An ethical investigation into the impact of Mophane worm depletion on the environment in the North Eastern part of Botswana: A case study of Gungwe and Mbalambi villages
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Mophane worm is a name given to caterpillars hosted by the mophane tree. The mophane worm is harvested as food supplement in most of the Southern African countries. For the past few years, there have been some reports indicating that the worm has disappeared in some parts of Botswana. Hence, the aim of this research study has been to investigate from an ethical perspective the impact of mophane worm depletion on the environment. A qualitative approach was used in this study and data was collected from the following targeted groups of people: villagers, the headmen of the stated two villages, and the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT) officers both at local and national level. The theoretical framework involved traditional theories(i.e.. Value Theory and Utilitarianism)and environmental ethical theories(i.e.. Social Ecology, Environmental and Intergenerational Justice). The research instruments employed were individual interview schedules, focus group discussions and observation. A fourfold model of analysis was used focusing on the biological, economical, social and political dimensions. From the findings of the study, it emerged that both natural and anthropogenic factors contributed to mophane worm depletion. The natural factors were drought and predation while the anthropogenic factors included massive usage of the host tree, destructive methods of harvesting and demand for more land for agricultural and residential purposes. It also emerged that mophane worm depletion had both negative and positive impacts on the environment. These included lack of money by locals to buy their daily needs, lack of relish and poor livelihoods, loss of wildlife that fed on mophane worm, and tension between government and locals over the regulation of the resource. Ethical evaluation revealed that the dominant value for the locals was utility value to the almost total lack of explicit awareness of intrinsic and inherent value, and that on utilitarian grounds, the overall evil that depletion of the mophane worm brought about outweighed its overall good effects. With regard to justice issues, the findings revealed that unjust social structures and injustices resulting from the unequal distribution of benefits and burdens as well as from the lack of adequate participation by the local communities in decision-making had a greater negative than positive impact. Finally, recommendations were made emphasizing the utmost importance of government intervention to mitigate, if not, stop the depletion of the mophane worm.