To be a globally recognized key centre of innovative teaching, research and service in environmental science and environmental management.
To advance academic excellence and the human resource capacity of the nation of Botswana and the international community in environmental science and management.
To implement its vision and mission, the Department has set itself five goals:
- To provide a conducive environment for teaching, learning and research in Environmental Science and Environmental Management;
- To attract, develop and retain high quality staff;
- To produce graduates who are knowledgeable and competitive both nationally and internationally;
- To conduct and sustain quality research that promotes the profile and image of the Department;
- To render excellent service and promote aligned internal and external partnerships.
The various objectives aligned with each of the above goals are well articulated in the Department’s Strategic Plan.
The Department of Environmental Science was founded, by Professor John Cooke with the assistance of Robson Silitshena, as the Department of Geography of the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland in 1971. The main focus of the programme was the production of the human resources to equip the secondary schools with qualified teachers. This was reflected in the content of the curriculum whose emphasis was on the physical, human, regional, and cartographic aspects of geography. Natural resource utilization and conservation were also meant to augment government staffing requirements. With a staff complement of 4, the Department had 24 students from the faculties of Science, Humanities and Economic and Social Sciences (FESS).
The Department assumed the name of Environmental Science in 1979 when there was a paradigm shift from traditional geography towards more holistic and interactive synergies between the human and natural environments and the implications that this had in promoting sustainable development. There was moreover a realization that a better understanding of the underlying processes required competent and effective use of incisive modern analytical tools. During the 1979/80 academic year, the staff complement had almost doubled from what it had been ten years earlier. During the 1981/2 academic year, total student enrolment was 229 of whom 87 were in year 1; 84 in year 2; 26 in year 3 and 32 in year 4.
In spite of its small numbers, the Department asserted its top research position from the onset by, for example, being part of the long-term research programme, in the Okavango-Makgadikgadi area, on problems of landform evolution, palaeoclimatology and hydrology, and soils and land quality evaluation. Other research projects focused on the palaeo-hydrology of Lake Ngami, the National Migration Study and the Northeast District Human Settlements Study. Research funding was sourced from Ford Foundation, deBeers, NUFFIC, The Royal Society, the German GTZ, the Botswana Society as well as the University of Botswana Research and Publications Committee. The Department worked closely with various government ministries. For example, a report was prepared for the Ministry of Agriculture on Soils and Land quality assessment and drought- related matters, and the training of government staff for the Ministry of Education.
The 1990s witnessed a qualitative and quantitative growth in the Department. In 1990 the department introduced an MSc degree in Environmental Planning, to train landuse planners for Local and Central Government cadres. The programme was subsequently replaced with an MSc degree in Environmental Science five years later. In 1998 the Department launched the research degrees of Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).The early years of 2000 saw a Department that had, over thirty years, grown to 35 academic staff and 10 technical staff with about 2000 students. Both the undergraduate and graduate curricula have been revised to be in line with the current University Strategic Plan and National Development Plan 10. This is to ensure that Departmental activities reflect both the epistemological and developmental priorities of the country.
The Department provides in-service courses for the private, public service sectors and NGOs. They include environmental policy, range management, mapping, environmental impact assessment, geographic information systems and remote sensing.
The Department has collaborative academic and research links with Africa, American and European counterparts. This is part of the wider strategic university policy on internationalization. Cross fertilization of ideas and resources through student and staff and research is evident from such links.