Livestock guarding dogs – man’s best friend proves his worth in Botswana

Botswana cheetah conservation economics cost benefit analysisPhoto credit: Rhona Barr

CSF and Cheetah Conservation Botswana (CCB) developed a cost-benefit model for ‘cheetah-friendly’ predator control methods. This project was made possible by funding from the Handsel Foundation.

Ongoing agricultural development has brought Botswana’s big cats, particularly the cheetah, into closer contact with humans and domesticated animals. A sprinter, cheetahs are unable to compete with larger, stronger predators in Botswana’s conservation reserves and are often forced to live on farmlands. Thus, their survival depends on humans finding a way to live together with cheetahs. However, livestock depredation and the perception that predators are a risk to both humans and their livelihoods has led farmers to adopt lethal methods to remove and them. This conflict continues to pose a significant threat to cheetah survival.

Botswana cheetah conservation economics cost benefit analysisPhoto credit: Mathais Appel

CCB has been working with farmers to improve their methods of livestock husbandry in order to reduce their vulnerability to depredation and thereby increase tolerance for predators. In particular, CCB have been promoting the use of kraal enclosures and livestock guarding dogs (LGDs). Together a secure closure and LGD can protect livestock from predators and disease. LGDs provide early warning systems to the presence of predators and even deter attacks. Unfortunately, small stock farmers in the Kalahari agro-ecosystem have been resistant to adopt these husbandry methods due to upfront costs and a perception that such controls are less effective than lethal methods.

In 2012, CCB’s Douglas Thamage, a course graduate of our USAID funded BUILD initiative, approached CSF to collaborate on developing a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of these alternative predator control methods. Over the past 18 months, CCB and CSF have been working together to collect input and output data from CCBs own demonstration farm; primary data improves realiability of costs and benefits and grounds analyses in real-world trends. The CBA results will be used to show the economic benefits of investing in LGD interventions both to the farmer as well at the project level. Results from CCB’s model farm were compared with a modeled counterfactual that assumed slightly higher rates of annual loss from predation, theft and ‘other’ (10% for all three). Profits represent the sale of goats once herd carrying capacity is reached.

Botswana cheetah conservation goats economics cost benefit analysisPhoto credit: Douglas Thamage

Analysis of CCB’s demonstration farm indicate that while initial kraal and LGD costs are higher, over the course of a 10-year investment the associated benefits recoup these costs, as well as provide additional benefits. The net present value (NPV) of CCB’s demonstration farm stock is estimated at BWP 35,148 or USD 3,013 over the next 10 years. Comparatively, the counterfactual without these interventions indicates a negative NPV of BWP 20,474, or a loss of USD 1,755.

The kraal and LGD resulted in additional annual costs of BWP 4,474 (USD 400) and BWP 6,713 (USD 600) in the primary year of implementation. However, higher goat survival rates from reduced threat factors such as predation and theft meant that the benefits from goat sales surpassed the costs in year 4. Without these measures, the CBA model predicted sales beginning only later, in year 6. Moreover, annual profits ended up being higher when a kraal and LGD were introduced, due to a higher growth rate each year above the carrying capacity: BWP 39,852 vs. BWP 25,144 without (USD 3,571 vs. 2,252 respectively).

Botswana cheetah conservation goats economics cost benefit analysisPhoto credit: Rhona Barr

LGDs and the kraals may represent a win-win for conservation and farming. Not only is this alternative, non-lethal intervention successful in reducing human – cheetah conflict, thus protecting the cheetah population, it can also provide additional benefits to farmers in the form of higher annual income.