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Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture


The main institutions involved in the water management are:

  • The Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Affairs (MMEWA) is responsible for national water policy. There are two water supply units under the Ministry, the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) and the Water Utilities Corporation (WUC), which are responsible for managing the country’s water supply systems. The WUC is responsible for supplying water to all urban and mining centres. The DWA is the lead agency in water resources and provides support to the National Conservation Strategy Agency in the implementation of the National Conservation Strategy (Okavango), and is responsible for supplying water to the 17 major villages;
  • In some situations, such as in the livestock and agricultural sector, water provision is the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and its Irrigation Section (IS), established in 1982 under the Department of Crop Production and Forestry within the Land Utilization Division. The MoA constructs small dams in farming areas used for livestock and assists syndicates (user groups);
  • In the rural areas, the District Councils under the Ministry of Local Government, Lands and Housing (MLGLH), oversee the water supply to rural villages.

Water management and finances

Until 1993 the MoA supplied water to farmers at no charge. Farmers were responsible for operating and maintaining the dams, which mainly involved building and maintaining fencing around the dams and keeping the spillways in good repair. In 1993 the ministry changed its policy and asked farmers to contribute 15 percent of dam construction costs. The ministry also gives grants to syndicates to finance a portion of the costs of sinking boreholes for livestock watering. Syndicates operate and maintain the boreholes, but pay nothing for the water. They are required to obtain water rights from the Water Apportionment Board, which are free of charge.

The National Development Plan 8 (NDP 8) consists of the construction of 30 small agricultural dams, maintenance and rehabilitation of existing dams, assisting farmers in establishing small-scale irrigation schemes and promoting the utilization of treated effluent for irrigated crop production. In order to implement NPD 8, the government earmarked the sum of US$3.1 million for the period 1997/98 - 2002/03.

Policies and legislation

There are three main categories of land tenure: state land (25 percent), freehold land (5 percent) and tribal land (70 percent). State land consists of national parks and game reserves, forest reserves, wildlife management areas, and urban areas. Freehold land is used mainly for cattle ranching. Tribal land, which is either communal or leasehold, constitutes most of the national territory. All Batswana, irrespective of sex, are entitled to use communal land for residential, commercial or agricultural purposes. Responsibility for the allocation and supervision of tribal land, once the responsibility of traditional chiefs, now rests with local Land Boards. The land cannot be sold and generally stays within the same family indefinitely as long as it is used for the allocated purpose. The ownership of a borehole on tribal land, however, gives the owner de jure rights to the groundwater and de facto rights to the surrounding grazing land, as well as woodland and veldt products.

The National Water Supply and Sanitation Plan was written in 1999. The main objective was to estimate water demand and availability and the development potential of the water resources. Related legislation comprises the Water Act, the Water Utilities Corporation Act, the Aquatic Weeds (Control) Act and Orders, the Boreholes Act, the Waterworks Act, the Town Councils (Public Sewers) Regulations and the Mines and Minerals Act.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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