Longhorns in Botswana
Longhorns in Botswana
For the next three winters Thakadu Game Farm in Ghanzi will be home to 16-24 students from the University of Texas, known in the US as the “Longhorns” after Texas’s prized breed of cattle. The students will be studying climate-vegetation interactions in arid regions and human-environment interactions in developing states. The courses, led by a husband-wife team of the University of Texas who are both Botswana residents, will offer UT students a view into a savanna system that functions environmentally similarly to savannas in central Texas. The goals of the course and of UT Study Abroad programs are to expose students to new cultures and ecosystems, and to establish similar rangeland programs in Texas and Botswana to serve as comparative case studies for research, education, training, and outreach.
Finding a local collaborator to host the students was of paramount importance to the project’s US-based approval. Thakadu Game Farm had acted as one field research site for previous work on Bostwana’s Megatransect (see issue V). Thakadu’s welcoming attitude towards researchers facilitated the Texas- and Maun-based team to consider longer-term planning for both courses and research in the area, particularly as owner-manager Chris Woolcott offered insights and questions as to the area’s vegetation and fire history. The couple has also periodically offered GPS, GIS (geographic information system), RDBM (relational database management) and remote sensing training to local government and NGO staff, including the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Maun’s Police Anti-Poaching Unit, and the US Peace Corps. These events have often been sponsored or facilitated by local concession and business holders including Squacca Heron Projects, Dibatana Research and Monitoring Camp, and Patrick Penstone from Maun 911 Neighbourhood Watch.
The study of rangelands is of particular importance to Botswana as well as Texas, and their management is becoming more locally critical in light of changing climate and shifts in cultural and economic priorities and needs. The courses will have components open to interested government and NGO workers, and resulting course materials and student projects made available to farmers, ranchers, and cognizant government agencies. Hopefully in the future more people, particularly among the ranching community, will continue to express interest in long-term collaboration in Southern Africa and Texas, facilitating synergies among research, business, and capacity building for efficient rangeland management.
Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 08, March 2012)