Benjamin Thupe, Olebogeng Suwe, and Ketlhatlogile Mosepele
Community interns, Wetlands, Research partnership, Okavango Delta
Wetlands are an important source of livelihoods for riparian communities, and this makes them vulnerable to over-exploitation of their natural resources. Therefore, there is need to undertake regular monitoring of resource use in these ecosystems. However, one most cost-effective and sustainable approaches is for institutions to undertake wetlands research in partnership with communities. This approach will make communities living within wetlands have ownership of the research process and subsequent scientific intervention in them. One basic approach to encourage community participation in wetlands research is through community internships program that was initiated by Okavango Research Institute (ORI). Interns were selected from some villages around the Delta per annum through a participatory process that involved the village leadership. The interns then spent two weeks at ORI. During this time the interns were exposed to some of the basic research activities at ORI. They were also given an opportunity to acquire new skills like Information Technology (IT), Geographical Information Systems (GIS), plant identification, and also worked with Monitoring Unit which collects, captures, processes, and analyses and disseminates information on critical environmental parameters of the Okavango Delta and its upstream Basin. A review of this program by interviewing interns and the village leadership revealed that it had a positive impact on the participants. Interns indicated that they acquired new skills and understanding which enabled some of them to start youth based initiatives back in their communities. The village leadership also lauded the program because they observed that it empowered the participants and made them valuable community members who contributed to village development initiatives. In view of this positive feedback, it is envisaged that the primary objective of the program is achieved, and that the interns can be used to create community research partnerships in wetlands research.