part of the country at 17% (104,460 km²), is National Parks, Game,
The area under crops varies from year to year, as the country is prone to drought on a regular basis; even in good years the crop area is only around 0.65% of the land area. There is also a disparity between areas planted and areas harvested in most years, since the harvest depends on the rainfall during the growing season.
The Agriculture Sector of the Economy
agriculture sector of the economy is driven largely by the international
beef market including
(i) Large stock: Beef ranching and traditional ‘Cattle Post’ production systems; Game ranching; Feedlots; Dairying.
["Cattle Post" production systems refer to unfenced rangeland where there are central watering points. The cattle owner, or more often, a herdsman, lives in a small hut near a borehole, and provides water to livestock. The water is most commonly pumped from a borehole, but in areas where there is a shallow water table - such as in pans and dry river beds, water is taken from hand dug wells. The post often has a holding kraal, which was traditionally made of thorn fence, or upright tree trunks dug into the ground. Nowadays, the kraals are most commonly built with poles and wire - as in commercial ranching. The cattle are let out in the day-time, and may roam for several days, before returning to drink. In winter when temperatures are mild, and in the rainy season, cattle can wander far from their home kraal. Goats and sheep, are generally found closer to the kraals, and tend to return every night, while non-lactating cattle tend to stay out from time to time - except where there are large predators. Cows with calves at foot tend to remain closer to the kraal, as the calves are kept in the kraal until they are old enough to fend off predators, mainly jackals - but in some areas they are also preyed upon by larger predators such as leopard, lion, wild dog and cheetah. The cows with calves also stay closer as they need to drink water more regularly than dry cows and other types of livestock. Cattle posts also have donkeys - mainly for transport, and sometimes horses].
(ii) Crops and forestry: Forestry; Dryland/rainfed cropping e.g. sorghum, millet, maize, sunflower, melons; Irrigated farming e.g. vegetables; Flood recession, &/or Molapo farming - similar to irrigated farming using residual soil moisture (this is arable farming in drainage lines and depressions where flooding is seasonal or, in the desert areas, where soils have higher moisture storage capability). In the north, there are ephemeral rivers which flow and dry up as the flood waters recede, on an annual basis; people then plant grains and vegetables in the soils that still retain moisture at relatively shallow depths, within the root zones of the crops); Horticulture & Hydroponics - extensive rural vegetable and fruit growing, and intensive nursery plant production in urban areas.
Farm tenure systems vary from tribal/traditional land use holdings, to leasehold, to freehold. Tribal and leasehold land returns to the state after the period defined in the lease agreement. In the case of tribal land, fields and boreholes may be passed down from one generation to the next, but if not used regularly, the right may be withdrawn by the District Land Board. Leasehold land is normally held for 50 years, with option to renew after that period, while freehold land is held in perpetuity, or for 999 years. The tenure systems affect the value of the land, with significant increases in value the longer the lease. The reverse can be said for the amount of input required in obtaining the land. Freehold and leasehold land requires Government authorization, while tribal land only requires approval from the District Land Board.
farm sizes are highly variable: small fields in the seasonal river
flood zones are around
livestock farms: Small farms - holdings for intensive production
of small stock, chickens, pigs and dairy - vary from 1-
3.Tribal ranches and cattle posts. Tribal Grazing Lands
Policy Ranches (TGLP) are standardised at
Socio-economic and Marketing Issues
The major socio-economic issues affecting farmers are the remoteness of farms from major centres and the difficulty in obtaining water. Irregular rainfall leads to very low crop yields, except where crops are grown on receding flooded areas. Water from deep Kalahari boreholes is often too salty for irrigation. Farmers in the remote areas have very few facilities such as transport and telephones, and supplies and marketing costs are prohibitively high. Traditional farmers do not own resources against which financing can be offset, so they tend to run their affairs at very low input costs.
The Botswana Government does have schemes, however, that provide assistance to low-income farmers; these include assistance for livestock purchase, breed improvement, and subsidies for purchase of seeds, ploughing and weeding. A key issue, however, is that these schemes are used mainly by those who are aware of them and people who need the financial assistance the most may lose out to better educated and more aware people who reside in the urban centres, have steady jobs and employ people from remote areas to run their farms for them for meagre wages. Remote area traditional farmers therefore tend to be subsistence/self-sufficient producers who rely mainly on livestock for barter, social custom and cash when they need it.
Many people in remote areas survive by harvesting products such as timber, firewood, and edible plants. They also obtain medicinal plants from the grazing land. These people have tended to be seasonally nomadic, but with the advent of fenced land, people with nomadic lifestyles have been compressed into smaller and smaller areas. This has been exacerbated by the perceived need to provide primary health and educational facilities to nomadic peoples. Such issues have produced major conflicts of interest between traditional groups, who wish to retain their culture, and the Government, who feel that the provision of essential services, at reasonable cost have higher priority than facilitating very small groups to continue their nomadic lifestyles while providing essential facilities at prohibitively high costs.
Commercial producers often have their own transport, but until recently when long stretches of the national road network were tarred, it had been expensive to transport cattle to the main commercial abattoir located in the south east of the country. The tarring of the major roads has reduced both the road transport costs, and damage to livestock carried to the major abattoirs in large trucks.
of the country is covered by sandy soils. The eastern areas have hills
and drainage depressions which feed the
west is covered almost entirely by deep sands forming the Kalahari Desert
which accounts for about two-thirds of
The soils of the Okavango Delta and surrounds are predominantly silty sands with some organic/humic content. As the rivers that flow out of the Okavango Delta disperse into the Makgadikgadi Pans areas, the soils become fine sands with high sodicity on the seasonally flooded flats and fine silt sands on the dry ancient lacustrine shoreline areas.
full details of the soils of
Major Topographic Features
of the country is flat, with gentle undulations and occasional rocky
outcrops. In the north-west the
east, the country is drained by the
rainfall ranges from
Temperature variations are extreme throughout the year. They also vary greatly within the daily cycle and according to location, vegetation cover, wind reach, and the presence of any large water bodies.
from around mid-May to mid August, the coldest areas are in the southern
half, with lowest temperatures being experienced in low-lying areas
such as depressions and along drainage lines. There are few clouds in
winter and the air is generally clear resulting in warm days, with temperatures
in the low 20’s, but dropping to ~0°C, in the early hours of the
morning. In summer temperatures vary from ~12-
Figure 5 shows four maps of maximum and minimum temperature in Botswana
Figure 5. Maximum and Minimum Temperature in
Humidity. The country experiences very few cloudy days, having around 290-300 sunshine days per year. Humidity is therefore extremely low, particularly in the dry months, (~0 %), rising to an average of around 65 %, in the rainy season. Average annual evaporation is ~2,000 mm, which exceeds annual precipitation by a factor of 4 to 8 (depending on the location).
of Topography on the Climate. The factors which affect the local climate
are the locations of the oceans that surround southern Africa; the nearest
is the South Atlantic, to the west, across the
Rainfall. The relatively flat
nature of the country, with very few large open surface water bodies
(except in the Okavango Delta, in the north west), results in few orographic effects generating rainfall, except in a few
localised areas, particularly in the south east.The country has an arid, summer rainfall climate (November
to April), consisting generally of scattered, high intensity, short-duration
thunder showers. This rainfall occurs as a result of the Zaire Air Boundary
moving southwards, and channelling moist,
upper air from the Indian Ocean across
rainfall varies in a cyclical pattern with drought occurring regularly
in almost all parts of the country. For livestock, drought conditions
are when the rainfall is 40% less than the local average. Drought has
been defined in Bhalotra (1985) as: "Meagre
and highly variable rainfall, both in time and space, combined with
high evapotranspiration rates, make Botswana a water-short country
where drought is a recurring hazard and raising of crops a gamble (even)
in the rainy season." Hydrologically,
it is the rapid depletion of surface water in rivers, lakes and reservoirs.
Agriculturally it occurs where there is inadequate soil moisture to
support the growth of crops and other plants to maturity. During drought
cycles, which may last around 15 - 20 years, drought occurs in about
two out of every three years. The cycle then moves into an above average
rainfall cycle, where drought can still occur in 1 out of 3 to 4 years.
This cycle also lasts about 15 years. Long-term climate changes have
been modelled by the Department of Geological
Wind speed is relatively low, at around 4-5 km/hr, for most of the year, except prior to local thunderstorms. The wind generally comes from the east to north-east in the summer but veers mainly to the west to south west during the period around rainfall occurrences.
The following information can be directly interpreted from the map:
The agricultural zones are very closely linked to the land systems. The four basic land systems (FAO, 1990) are: aeolian deposits, or sandveld; soils on rocky areas, or hardveld; lacustrine or ancient lake-beds, and recent alluvial soils.
A detailed listing of potential yields of sorghum, maize, millet, cowpea and groundnut is given for each mapping unit and data are summarized in Table 2.
Table 2. Potential Yields
The 4 major land systems can be further sub-divided, as shown in Table 3 below (which as well as the parent geology of the soils [basal soils] also indicates the landforms [landscape type] and the major agricultural enterprises for each zone).
Table 3. Land Systems and the associated soils, landscape types and agricultural enterprises
main vegetation zones and grassland types
The vegetation of the hardveld in the east is more diverse than the sandveld, because of a larger range in parent material, soils and climate. The hardveld carries a variety of associations with most frequent species: Peltophorum africanum, Acacia tortilis, Combretum apiculatum, A. nigrescens and Colophospermum mopane in the north. The Makgadikgadi lacustrine system is mainly covered by grasslands with halophytic species, of which Odyssea paucinervis is dominant. Panicum coloratum var. Makgadikgadiensis and Cenchrus ciliaris also form a major part of the grass association. These two species have been developed as fodder grasses and are used in fodder species trials by the Department of Agricultural Research. Islands of Hyphaene palms are common, as well as Adansonia digitata (Baobab) trees, either solitary or in clumps.
Okavango Delta forms a very complex ecosystem itself. Swamp, island
and floodplain associations can be recognised.
Most typical species are Cyperus
papyrus, Phragmites australis and a
variety of aquatic species in the swamps,
Colophospermum mopane (mopane)
is one of the most typical tree and shrub species of hot, low-lying,
eastern and southern
FAO Vegetation Map 1991. The FAO (1991) vegetation map shows vegetation associations according to structure and dominant plant species associations. These are shown in Figure 9, and the general descriptions are given in Tables 4 and 5.
Table 5. Vegetation Structure and Abbreviations
Ruminant livestock production systems are dominated by cattle and small-stock (goats and sheep). The sector is divided into traditional systems, mixed small holder systems and commercial producers.
Traditional systems are dominated by the cattle-post system, where a farmer, or group of farmers water livestock at a central watering point (most often a well, or a borehole), and the livestock wander freely over the grazing land around the watering point. There are some areas where transhumance is still practised, mainly in the eastern hardveld. People there usually practice crop and livestock production. Arable land is fenced, but livestock are permitted onto the land once the crops have been harvested. Many members of the family move from the villages to their lands during the ploughing, planting and harvesting period, and go home during the fallow season when livestock are run by herders who remain in the grazing areas.
Mixed small-holder systems are an integral part of the traditional livestock sector. People who live in areas where surface water is available, either on a year-round, or a seasonal basis, have some livestock and some small fields. This is most noticeable in the north-west, the north and the eastern parts where there are seasonal and perennial rivers. Much of the land is either freehold, or reserve land in areas where there is perennial water, so very little traditional production comes from watering livestock from perennial water sources.
Livestock are normally grazed in the dry areas away from the rivers, but watered from wells, either in dry, sandy river beds, or from wells. Crop production is normally from small plots on river banks which are thorn fenced, and watered from wells. Fields are sometimes in river-beds and are supplied with residual moisture in the river soils.
Landless systems are barely feasible in these modern times. This is because there is an increasing pressure for allocated land from people with expectations of a higher standard of living than is afforded under the traditional village life. The few, scattered small groups of semi-nomadic people have tended to become sedentary around boreholes provided by Government. Here they are provided with primary health, and education for their children. It is expected that much traditional knowledge that has been passed orally from generation to generation will be lost for coming generations. Without documentation, a whole knowledge-system based on natural products found in the range may soon be lost forever.
Commercial systems are practised mainly on leasehold and freehold land. Most commercial farmers are relatively wealthy as they have access to finance and the commercial marketing sector. Within the commercial sector, productions systems include intensive livestock production systems, such as feedlots. Stall-feeding, tethering and other systems are rarely used, except in one or two instances where dairy cows are kept in extremely dry conditions, and are fed with green silage and imported grains and fodder.
Traditional Sector - Offtake = 7.8%; 59,509 in the traditional sector, owning approximately 2,190,000 head. There was a severe decline in cattle numbers and cattle holdings in 1996, due to slaughter of ~350,000 head in Ngamiland (NW Botswana), due to an outbreak of Contagious Bovine Pleuro-Pneumonia (CBPP). Approximately 1270 farmers lost all their cattle.
Commercial Sector - Offtake = ~14-18%; 79 respondents in the commercial sector owning about 58,505 head; It was suggested, however, that some 141 commercial farmers did not respond to the Government Questionnaire, and these non-respondents owned a further 88,465 head of cattle.
Figure 11 shows the fluctuation in livestock numbers over time, and Table 6 draws on the FAO statistical databases to show livestock numbers (slightly different than the 1996 data quoted from CSO ), production and import and export data from 1996-2005.
Table 6. Botswana statistics for livestock
numbers, beef, veal, sheep, goat meat and milk production,
Goats. 2,205 Million goats [1996 data] in 89,603 holdings, comprising: Traditional Sector - Offtake = 7.7%; 89,546 in the traditional sector, owning approximately 2,190,000 head. Commercial Sector - Offtake = ~14-18%; 57 respondents in the commercial sector owning about 5,636 head. It was suggested, however, that some 103 commercial farmers did not respond to the Government Questionnaire, and these non-respondents owned a further 11,3245 head of goats.
Sheep 349,000 sheep [1996
data] in 27,227 holdings, comprising:
Commercial Sector - Offtake = ~14-18%;41 respondents in the commercial sector owning about 3,757 head. It was suggested, however, that some 79 commercial farmers did not respond to the Government Questionnaire, and these non-respondents owned a further ~8,000 head of sheep.
CamelsThere are few hundred (~300) camels in the country. These are survivors of stock that were imported in the early 1900s for police patrols in the south-western desert areas.
Non-Ruminant Livestock This refers mainly to donkeys and horses, but includes pigs. Equines are important as transport in rural areas. Donkeys are also used for ploughing and pulling carts which are mainly used to carry water and firewood. Donkeys; 335,809 head in 54,140 holdings. Horses; 4,707 head over 1,123 holdings (that responded to the CSO questionnaire). (The previous census had recorded much higher numbers of holders and animals with 34,650 head, over ~8,640 holdings reported.) Pigs 2,658 head, over an unspecified number of holdings.
summary of beef statistics and production systems
Effects on the Cattle Population
In commercial herds where young stock are removed from the range after weaning, more range is available for breeding cows and production rates are higher than standard, off-range production systems. The off-range production systems tend to run at around 30% cows, 30% young stock (1-2 years old) and 30% calves (<1 year old), with the remaining 10% being replacement heifers and bulls. The feedlot system runs off an approximate ratio of 50% breeding cows to 40% calves (<1 year old) and 10% bulls and replacement heifers. The negative side to this latter system, is the vulnerability of the herd to drought, and the need to slaughter a large proportion of the breeding herd, at below premium beef grades and prices.
Grazing Management in the Commercial Beef Sector. The commercial beef sector favours rotational grazing and rotational-rest systems, by which an area is grazed until there is very little forage left before cattle are moved to a new paddock, or camp. The cattle are kept in separate herd categories, so that breeding cows are kept apart from young, immature bulls and steers, and heifers. Breeding generally occurs in two seasons, with the majority of calves arriving in the mid rainy season, and a smaller, secondary crop arriving in late summer. The secondary crop is a result of cows missing one, or two heat periods due to stress, particularly in drought years.
In Communal Lands livestock production systems some borehole owners run cattle for commercial gain, without fencing. In many instances they have private ranches as well as boreholes, and transfer stock from one to the other depending upon grazing conditions. This is commonly termed as "dual grazing" and traditional producers are attempting to have it outlawed.
Traditional Production. Traditional cattle production systems provide more than beef, including milk and draught. Cattle are used for barter, for bride-price negotiations, for feasts at marriages, funerals, and other important functions. Historically, cattle were used far more for transport and ploughing but this has been largely replaced by the tractor.
Due to inbreeding and breeding of cross-bred animals the traditional herd is highly variable in cattle colour, size and shape. Animals tend to grow slowly, and at the butcher/abattoir, tend to be older and have a lower grade than commercially grown beef animals.
The Traditional Beef Sector. In communal lands grazing systems, or Traditional Livestock Production, herds are run as a single entity, generally with no fencing and with the water supply as its focal point. Water comes from shallow wells in dry river beds, boreholes, and from seasonal pans, shallow depressions with clayey bottoms, that fill with rain water during the summer. Some pans are several kilometres across and hold water well into the winter.
In the arid to semi-arid, sandy conditions of the Kalahari, where many traditional herds are kept, there is normally a circular area of up to 1.5 km from the central water point from where the animals have to walk long distances to find suitable grazing. This circular area is referred to by local researchers as a ‘Piosphere’, and is clearly visible on satellite imagery.
Traditional cattle breeds, or ‘types’ that are either long and rangy, or small and light boned, fare better in the Kalahari conditions than the squared-off, heavy-bodied commercial beef types, which do better on the eastern side of the country, where the ground is firmer and the soils more fertile.
Intermediate Management Systems. A system of ranch allocation was introduced in the late 1970s, called Tribal Grazing Lands Policy Ranches (TGLP). These ranches were allocated in blocks, according to applications from Botswana Citizens wishing to enter livestock production. The ranches of approximate size 8 x 8 km had to be fenced, and a borehole drilled for water. Within the ranches, owners were encouraged to fence subdivisions, as and when they could afford to do so. In many instances these ranches failed. The commonest cause of failure has been persistent drought, and poor management which resulted in the deaths of a large proportion of the livestock in these remote ranches. In the 1980s, drought was so severe, that many ranchers opened the gates to their farms, and let stock go to wherever they could feed. TGLP owners who persist in using grazing outside of their allocated ranches, are also targeted as proponents of "dual grazing" rights.
Limitations to Livestock Production
Irregular Fodder Production. The greatest limitations to livestock production are the quality and quantity of forage and grazing, as affected by the highly variable rainfall. The supply of fresh drinking water both to livestock and to the producer is also a limiting factor. The irregularity of rainfall, both in time, and its highly scattered nature, means that fodder production is seasonal and local. In many parts of the country, there has been a drought every second, or third year, over the past 20 years.
Fodder production is difficult to judge, in many years, as the grazing resource is dominated by annual grasses which grow and set seed after rains, but once eaten, do not regrow . So extensive areas of grazing are needed for relatively few cattle. Other problems with fodder production include the poor quality of the grass.
Feasible Stocking Rates. Stocking rate estimates over the country vary from around 6 ha per livestock unit (LSU) equivalent in productive areas, to over 40 ha/LSU in unproductive areas. The arid areas have been estimated to be able to be stocked at 120 ha/LSU in reasonable rainfall conditions, and as much as 240 ha/LSU in drought.
The introduction of fencing to traditional livestock areas restricts the movement of livestock, as they search for grazing and forage over large areas. So on fenced grazing livestock either starve to death, or have to be fed at great cost, during drought cycles. Most traditional farmers cannot afford drought feed and lose their livestock.
Other factors affecting the grazing resource include sandy soils, which result in trampled plants being physically removed from the soil and competition for grazing from gerbils and harvester termites. The impact of harvester termites on a grazing camp, especially during drought, is quite phenomenal, as an area of several hundred hectares can be completely denuded of grass in just a few days.
Poisonous Plants. There are several plants in the livestock producing areas that are poisonous to livestock and are responsible for high mortality rates at certain times of the year. Examples are Dichapetalum cymosum, Pavetta harborii and Urginea sanguinea. Livestock tend to eat these plants in the early summer as they produce green leafy material ahead of most palatable plants. The plants often occur in the areas with deep sandy soils, where forage production is very low, so stock tend to be hungry and less careful about what they eat.
The most important restriction to commercial livestock production is the prevalence of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in some areas. Livestock produced in FMD-affected areas can only be sold locally, while those produced in FMD-free areas, can be sold in the international markets. The country has been carved into zones, according to FMD status. The zones are demarcated by long, double fences that prevent the movement of cattle, other than through approved and manned gates.
Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) is endemic in the areas north of Botswana. Other economically important diseases of livestock are Blackwater, Heartwater, Tuberculosis, Botulism, and Human Tapeworm.
Apart from FMD, there was recently an outbreak of Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP), or Cattle Lung Disease, in the Ngamiland District, in the north-west of the country. The outbreak led to the death of around 350,000 head of cattle, which accounted for the entire herd in that district, according to local press reports. Many of the animals, as for the recent foot and mouth outbreak in Europe and UK, had to be put down and buried in mass graves. CBPP is endemic on Botswana’s northern border with Namibia, and as for FMD, has to be controlled through extensive fencing to sub-divide communal grazing areas, and strict livestock movement control. This accounts for a relatively large proportion of the annual budget and staffing within the Ministry of Agriculture.
The effects of the eradication of the entire herd were felt in several ways. The initial impacts were the shock to the livestock owners, who were given the options of a complete cash supplement, in lieu of their lost livestock, or an option of 50 % cash and 50 % livestock replacement, as and when replacement stock became available. It has impacted negatively on many, especially poorer, rural people’s livelihoods. Many people work as herdsmen for wealthier farmers, under a system which is locally known as ‘Mafisa’. In developed countries, this system would equate to share-farming, whereby a herdsman looks after many cattle, acquires some of the benefits of the many animals, including access to milk and meat, and also ‘improved’ breeding when his cows are mated by imported sire strains belonging to the wealthier shareholder. In many instances, the mafisa herder may also slowly acquire animals from the majority herd owner (shareholder), in lieu of cash payment, or wages for work done.
The loss of access to mafisa herding, for many rural people is leading to demand for replacement lifestyles, other forms of job creation, and also training for new skills.
The acceptance by many, of cash in lieu of replacement livestock, will also generate problems for families who have spent their cash on capital assets, rather than on investments that will both appreciate over time, and generate wealth for their children and further generations to come. The greatest impacts of the CBPP outbreak may therefore, only be felt in years to come.
Rather ironically, one of the areas worst hit by CBPP was around a group of villages that have been suffering from overgrazing, excessive range deterioration and a correspondingly very high level of susceptibility to drought. Following the eradication of livestock in that area, the recovery of the range in the total absence of cattle, has been extremely impressive. A (rectified) satellite image of the area (Figure 12), shows relatively good vegetation cover for the area in discussion.
Available Land is Now Running Out
A new factor that limits land allocation is the lack of available land for the creation of new ranches. It has been estimated that only 4,500 to 5,500 additional ranches can be created within the available space in the country. This situation may only be altered if standard ranch sizes are significantly decreased, or if the system of land tenure is altered. Neither solution will be politically acceptable to current land-holders. Alternatives to changes in the land tenure system include the development of more diverse systems, such as mixed small-holder farming, communal game ranching, and eco-tourism-based activities.
Communal lands, in some areas have been sub-divided and fenced in the recent past, to encourage a shift from the traditional multi-use system, to a cash-trade oriented production system; this has brought some dissension among people, mainly those in the lower income levels, because wealthier, and better educated people with more cattle tend to acquire the tribal ranches, but hang onto their traditional cattle-post areas. This enables dual land owners to shift cattle to and from different systems, depending upon climatic conditions.
Current Social and Economic Conditions Affecting Livestock Producers
New Directions in Economic Diversification. Within Botswana, and also in the broader region, policies and economic directions have been set in motion in recent years which conflict with the entrenched belief that beef and other livestock are the answer to the lack of economic diversification.
On the one hand, there are traditionalists who are still pushing to have some parts of the country divided and fenced into 6x6km to 8x8km commercial livestock producing ranches. The ranches would in most cases be allocated to those who have the financial capacity to buy into ranching. This would then which would be to the exclusion of the people who are currently using these areas, either for traditional livestock production (which is subsistence production in about 70-80% of all cases), or for subsistence livelihoods from gathering veld products and small-game hunting (hares, wild birds, small antelope etc.).
On the other hand, economic diversification is pushing towards "Eco-tourism" and various intensive agricultural systems including: horticulture, tree crops, small-stock and poultry production schemes. Intensive agricultural systems call for allocation of land close to urban areas, for marketing purposes, and the eco-tourism direction calls for wide open spaces, without fences. Jobs for people can then be based upon what they are doing, but with additional economic incentives through sales and provision of services and cultural entertainment.
At present, several large areas in the country have been demarcated for sub-division into ranches. This will have negative socio-economic impacts on the people who currently use the land for raising a few small and large-stock, and who rely on relatively large areas to roam and collect wild fruits and other veld products. It is important, therefore, when decisions are made about the future that thought is given to the customary land rights of various groups of people to ensure, for example, that their access to harvesting veld products is maintained. It is also essential that the ecological and socio-economic implications of any decisions are taken fully into account before they are implemented.
The Impact of Drought on Producer Success Rates. Botswana has experienced 12 drought years in the past 22, on a regular, cyclical basis. A Ministry of Agriculture review of cattle farmers in allocated Tribal (TGLP) Ranches shows that around 30 % have been economically successful, around 30 % have broken even, and the remainder have failed, i.e. the top third has had to support the remainder, economically. It seems that the Government has been happily subsidising the lower two-thirds, in order to justify keeping the system going, and even introducing more ranches. Given the repeating drought patterns of the past 22 years, forced enclosure of livestock, without the provision of buffer grazing areas will result in death of most of the stock. The alternative will be massive Government expenditure on drought relief feed.
There is very little unallocated land within Botswana, and where Government allocated ranches are being established, there are already losers. These are people who are being forced to move into fenced areas which are many times smaller than the area of land they previously used (but more sparingly and in a more ecologically sustainable way), or being left with nowhere to go, but into small settlements.
Increased Overseas Demand for Beef due to BSE. Were it not for the huge surge in demand for Botswana Beef from the UK, in particular, perhaps the Government would not be pushing for more commercial-type ranches in the traditional lands areas of Botswana.
New Ranches are not Shaped to Account for Landscape and Ecological Variability
On top of the negative social and economic problems that will arise directly from the process of land division and allocation, there are ranches that are not shaped, or sized according to environmental conditions. Very often, the square shape of each of the ranches does not account for the annual cycle of range fodder that comes from different parts of the landscape. Thus, some ranches have good summer grazing, and others have good winter browse, but very few have a good mix of both. Consequently, the established carrying capacity, as estimated by the experts is generally inapplicable. In these instances the ranches need to be significantly larger, or, the owners should be prepared to later adjust the projected carrying capacity and/or to buy in feeds on a regular basis.
If the traditional perception supersedes the new approach to land use with regard to allocating cattle ranches in the remaining remote areas, there will be widespread land degradation. This will come about, either through increasing desertification, or through bush encroachment. Botswana will then be a poorer place, both in terms of its social infrastructure, and also, in terms of its bio-diversity. The only relief experienced in recent years, is that farmers from some areas, who have failed, have had their farms repossessed by the Banks. Hopefully this has been a strong enough message to would-be farmers that they should not enter into farming, without making sure that they can remain economically viable.
As a country, Botswana needs to consider reviewing the whole land allocation process, and re-examine the policy of allocating square blocks of land. Firstly, all land should be classified according to its capability, and then it should be assessed according to its productivity, its location and who best might use the land, either the commercial sector, or the traditional sector.
Livestock Types, and Marketing
Livestock production is dominated by beef in nearly all areas of the country, except the remote south-west which produces mainly small stock. Goat breeds are generally indigenous, with the introduction of Boer Goats, which are large, heavy animals used for meat production, and quite recently some north European and Scandinavian dairy breeds such as Swiss and Saanen. Sheep are mainly Fat-tailed and Dorper breeds and crosses between the two. Karakul has been introduced into the very arid south-western regions, but has lost much of its popularity due to large scale mortalities in some years, but more , as a result of poor marketing facilities for the product.
Other popular livestock production systems are pigs, dairy and most particularly poultry farming. Many rural people, given a choice of meat will opt for chicken, rather than for beef. New production systems that are being promoted and taken up in the rural areas are ostrich farming, and bee-keeping. Specialist production systems include dairy, fish farming and crocodile farming.
Cattle Breeds. The beef sector has a highly cross-bred herd. This is due to the introduction of European, African and Asian breeds in order to introduce ‘improved’ production traits into the national herd.
Local cattle breeds include Tswana, and Tuli. The latter is probably an off-shoot of the Nguni that migrated northwards with people of Ndebele origin from South Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Afrikaaner is still found in many cross-bred animals; it was introduced by early settlers and traders who travelled mainly by ox-wagon. The Brahman is relatively hardy in the arid and semi-arid conditions, is tick-proof, and tends to eat browse, grass and other herbaceous plants.
European beef breeds that have been introduced are many, from Hereford to Simmental, Aberdeen Angus, to Charolais and Limousin. Dairy -beef types such as Red Sussex, Red Poll, Brown Swiss, Murray Grey, and Pinzgauer have been introduced, and common dairy breeds are Holstein, Friesland, Ayrshire, Jersey and Guernsey.
Long-term trials have been conducted on different beef cattle breeds to compare the different common production parameters, which include birth and weaning weights, growth rates, age at first calving, calving intervals, and calf mortalities, as well as finishing weights.
It is interesting to note, from long term trials, that many foreign breeds out-perform the local breeds on single production parameters, but over the long-term, it has become evident that indigenous breeds consistently produce more viable offspring under poorer climate and range conditions. Indigenous breeds therefore tend to show better average performance than any single breed over the total range of production characteristics, and most especially under the marginal conditions experienced by traditional livestock producers.
Market systems. Botswana beef and livestock products such as hides, horn and hooves are sold both locally, and overseas. A large proportion of Botswana meat is sold as boneless beef to the UK. The proportion has been increasing, ever since the BSE (Mad Cow Disease) outbreak in the UK. A breakdown of 1999-2000 beef sales is shown in Figure 13.
The Commercial Agriculture Sector has been driven by the Regional and International Beef markets. The sector has been severely hampered, however, due to the presence of Foot and Mouth Disease, specifically where cattle are likely to mix with cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in the northern areas bordering with National Parks and Game Reserves, and with the neighbouring countries of Zimbabwe and Namibia (along the Caprivi Strip).
Foot and Mouth is controlled through fencing sub-divisions, which separate areas where FMD is endemic, from those areas where FMD can be excluded. FMD vaccinations are a possible way of reducing the disease in areas where it is endemic.Livestock movements from FMD areas are carefully controlled through a series of quarantine camps, and cattle from FMD areas are only slaughtered in the National Abattoirs during specified periods of the year. Meat from animals originating in FMD-prone areas is marketed locally, whereas meat from the FMD-free zones is sold regionally and internationally.
There are very strict regulations covering import and export of both livestock and fresh livestock products both internally, and across borders, into neighbouring countries.
Lomé and GATT agreements. Botswana, as a member of the ACP States, is a signatory to the Lomé Convention, and to the General Agreement on Trade Tariffs (GATT) which guarantee a market portion in the EU for the sale of livestock products.
Diversification into Wildlife and Eco-Tourism Products, plus Limitations
The limitations that have been experienced by many cattle producers, in conjunction with consultations and research both in Botswana, and internationally, has led to the development of alternative income generating activities off the range. In the areas not designated for National Parks, Forest Reserves and Game Reserves, this has included:
Within the designated wildlife and reserve areas, the land has been divided, for administration purposes into Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), and some of these have been sub-divided into Controlled Hunting Areas (CHAs). The CHA label is a misnomer, because hunting is not permitted in many of them. These areas have been leased for the purpose of generating income through tourism concessions with various permissible activities. These activities cover mobile and fixed safari camps for purposes of viewing and photographing wildlife on land and water by vehicle, motor boat and canoe, and experiencing the wilderness of areas such as the Okavango Delta, the Chobe National Park, the Gemsbok Trans-Frontier National Park (linking adjoining parks in SW Botswana and NW South Africa), the Makgadikgadi Pans and Central Kalahari Game Reserves.