Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page


K. K. Keapoletswe
Ministry of Agriculture
Private Bag 003, Gaborone, Botswana


1.1. Description of the country

Botswana is a landlocked country situated in southern Africa, sharing common borders with Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia. The total land area of the country is 581,730 km2. A flat terrain with little surface water characterises. Kalahari sands cover about 84% of the country. The average altitude is 950 m above sea level. The climate is tropical in the north and sub-tropical in the south. Rain falls in summer between October and April. Mean annual rainfall is about 450 mm, with the highest level of 650 mm occurring in the extreme north-eastern tip of the country and the lowest of about 200-mm in south western tip. The average temperature is 240c, but during the summer it can rise to over 40oC and winter temperature can fall below freezing point at night. Long periods of below average rainfall interspersed with periods of above average rainfall in an approximate 20-year cycle.

The country's population is estimated at 1.3 million (1991 census) with a 3.5% growth rate. Botswana has a diverse range of natural resources, which include minerals such as diamonds, copper, nickel, manganese, some gold, coal, soda ash and semi- precious stones and other minerals. The vegetation type is open savannah woodland capable of supporting large numbers of wild and domestic animals. Major surface water is found in the north within the Okavango Delta system and Chobe. Main exports are diamonds, copper-nickel, beef, soda ash, textiles and vehicles.

1.2. Economy and economic policy

Botswana has a free market economy and it is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. The discovery of diamonds after independence drastically changed the country's picture from one of the poorest in Africa to one of the most progressive. Other major sources of foreign revenues are beef, copper-nickel, vehicles and recently tourism. Careful spending, creation of attractive conditions to foreign investors, diversification, sustainable management of natural resources, and human resource development were recognised as the basis for the good economy by the government's 8th National Development Plan. Much has been done to improve social services everywhere and infrastructure development. The problem of unemployment in both urban and rural areas still persists.

1.3. Political situation

Politically the country is considered to be one of the most stable in Africa. Botswana has about 10 political parties, with general elections every 5 years. The ruling party, Botswana Democratic Party has been in power since independence in 1966.


Trees and forests in Botswana are considered an important national resource because of the numerous products and services they provide. In this semi-arid country natural woodlands are vital to the lives of the urban and rural population since there are no major man-made plantations that could support them. These woodlands are major sources of building materials, fencing poles for arable lands, ranches, kraals, compounds, fuelwood, food and medicines. The woodlands support a wide range of biological diversity of flora and fauna, and are important for environmental protection.

As the population increases, the demand of various woodland products also increases. This trend causes localised shortages of forest resources, deforestation as well as degradation of land around settlements. These problems are clearly recognised by the government, hence the need for sustainable management of forest resources. Sustainable forest management is the management and the use of forests and wooded lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintain their bio-diversity and potential to fulfil, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national, and global levels, without causing any damage to other ecosystems (EC Council Regulations).

Traditional methods of attempting to manage these resources in a sustainable manner existed in the past in many parts of the country. Traditional chiefs protected many species threatened by extinction and some local beliefs also prevented over exploitation of some species. Tribal chiefs in villages regulated harvesting of forest resources. The traditional methods of managing resources collapsed after independence when landlords were established and empowered to control land. Currently some communities are beginning to realise the long-term impact of excessive harvesting of forest resources in their respective villages or districts.

Recently Tati District villages banned any form of cutting trees without permission from relevant local authorities. People from outside the district are prohibited to collect fuelwood or poles. Kgatleng District also imposed a complete ban on fuelwood collection by Government Departments, while Kweneng District is collecting levies on fuelwood traders. In Chobe local communities agreed to the exploitation of timber in the local reserves on conditions that 50% of the royalty fees paid by companies exploiting timber is spent on local development activities.

These restrictions on exploitation of forest resources declared by local communities may reduce depletion of these resources while promoting the use of substitutes. It also indicates that local communities can play a very important role in managing their resources without much support from government institutions.

Where initiatives by local people who have a sense of ownership and responsibility of their resources show willingness to conserve and manage resources carefully, institutional support does not interfere with their plans. Participation of stake-holders in management of forest resources is be encouraged.


3.1. Land ownership

There are basically three types of land tenure in Botswana:

Freehold: land owned by individuals or group who have exclusive rights or control over its use and the land can be transferred from one owner to another without obtaining permission from the state. It is 5% of the total land area of Botswana.

Tribal: different tribes throughout the country own land and its administration is through the Tribal Land Board under the authority of the Land Act. This land covers 71% of the country.

State: this type constitutes 24% of Botswana and it is owned by the state and is used at present in a number of ways.

Communal grazing for certain areas;

National needs such as National parks and Forests; and

Leasehold rights are given to individuals or groups over certain fenced areas.

3.2. Land use

Land in Botswana is extensively used in enterprises such as cattle and large scale arable farming. Besides agriculture, land is needed for uses such as industries and wildlife. The following are the main needs for the land:

National needs: public transport system, roads, railways and airports; urban areas and the development of new towns; industrial uses such as mining and areas concerned with the national heritage. Land for these needs is 1% of the country.

Agricultural needs: these are arable lands used for growing crops to sustain the population as well as grazing areas for the livestock industry. They cover about 79% of total land area.

Conservation needs: about 20% of Botswana are specified as areas for protection of natural resources of flora and fauna.

3.3. Natural forest resources

Natural woodlands and forests in Botswana account for about 93% of the total land area of 581,730 km2. However, it is only about 0.5% of the total area that is reserved for forest management. There are 6 forest reserves with a total area of 455,000 ha. in Chobe District. The reserves consist predominantly of Miombo woodlands, in which Mukusi (Baikiaea Plurijuga) and Mukwa (Pterocarpus Angolensis) dominate.

Chobe Forest Reserves are the only areas in Botswana where forest resource inventories have been undertaken through a project funded by NORAD between 1991 and 1992. The main objective of this inventory is to provide a management plan for sustained industrial timber production and exploitation as well as providing information on the multipurpose utilisation to satisfy local needs of forest products, protection and conservation of wildlife and flora.

The results of the inventory estimated the standing volume of all species to a minimum diameter of 5 cm at 10.4 million m3 in the 6 reserves. Total volume of primary commercial species Pterocarpus Angolensis and Baikiaea Pluriguga were 8% and 46% respectively. The project recommended monitoring of these reserves to assess their status in the future by measuring permanent sample plots after every 5 years. Very few of these plots were measured in 1996, but the results indicated a negative growth rate. The poor growth rate is attributed to wild fires and the increase of elephant population. Initial inventory results showed that elephants destroyed 18% of Mukwa in all reserves.

3.4. Planted forest resources

Total plantation area is estimated at about 1,200 ha. in the country. This comprises government and private woodlots, which are 85% and 15% respectively, the above-mentioned area. Woodlots were planted mainly with Eucalyptus species of unknown provenance. Data on production levels of these woodlots is lacking; hence it is impossible to reveal their status. Tietema (1986) estimated the yields of one of largest woodlots in Molepolole at 1.46 t/ha/year. It was concluded that this production is similar to that of unattended savannah woodland. It has been suggested that some indigenous species, which are more drought tolerant, could be more productive than exotic species such as Eucalyptus.


Exports of forest products in Botswana have not been recorded for many years. Since the suspension of timber exploitation in 1990 around Chobe and Nata State Land, where companies there were harvesting timber from a couple of timber concession areas and forest reserves and exporting round logs and sawn timber to Zimbabwe and South Africa, there has never been any formal export of forest products. Botswana relies on imports for nearly all-industrial forest products, and these are imported from the neighbouring states and overseas countries.

4.1. Woodfuels and wood energy

In Botswana fuelwood is a major source of energy for many households. Kronen (1989) revealed that 68% of the urban population uses woodfuels and in rural areas almost 100% of the dwellers rely on them, hence wood energy is considered an important resource in the energy sector of this country. Botswana Energy Master Plan (1986) estimated the annual consumption of firewood at 484,000 tons per annum. The importance of fuelwood as a source of energy for both urban and major settlements has promoted the trade of the resource between these centres and rural dwellers (Kgathi 1984). The trade is considered to be a source of income for many poor rural communities and it is used to supplement low agricultural productivity.

4.2. Wood supplies from non-forest areas

Wood supply sources are natural woodlands outside forest reserves and man-made plantations. Information on other supply sources is lacking, as there are insignificant tree planting activities going on in villages around the country.

4.3. Non-wood forest products (NWFP)

The country's non-wood forest products are essential for the well being of a majority of the population and vital to local economies and environment. These resources support rural families because they have direct access to them. Common NWFPs include food plants; forage that support livestock industry; handicrafts; medicinal plants; fibres and wildlife species. The basketry industry around Okavango Delta in Ngamiland and harvesting of mophane worms in north-east and Central Districts generate income for many families. The products attract both local and international markets.

4.4. Recreation and tourism

Botswana is becoming one of the most attractive destinations to tourists coming to southern Africa because of it's diverse and abundant wildlife resources which are primarily supported by the natural forests. Forests in northern Botswana are a home of more that 90,000 elephants.

4.5. Recycling and other re-use of fibre

Recycling facilities for any waste forest products have not yet been set up in Botswana. There is also lack of data of available regarding waste materials that could be recycled.


The country does not have a national forest policy, the existing legislation is enshrined in the forest act of 1968 which was designed for protection and administration of the forest reserves in the Chobe District. Botswana is now in the process of formulating a new national forest policy that will be coherent with policy, legal and institutional framework.

5.1. Forest management law and policy

The new proposed forest policy will cover the whole country and it's objectives clearly stipulate conservation and development of forest resources by taking into account other policies which have an impact on forestry. It also emphasises involvement of public and private sectors in the development of forestry.

5.2. Institutional strengthening and capacity building

The new policy defines the roles and mandate the administrative and functional structures of all stakeholders in forestry. Stakeholders include Government and non-governmental institutions; private sectors; and local or traditional institutions. The Government already recognises the role of NGOs in the development of the forestry sector. NGO's involved in forestry related research activities and training are receiving financial support from the Government. There are programs and schemes that have been designed to assist individuals or groups with materials and financial resources who venture into forestry businesses, the most common being the Financial Assistance Program.

Efforts to strengthen the capacity of the forestry sector started nearly 10 years ago when the Department of Crop Production and Forestry gave manpower development. Training of locals at various levels was undertaken by sending serving officers for advanced training and a local forestry training institution was established hence the manpower level increased several times from 14 trained staff to about 60 this year.

5.3. Environmental ISSUES

Botswana is addressing critical and diverse environmental issues as reflected by ratifying international conventions such as the Convention on Desertification, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on Wetlands. Sustainable forest management issues are clearly reflected in the proposed new forest policy.

5.4. The outlook for forest resources

Forestry inventories for the country's forest resources have been conducted in isolated areas and on an irregular basis, leading to a situation where little is known about the present uses of resources hence making it difficult for projection of demand and supply of most resources.


It is quite evident that the forestry sector in Botswana does not have any data that could guide the management in planning various forestry activities especially management of natural woodlands resources as well as in the few established woodlots. There is a need for the forestry sector to strengthen its capacity in collection and analysis of forestry data. It is impossible for any form of forest management to take place without knowledge of the quantity and quality of these resources. Despite the fact that Chobe Forestry Inventory Project provided useful information in an area that is about 0.5% of the total land area of Botswana, it will not be easy to produce forest management plans for the rest of the country. If areas already covered by the last inventory project are not properly monitored it will be difficult to know of any changes taking place in the Chobe Forest Reserves.

There is visual evidence of fast depletion of forest resource in many highly populated areas of Botswana although very little is known about the quantity and quality lost annually.

It is possible for the forestry sector in Botswana to establish a permanent unit, which will be responsible for data collection and analysis of forest resources. To set up this unit services of consultants who will train local technical and professional are recommended. Facilities for training purposes are already available within the MoA.


Botswana Energy Master Plan Report (1987) Ministry of Mineral Resources and water affairs.

Forestry protection and Development Project (1997) Final Report.

Field D.I., (1978) Basic Ecology for Range Management in Botswana.

Kgathi D.L, (1984) Firewood Trade between Botswana's Kweneng and Urban Gaborone: Employment Creation and Deforestation; FAB Journal 1984.

Kronen M, (1989) Biomass and Woodfuel Techniques.

Tietema T.; Merkesdal E.; Kgafela S. & Maembolwa J., (1986). The Productivity of Eucalyptus Plantations in Botswana: the case of the Molepolole Airstrip Plantation. FAB Journal 1986 -1987.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page