It ensures that communities receive tourism revenue from the tourists that visit here. And it gives communities a voice in how wildlife resources are managed.  We hope to see CBNRM benefit more communities in the Chobe District in the future.

I hope you’ll remember some of the things we’ve talked about here today. I hope you’ll remember how important wildlife tourism is to Botswana. The best way to do that is to remember “the two 10 percents”: wildlife tourism makes up 10% of Botswana’s economy and creates 10% of Botswana’s jobs. And I hope you’ll remember how important community based natural resource management is for people and wildlife to sustainably coexist.

Thank you for your attention, and the best of luck to you all in your future studies.