Seed fund awarded for research of illicit riverbed sand mining in Botswana

Published on
June 11, 2021

An International Partnership Seed Fund has been awarded by Newcastle University in the UK to support preliminary investigation of illicit sand abstraction from ephemeral rivers in Botswana. Despite being a widely known issue in the region, no scientific studies have explored the impacts on society and the environment. Therefore, information is lacking, beyond news articles, around the extent to which local communities are affected by the range of resultant environmental impacts. The rapid growth of Gaborone is the main driving force in illicit sand extraction. In order for the capital to continue to grow economically, a sustainable solution must be found for provision of construction materials that is not detrimental to the livelihoods of rural populations.

About the project

Though a fundamental development material, the removal of sand from rivers can trigger adverse socio‑environmental impacts. These include changes in water flow and quality, lowering of the water‑table, destruction of riparian vegetation, and increased erosion that can make areas uninhabitable and uncultivable. Additionally, unrehabilitated sand-mining pits pose significant drowning danger to humans, livestock and wildlife.

The project will highlight which impacts of illicit sand mining are most pressing to local communities and establish partnerships with various levels of stakeholders, from smallholder farmers and local businesses to academia and policymakers. Interviews will be undertaken by locally-based postgraduate students to gain understanding of the impacts, both negative and positive, on affected communities. Follow up virtual workshops will be held, attended by academics from a range of disciplines and various stakeholders, to discuss the interview findings, determine research needs, and identify further funding opportunities.

Parties involved

The core research team comprises WRM’s Dr David W. Walker, the University of Botswana’s Dr Kealeboga K. Moreri, and Newcastle University’s Dr Magdalena Smigaj and Dr Christopher Hackney.