- Money raised is used to build houses for the needy - Elders also get pension money from community projects

For the last 25 years, Sankoyo Tshwaraganang Management Trust (STMT) has been at the heart of improving lives in Sankoyo.

Serving a place located some 60km out of Maun, with a population of 1 000, Sankoyo’s Trust is a sterling example of what can be achieved when such organisations are run properly.

Long before the United Nations (UN) embarked on their Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs) in 2016, without realising it, the Trust had already made great strides towards achieving such.

Essentially, the SDGs, a global initiative undertaken by 193 UN nations including Botswana, are a series of all-encompassing goals (17 in total) with the aim of making the world a better place, socially, economically and environmentally, by 2030. The Trust is a living proof that this lofty dream can become a reality.

Speaking to this publication during a recent media tour of the village, STMT official, Boipuso Nyoke, proudly highlighted the impact the trust has had on the villagers. Among others, these include creating employment, providing clean drinking water and pushing education.

“The Trust employs around 25 locals; we see empowering locals as key to our mandate. To date, we have ensured that 90 percent of the village homesteads are connected with standpipes. When we started this drive in 2006, there were only five standpoints servicing the entire village,” Nyoke said.

With the water flowing freely, the Trust has also had a big impact on Sankoyo’s education structures.

“This year we sponsored seven students to pursue further studies at tertiary level, specifically related to tourism, at some of Botswana’s top institutions,” continued Nyoke, adding the village primary school made history this year finishing top in the North West District and in the top ten nationwide with a 100 percent pass rate.

“It was the first time we achieved such and now the challenge is to sustain it. We believe quality education is the best way to escape poverty and will continue to support the school in whatever way necessary,” she declared.

Backed by an annual budget of around P5 million, money made primarily from leasing out two concessions (NG 33 and NG 34) to private investors, the Trust distributes part of the funds to villagers over the age of 55 as an annual pension.

“We are an inclusive society and look after our elders – most would have no income without this. We have also built several one-room houses for disadvantaged members of our community.

“As part of their CSR responsibilities, the companies we lease land to are also obliged to help in this aspect,” revealed Nyoke, whose organisation also sponsors the local football team, First Division North side, Sankoyo Bushbucks.

With wildlife especially elephants, prominent in the area, the Trust has found a way to live in relative harmony with the animals.

“We co-exist. We operate Kazi Kini Campsite, where we have set-up a watering hole for animals. It ensures there is water all year round and is an excellent spot for tourists to come and see elephants up close,” Nyoke said.

Surprised to hear about the UN’s SDG crusade, she nods her head emphatically when informed exactly what it entails.

“It is good and it can be done; if we can manage such in Sankoyo, why not the rest of the country?" Nyoke said defiantly.

Meanwhile, the Shorobe Basket Cooperative, based in Shorobe village, is in the business of weaving baskets for sale. According to the secretary of the Trust, Solomon Galesiiwe, in a good year, members of the cooperative get annual bonuses to help look after their families including buying uniform for the school-going children. The secretary is disappointed that the youth are not interested in learning the art of weaving.

He further decried the fact that elephants destroy the plant used to make the baskets, a threat to the weaving business. Their aim now, he added, is to diversify by including a coffee shop as well as serve meals for tourists.