Extreme Poverty in Botswana
The nation of Botswana, home to approximately 2.3 million people, has undergone an amazing change over the past three decades, transforming from an impoverished nation to one of the wealthiest nations in sub-Saharan Africa. While many of its neighbors have lagged behind—in fact, the United Nations classifies sub-Saharan Africa as the poorest region in the world—Botswana reduced the percentage of its population living on less than $1.90 a day from 29.8% between 2002-2003 to 16.1% between 2015-2016. What are the secrets to success in combatting extreme poverty in Botswana that have allowed it to prosper relative to its neighboring African nations?

A Brief Look at the History of Botswana

Botswana gained its independence from Great Britain in 1966 and quickly adopted a parliamentary constitutional republic. In fact, Botswana is the oldest democracy on the continent, though one party—the Botswana Democratic Party—has dominated elections since the adoption of the country’s constitution. Compared to its neighbors, Botswana began with a commitment to free enterprise, rule of law and individual liberties. Its first president, Seretse Khama, had a devotion to fighting corruption, which was critical to Botswana’s success.

To fight extreme poverty in Botswana, the country invested in four critical pillars: public institutions, education, economic diversification and women’s rights.

4 Pillars to Tackling Extreme Poverty in Botswana

  1. One of the most remarkable aspects of Botswana is its extraordinarily low levels of corruption as a result of institutional checks and balances. According to the 2017 Corruption Perception Index, Botswana was the least corrupt nation in Africa, with its score twice as high as the average sub-Saharan African nation. Botswana is one of only a handful of nations that outperform parts of Western Europe, with its score outpacing Spain in 2018. This is as a result of institutional checks and balances, including the Corruption and Economic Crime Act of 1994 and the development of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, an agency tasked with investigating and preventing corruption. As a resource-rich state known for diamond mining, Botswana was careful to prevent government employees from benefiting from what the nation’s first president deemed public resources.
  2. Botswana invests a considerable percentage of its GDP in education; this percentage was more than 20% in 2009. Botswana’s investment in education translated to a literacy rate of 87% in 2019, compared to a regional average of 65%. High rates of education have contributed to Botswana’s increased economic diversification and strong political stability, making the nation one of the more attractive places to do business in Africa.
  3. Smart economic development has contributed to Botswana’s high living standards and low corruption levels, placing it ahead of its peers. Botswana derived much of its early economic growth from diamond extraction which, among other exports, accounts for approximately 40% of Botswana’s GDP composition by end-use. However, consistent investment in other sectors of the economy has remained a strategy for the ruling party, and the government has increasingly diversified its economy towards the service sector and tourism jobs. Investment in conservation and wildlife has grown the tourism industry to approximately 14% of Botswana’s GDP,  nearly doubling since 1999. Remarkably, Botswana’s commitment to managing its domestic ecosystems allowed it to sign one of the first “debt-for-nature” agreements with the United States, which forgave more than $8 million in debt in exchange for the continued protection of the Okavango Delta and tropical forests.
  4. In addition to the high rates of women’s education and literacy, Botswana remains committed to a strong National Family Planning Policy and healthcare service. Botswana has experienced a rapid decline in fertility, according to the CIA World Factbook, with the total fertility rate falling from over five children per woman in the 1980s to 2.42 in 2021. Easy access to contraception and above-average rural and urban access to healthcare facilities have not only contributed to a decline in fertility but emboldened women’s rights and improved standards of living.

Botswana is by no means a perfect nation. It has extremely high rates of HIV/AIDS, like many of its African peers, and its single-party government has been criticized by some international organizations for suppressing competition. However, decades of consistent improvement in education and women’s rights, increased economic diversification, high levels of economic freedom and a commitment to fighting corruption have made Botswana the most prosperous nation in sub-Saharan Africa and a model for its peers.

– Saarthak Madan
Photo: Flickr

Botswana's Renewable Energy
Nearly half of Botswana’s population remains poor despite its economic strides. About 46% of children under the age of 15 are vulnerable to poverty. In 2013, UNDP measured Botswana’s rural areas as having the highest poverty rates with nearly 45% of people living below the poverty line. Botswana has abundant solar and biogas resources that it can harness to increase access to affordable, sustainable energy alternatives in rural populations while providing opportunities to grow local economies and jobs through investments in solar plants and biogas digesters. Leveraging natural sources such as these could alleviate Botswana’s reliance on more expensive imported petroleum sources and centralized electric grids. Communities can bridge the gap between their demand and supply with affordable, viable options that are sustainable. Current investment levels do not fully exploit the potential of Botswana’s renewable energy options.

About Botswana

With its stunning landscapes and majestic wildlife, Botswana has long been a magnet for travelers and adventurers the world over. Nestled and landbound between Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, deep in the Kalahari desert, some have touted Botswana as an economic and political success story in the region. The country has enjoyed sustained economic growth and political stability primarily due to its diamond and tourism industry.

Solar Power

Botswana has lots of sunshine. Per the World Bank, Botswana “has abundant solar energy resources receiving over 3,200 hours of sunshine per year with an average insolation on a horizontal surface of 21MJ/m2, one of the highest rates of insulation in the world.” With its annual sunshine among the highest globally, there is much potential for Botswana to advance its solar energy capabilities. The far-flung desert spaces of rural areas lend themselves well to establishing vast solar farms.

The Botswana government has indicated an interest in growing its renewable energy sector, hosting its first large workshop on the topic in 2014.

While adoption of solar technologies holds great promise for Botswana, legacy financial, policy and institutional frameworks are barriers. Botswana’s government has also highlighted a lack of knowledge on the evolving technologies and practices in the renewables area as a challenge to the advancement of its goals.

Biogas

Biogas, which producers generate from waste, has much potential as a renewable energy source. This type of energy source is useful in the generation of heat and power, replacing conventionally used fossil fuel sources, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions while recycling agro-waste such as cow-dung and chicken litter. The high quantities of manure from the large cattle population enable the necessary capacity to establish independent biogas-based power plants in addition to solar farms. Countries can explore methane capture technologies for local energy options while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Success Stories

The Botswana government is working strategically to diversify its energy sources and build resiliency in its energy sector by investing in new solar power plants. As of 2020, plans for building four new solar plants over the next six years for a cumulative 610MW capacity are underway.

The Biogas Project of Botswana supports the production and use of biogas for agro-waste producing farms and organizations. The project is a part of Botswana’s 11th National Development Plan (NDP11), seeking to promote equitable, affordable energy while reducing the country’s carbon footprint by leveraging renewable energy sources public-private partnerships. The Biogas Project intends to build 200 digesters with a focus on addressing the needs of current underrepresented and vulnerable parts of the community, such as women and children. One of its beneficiaries speaks of how it has reduced her fuel costs by relying on locally generated manure as well as eased her daily burdens of collecting firewood for her chores of cooking and other household needs.

Looking Ahead

Investment in renewable energy such as solar power and biogas technologies in rural Botswana empowers rural communities by reducing their reliance on imported fuels such as petroleum and large-scale centralized electric grids. Building renewable energy plants closer to rural communities bolsters rural economies, promotes autonomy and improves adaptability to changing energy circumstances and costs.

The U.N. has laid out key global objectives to achieve sustainable energy for all by 2030 that includes doubling the share of renewable energy globally. Given the plummeting costs of renewable sources in recent years, the government of Botswana is moving to articulate a renewal energy strategy as part of its overall energy objectives. Achieving self-sufficiency and establishing sustainable energy sources is of great importance to Botswana.

While Botswana has far to go in advancing these objectives, it shows promise in its abundant solar and other local energy resources to alleviate living conditions for the rural poor. Botswana should continue its path to sustainable, self-sufficient energy focusing on enabling private-public partnerships and investments in solar power programs. The country will benefit from the expertise, learnings and perspectives of collaborators worldwide. It is well-positioned to meet its challenges in alleviating rural poverty with thoughtful investments in Botswana’s renewable energy sector, given its historically stable governance, well-regarded global economic standing and long hours of sunlight.

– Mala Rajamani
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in BotswanaBotswana’s 1969 Mental Disorders Act, Chapter 63:02, describes a person with mental illness as a “mentally disordered or defective person” who cannot handle their own affairs and is a danger to themselves or others due to an existing mental condition; and in the case of a child, one who cannot benefit from ordinary education. The Act does not permit the detaining in an institution of persons with mental illness except where cases fall under the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.

A patient’s next of kin who is an adult or any other person at least 21 years of age who has seen the patient within the last 14 days may apply for a reception order to the District Commissioner, who in turn liaises with a medical practitioner on referral and treatment protocols. If the patient does not comply, the District Commissioner is allowed to use law enforcement and can choose to carry out the processes of the reception order either privately or publicly. The District Commissioner also has the responsibility to safeguard the patient’s personal belongings and to allow a willing person to provide caregiving in the case of a Class III patient (one who does not require skilled medical care, failure to which is punishable by law).

Currently, mental health in Botswana is guided by the mental health policy drawn in 2003 that is now fully implemented and in line with human rights agreements.

Botswana’s Mental Health Services

Botswana is an upper-middle-income country with a population of 2.3 million and a physician-patient ratio of 0.5 to 1,000. As of 2014, Botswana had a total of 361 inpatient mental health professionals and a ratio of 17.7 mental health workers to 100,000 people. Nurses made up the highest proportion of these professionals at 12.17, and psychiatrists were fewest at 0.29 to a population of 100,000 with one mental hospital and five psychiatric units across different general hospitals. In 2014, there were 46 mental hospital inpatients, 6% of whom were involuntarily admitted. Of all inpatients, 93% stayed less than one year.

The University of Botswana and the U.N. partnered to promote mental health in Botswana. In a 2019 forum, the university vice-chancellor reported that the most prevalent mental and neurological disorders were schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorders and depression, with the majority of patients being males. In 2010, 14,481 Batswana youth aged 15-34 had a mental disorder. The Ministry of Health and Wellness representative pointed to risks of alcohol abuse among the youth dealing with mental health challenges and the U.N. Regional Representative encouraged students to build stress resilience and coping. The university offers mental health services to students through a psychiatric nurse, who can also make advanced care referrals where necessary.

The country also has mental health promotion programs for children as well as an alcohol abuse prevention program for all age groups across the country. The Botswana Network for Mental Health, a subsidiary of the global Mental Health Network (MHN), aims to promote mental health in Botswana through advocacy and community empowerment activities. The organization further addresses the stigma associated with mental illness and helps people access mental health care.

Traditional Systems

Botswana’s constitution makes provision for the House of Chiefs, or Ntlo ya Dikgotsi, a 15-member non-partisan system, of which seven of the members are Dikgotsi (chiefs) representing the different tribes. Eight are elected by their jurisdictions, four of whom are Dikgotsana (sub-chiefs). At the grassroots is the Kgotla, which serves as a local court system and informs parliament on community affairs, a go-between on local and tribal matters including property and customary law.

This Kgotla further encourages free expression in the community by providing a platform for open dialogue for conflict resolution. The Kgotla also handles minor criminal offenses and can take disciplinary action on wayward behavior. The Kgotla thereby promotes community cohesion and psychosocial health for overall mental health in Botswana.

Reforms in Mental Health in Botswana

Despite some human rights inadequacies in the 1969 Mental Health Act, mental health in Botswana has improved over the years, becoming increasingly compliant with WHO’s directives as stipulated in the 2003 mental health policy. The traditional systems of government have also boosted social cohesion, thereby promoting mental health in Botswana.

– Beth Warūgūrū Hinga
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Botswana
To understand human trafficking in Botswana, the following rudimentary information may prove useful. Human trafficking, or modern slavery as some call it, is a worldwide problem. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), over 40 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016. One can break this number down further into 16 million people exploited in the private sector, 15.4 million in forced marriages, 4.8 million in involuntary sex work and 4 million in state induced labor, such as forced labor during incarceration.

About the Victims of Trafficking and Violation Protection Act (TVPA)

In 2000, the U.S. government passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA). This law outlined the minimum requirements necessary to end human trafficking worldwide and created an office in the State Department to measure the U.S. and other countries’ progress in fulfilling this goal.

To track this progress, the State Department partners with foreign governments to collect data on the effectiveness of anti-trafficking efforts globally. Th State Department then uses this information to create profiles for individual nations. The State Department ranks these profiles in a four-tier system. In descending order, the tiers are Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List and Tier 3. Tier 1 indicates that a country’s government meets the TVPA’s minimum requirements, while Tier 3 indicates that a country’s government has failed to meet the minimum requirements and is making little effort to do so.

The State Department publishes these rankings annually in the Trafficking in Persons Report. In each government’s profile, the State Department provides recommendations to help a government improve its ranking and eliminate trafficking. As such, the TIP Report is an important informational tool for U.S. State officials, NGOs and advocates when creating action plans to combat trafficking.

The Situation in Botswana

Botswana, a country north of South Africa and east of Namibia, meets the criteria for being a Tier 2 country. This means that, while the country does not meet all of the TVPA’s standards, it is making progress in eliminating trafficking.

There are two main types of human trafficking in Botswana. The first is the international variety. On this level, Botswana is a starting, middle or endpoint in human trafficking. Traffickers take Batswana (Botswana natives) to neighboring countries like Zimbabwe, while they take others, such as Ethiopians and Tanzanians, through or to Botswana.

One of the most common types of human trafficking to occur involves the sexual exploitation of women. In Botswana, the female unemployment rate was at 21.76% in 2020 (over twice the unemployment rate during the Great Recession in the U.S.). Traffickers exploit this weakness through fake job offers and advertisements on social media.

The second type of human trafficking in Botswana is more culturally ingrained. It is not uncommon for the rural poor to send their children to stay at an affluent relative’s place, under the assumption that the relative will provide the child with care and education. In reality, the relative usually exploits the child for free labor while denying the child an education. According to Madoda Nasha, deputy manager of Botswana’s Department of Trafficking in Persons, Batswana view this type of behavior as natural and, as such, hardly ever report it.

A New Beginning

A cornerstone to the government’s ability to combat human trafficking in Botswana is the Anti Human Trafficking Act, which criminalized sex and labor trafficking, as well as child labor. This law established protective services, such as care centers and a victim fund. Finally, it set up the Human Trafficking Prohibition Committee, which oversees the implementation of these services.

Although the Anti Human Trafficking Act shows great progress, it is not without its faults. This act can sentence a trafficker to up to 25 years in prison, a fine or both. Since a trafficker can get away with only a fine, it is far more lenient than punishments for other violent crimes, such as rape. Furthermore, judges and prosecutors often lack knowledge of this law, which impedes efforts to convict traffickers to its fullest extent.

Recent Advancements

To address some of the failings of the Anti Human Trafficking Act, the government amended the law in 2018 to include higher fines and for prison terms to include life sentences. The same year, the government amended its penal code. The Penal Code Amendment of 2018 raised the age of consent to 18 and introduced harsher sentences for violent crimes. Lastly, victim protection services have seen an increase in government funding in recent years, rising from $41,930 in 2017 to $346,100 in 2019.

Furthermore, Botswana actively participates in fighting human trafficking at the international level. For example, between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020, Botswana identified 31 foreign trafficking victims in its country and worked with countries as close as Zimbabwe and as far as Nigeria. Additionally, since Botswana is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), it also participates in the organization’s data collection and sharing efforts, as well as public outreach and awareness efforts.

Lastly, the Mandela Washington Fellows (MWF), the flagship program of the United States’ Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), have implemented projects to fight human trafficking in Botswana. It has launched a website aimed at aiding civil society organizations and NGOs by providing them with international standard operating procedures for dealing with human trafficking victims. This allows for these groups to fast track response and victim care. Additionally, MWF is a prominent force in raising awareness through community projects, social media and its work with the government of Botswana.

Despite all these advancements, there is still room for improvement, as outlined by the TVPA’s standards. However, if the last six years are any indicator of what is to come, Botswana could have a safe, slavery-free future.

– Riley Behlke
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Botswana
Botswana, considered one of Africa’s most politically stable countries, has seen a recent victory in the fight for women’s rights and gender equality. Here is some information about women’s rights in Botswana.

A Recent Victory

In September 2020, President Mokgweetsi Masisi amended the 2015 Land Policy to give married women in Botswana the right to own land. Previously, married women were only eligible to own land if their husbands did not. The policy excluded not only married women but widows and single mothers as well, which left millions of women affected.

Tshegofatso Mokibelo, a 38-year-old widowed financial analyst, received a denial when she applied for a residential plot of land, as her late husband had owned a plot previously and his family had since claimed it. “Women also have the right to own land,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

This recent amendment gives both men and women equal rights to own land.

More Good News

“Botswana will be a society where all men and women have equal opportunity to actively participate in the economic, social, cultural, and political development of their country.”

Botswana’s Vision 2036, one of its various initiatives towards improving the republic, promises progress for women’s rights. Since the U.N.’s Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, the country has made several commitments to gender equality and women’s rights in Botswana. These commitments include its ratification of The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1996, The Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme and the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015.

The progression toward women’s rights in Botswana has led to notable successes in education. Botswana has almost equal enrollment rates for girls and boys at every level in school. In fact, a Gender Parity Index report in 2012 favored girls at both the secondary school and tertiary education levels. More recently, UNICEF reported the GPI for primary education in 2014 as favoring girls, indicating improvement. However, according to the Sustainable Development Report, challenges remain in this area.

Other positive strides include equality within the labor force, reported as achieved in the Sustainable Development Report and having one of the lowest adolescent birth rates in Africa at 50 per 1,000 population, ages 15-19.

Gender Equality

According to the Sustainable Development Report, significant challenges remain in the effort to achieve the gender equality goal. Seats that women held in parliament, for example, are reported as stagnating with “major challenges remaining.” According to statistics from the World Bank, the proportion of seats that women held in parliament has decreased from 17% in 2000 to 9.5% in 2018.

The dual legal system in Botswana, a consequence of colonization, also creates complications in achieving gender equality. Customary laws that currently exist in Botswana discriminate against women. However, Botswana’s government has engaged itself in talks with traditional leaders since 2012 on how to bring women’s rights into customary law. This has resulted in several community groups establishing Gender Committees to open discourse around gender inequality.

Gender-based Violence

One of the greatest remaining challenges, which the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated, is gender-based violence. In July 2020, the current Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Anna Mokgethi, revealed an unprecedented increase in reports of gender-based violence since the April 2020 lockdown.

According to The United Nations Population Fund, over 67% of women in Botswana have experienced abuse. In order to combat this, the UNFPA is working with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and several organizations to provide gender-based violence prevention and access to services for those at risk.

One of the NGOs working to eradicate gender-based violence in Botswana is the Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre. It offers prevention programs such as community outreach and education, as well as several services that gender-based violence personally affects. Kgomotso Kelaotswe, Counselor Supervisor for the NGO reported that during the lockdown period, 155 clients sought shelter at the organization, 67 clients received hotline counseling services and a further 50 obtained assistance through the short line message service.

Botswana continues to face challenges in the fight for women’s rights. However, the government’s commitment to tackling these challenges remains promising.

– Emma Maytham
Photo: Flickr

Equal Land Ownership
On September 17, 2020, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced that wives will now be able to own land independently from their husbands. This is an amendment to the 2015 Land Policy that prevented women from owning land independently if their husband was already a landowner or even co-owning land equally along with their husbands. Botswana, a landlocked country located in Africa, had also prevented widowed women from inheriting their deceased husband’s property. Because people considered women to be their husband’s property, the deceased husband’s inheritance would then pass down to a male relative, leaving the widow without any land to live or work on. Now that Botswana gives women equal land ownership, wives can regain independence inside of marriage. Married women are able to choose their own plot of land, which includes both state-owned and tribal land.

Measures Toward Equal Land Ownership

Unmarried women could purchase land after the 2015 Land Policy passed, but married women and widows had always experienced exclusion from this right. Additionally, husbands had the power to sell a property without consulting their wives, preventing them from having access to land used to work. Because Botswana gives women equal land ownership, wives are now equal to their husbands.

As an extra measure, President Masisi encouraged non-governmental organizations to teach women about their rights. Women will also have access to legal support to assist them in securing their success as landowners. This additional project will ensure the enforcement of the amendment so that as many women as possible can benefit from it.

This amendment is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as widows previously could not inherit their husband’s land. Widows face the threat of becoming social outcasts and typically have no choice but to marry male relatives to grant security. Now that Botswana gives women equal land ownership, widows are able to support themselves and remain independent.

Women in Agriculture in Botswana

Land ownership is especially important for women in order to make a living from farming. About 80% of Botswana’s population are farmers, the majority being single women who can own land. Married women now will have an equal opportunity to work and contribute to their family income. Less than one month after President Masisi’s announcement, 53% of the 620,660 people on a waitlist to purchase property were women according to Botswana’s land audits reports. Globally, only 15% of female farmers own land, despite women making up the majority of farmworkers. Because an agricultural-based country like Botswana gives women equal land ownership, it is certain to have an impact on inspiring global farmers.

When announcing the new amendment, President Masisi said “The Botswana Land Policy 2015 was discriminatory against married women and did not give them equal treatment with men, and I am happy to report that this discriminatory sub-section has since been repealed.”

Botswana certainly has a long way to go with securing women’s rights, but protecting widows and granting wives equality to their husbands is a huge step in the right direction. Botswana’s recognition of married women’s rights to own land promises further advancements in women’s rights.

– Karena Korbin
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in BotswanaLocated in Southern Africa, Botswana is categorized as a middle-income country, making it one of the most economically stable countries on the continent. Botswana models an egalitarian philosophy with judicial respect toward human rights following its Constitution adopted in 1966. Equal and affordable housing has been a pillar of the country’s rhetoric. However, in recent years, with growing population density and uncertain job prospects, cost-effective housing is no longer guaranteed. Here’s what you need to know about homelessness in Botswana.

6 Facts About Homelessness in Botswana

  1. In Botswana, land is divided by locally elected officials who serve on land boards. Members of the board allocate pieces of land to citizens free of charge. As 79% of the country consists of viable land for agriculture and recreational use, selling property personally is illegal.
  2. Nearly one-third of Botswana’s population lives in peri-urban areas outside of the capital. In recent years, the country’s extraordinary population growth has led to a large population of squatters outside of Gaborone, the nation’s capital and largest city. Since the 1990s, the number of people living within Gaborone and its periphery has increased by 90%. The reason for this large and sudden migration is a shrinking interest in agriculture. People move closer to the city in search of work. But the cities are not equipped for such a high concentration of people, and the government is slow-moving in processing land requests. As such, citizens have to to fend for themselves. Because of this land scarcity, landowners are dividing their property and charging rent.
  3. The government objects to this unofficial market for a few reasons. The first is that people see land as being sacred. For the government, citizens do not own land but instead enjoy it as a customary right. The second reason is that goods and services such as electricity, water and sewage are harder to distribute if the land is cluttered with unregistered housing. In some cases, when squatters settle in unused agricultural land, the government believes that the land is wasted. A piece of agricultural land populated with 5,000 squatters could have held 20,000 to 25,000 households if divided correctly.
  4. The government received backlash in 2001 when more than 2,000 squatters’ homes were demolished. Citizens firstly disagreed with the government’s choice to not address the faults of the land allocations that had forced people to live in unregistered housing. They also expressed their distaste for the apathetic manner in which the homes were destroyed. Since then, some communication has occurred between Botswana citizens and the government regarding the tradition of sacred land and the opportunities present in an open market.
  5. Due to the lack of available land and the consequences of living on unregistered property, some citizens’ living conditions are less than sufficient. Many areas are overcrowded. In addition, citizens often face a lack of water, sanitation and electricity. As a result, their settlements come to be marked as slums. The most recent data on the population density in Botswana slums was taken in 2001. It reported that 61% of citizens lived in slums, which means that Botswana has a high prevalence of slums. Generally, the prevalence of slums is higher in countries that rely on government land distribution like Botswana.
  6. Administrative land allocation can be slow and unorganized, but it can also be discriminatory. In Botswana, citizens who earn less than $630 a year are denied housing. This is due to their presumed inability to pay their housing fees. As a result, this contributes to the issue of homelessness in Botswana. Furthermore, citizens who make less than $3,439 do not qualify for building loans, which prevents them from constructing a home.

Moving Toward Change

In 2016, Botswana’s Ministry of Lands and Housing held a national workshop to discuss the Participatory Slum Upgrading Program. The Participatory Slum Upgrading Program is a plan that incorporates Sustainable Development Goals to assess and address the needs of slum dwellers. Additionally, the ministry announced its $150,000 budget for the improvement of living conditions. This plan primarily focuses on areas of basic services such as access to clean water, adequate space, sanitation and electricity. Along with the Homeless and Poor People’s Federation of Botswana, the ministry plans to legalize an open housing market and privatized land allocation.

Another organization rising to meet the challenge of housing is the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), which focuses on child welfare and builds halfway homes. These homes serve as an in-between living space for homeless children who have been abandoned by family members or left as orphans. They stay in halfway homes, which also accommodate adults and caregivers, before they are given proper placement. Each home features a lounge, kitchen, rest area, bathroom, office and storage space. In addition, the BDF helps build homes, collect trash and establish community gardens.

Things have changed since Botswana’s land and agricultural rights policy. Citizens and larger organizations are working to balance the government’s emphasis on law in order and the benefits of an open market. The return to affordable housing could be the tipping point citizens are looking for to change the current state of economic inequality and eliminate homelessness in Botswana.

Alexa Tironi

Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in BotswanaBotswana is a southern African country with just over 2 million residents living inside its borders. Every Batswana lives with the threat of tuberculosis, an infectious disease that remains one of the top 10 causes of death on the African continent. Tuberculosis has a 50% global death rate for all confirmed cases. Investing in tuberculosis treatments and prevention programs is essential. Botswana has one of the highest tuberculosis infection rates in the world with an estimated 300 confirmed cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. Preventative and community-based treatment shows promise in combating tuberculosis in Botswana.

Treating Tuberculosis in Botswana

Tuberculosis treatment cures patients by eliminating the presence of infectious bacteria in the lungs. The first phase of treatment lasts two months. It requires at least four separate drugs to eliminate the majority of the bacteria. Health workers administer a second, shorter phase of treatment to minimize the possibility of remaining bacteria in the lungs.

Early identification of tuberculosis is a crucial step in the treatment process and significantly reduces the risk of patient death, according to the Ministry of Health. Preventative treatment methods are vital because they inhibit the development of tuberculosis infection. They also reduce the risk of patient death significantly.

Health workers detect tuberculosis with a bacteriological examination in a medical laboratory. The U.S. National Institutes of Health estimate that a single treatment costs $258 in countries like Botswana.

Involving the Community

Botswana’s Ministry of Health established the National Tuberculosis Programme (BNTP) in 1975 to fight tuberculosis transmission. The BNTP is currently carrying out this mission through a community-based care approach that goes beyond the hospital setting. Although 85% of Batswana live within three miles of a health facility, it is increasingly difficult for patients to travel for daily tuberculosis treatment. This is due to the lack of transportation options in much of the country.

Involving the community requires the training and ongoing coordination of volunteers in communities throughout the country to provide tuberculosis treatment support. Community-based care also improves treatment adherence and outcome through affordable and feasible treatment.

The implementation of strategies such as community care combats tuberculosis. For example, it mobilizes members of the community to provide treatment for tuberculosis patients. The participation of community members also provides an unintended but helpful consequence. For example, community participation helps to reduce the stigmas surrounding the disease and reveals the alarming prevalence of tuberculosis in Botswana.

A Second Threat

In addition to the tuberculosis disease, the HIV epidemic in Africa has had a major impact on the Botswana population, with 20.3% of adults currently living with the virus. Patients with HIV are at high risk to develop tuberculosis due to a significant decrease in body cell immunity.

The prevalence of HIV contributes to the high rates of the disease. The level of HIV co-infection with tuberculosis in Botswana is approximately 61%. African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP), a nonprofit health development organization, provides TB/HIV care and prevention programs in 16 of the 17 districts across the country in its effort to eradicate the disease.

Fighting Tuberculosis on a Global Scale

The World Health Organization (WHO) hopes to significantly reduce the global percentage of tuberculosis death and incident rates through The End TB Strategy adopted in 2014. The effort focuses on preventative treatment, poverty alleviation and research to tackle tuberculosis in Botswana, aiming to reduce the infection rate by 90% in 2035. The WHO plans to reduce the economic burden of tuberculosis and increase access to health care services. In addition, it plans to combat other health risks associated with poverty. Low-income populations are at greater risk for tuberculosis transmission for several reasons including:

  • Poor ventilation
  • Undernutrition
  • Inadequate working conditions
  • Indoor air pollution
  • Lack of sanitation

The WHO emphasizes the significance of global support in its report on The End TB Strategy stating that, “Global coordination is…essential for mobilizing resources for tuberculosis care and prevention from diverse multilateral, bilateral and domestic sources.”

– Madeline Zuzevich
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in botswana
Botswana, a country in Southern Africa, has a total population of around 2.3 million people, with women making up 52% of that number. Since gaining independence from Britain in 1966, the country enjoys a stable democracy with an upper-middle-income profile. As of 2017, the gross national income per capita was $16,123. As of 2017, male life expectancy was 67 years, and for females, 71 years.

Tuberculosis, AIDS and other communicable diseases cause a high percentage of the illnesses and deaths in Botswana. Although healthcare in Botswana is improving, the country needs to ramp up its services and improve education. Here are eight facts about healthcare in Botswana.

8 Facts About Healthcare in Botswana

  1. Decentralized Healthcare System: Botswana comprises 27 health districts, including mobile locations, clinics and hospitals. Healthcare services are available at almost no cost for citizens. In addition to the treatment of common illnesses, the aim is to provide complementary preventive and rehabilitative services.
  2. Incidence of Tuberculosis: According to a 2016 study in The Lancet, Botswana had a Healthcare Access and Quality Index score–on a scale of 0-100, with the best performance–of only 24 regarding tuberculosis; for diseases such as Diptheria, it scored significantly higher (100). Botswana has some success in reducing cases of TB: in 2018, the incidence rate was 275 per 100,000 people, down from 326 in 2016.
  3. Targeted Services Needed for HIV/AIDS: Despite giving free antiretroviral treatment (ART) to those living with HIV, Botswana is still one of the most HIV-affected countries, with the fourth-highest HIV prevalence. As of 2018, there were 370,000 people living with HIV in Botswana. The adult HIV prevalence (ages 15-49) is 20.3%. There were 4,800 AIDS-related deaths in 2018 and 8,500 new HIV infections. Low testing rates and low levels of knowledge about the disease have kept the rates high. Only half of the people who are most at risk are able to access targeted services to a lack of them. Forced marriage and gender-based violence are increasing the epidemic in women. Strict laws against homosexuality make HIV prevention difficult. HIV prevalence among young people has seen little improvement, with a 6% prevalence in 2006 in comparison to 5.4% among young men and 10.2% among young women in 2016. In 2018, however, new infections were at an 8,500 count, down from 10,000 in 2010. AIDS-related deaths decreased from a high of 18,000 in 2002 to 4,800 in 2018. The decrease may be due to Botswana’s universal free ART program. The program, which began in 2002, is one of the most successful of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2016, estimates determined that 298,000 adults in Botswana were receiving ART.
  4. Mosquito-Borne Illness a Concern: Malaria cases increased in recent years with 283 cases in 2015, 691 cases in 2016 and 232 cases in 2018. However, this is a reduction in cases from 2006, when reports determined there were 2,606 cases. In this regard, healthcare in Botswana has room for improvement. In 2018, along with 15 other countries, Botswana signed the Windhoek Declaration, a proposal to reinvigorate efforts to eliminate malaria. The declaration calls for each country to extend its resource allocation and policies toward eliminating the disease along with improving accountability through tracking progress. A new malaria vaccine called RTS,S/AS01 emerged in June 2019. Botswana’s Ministry of Health is hoping that it will help to eliminate the mosquito-borne illness entirely.
  5. It Takes a Village: On a positive note, Botswana implemented a free school health program, including a team that tries to visit all public schools regularly. Dental therapists, nutrition officers and social welfare officers offer services. The probability of a child dying under the age of 5 is 37.27 per 1,000 live births in 2018, down from 38.23 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2017.
  6. A Decrease in Measles Cases: With 8,605 cases, 2010 was a record year for suspected measles–but in 2016, the number fell to 236. This was due to the annual campaign to immunize children under the age of 5 for measles.
  7. Improvement in Maternal Mortality Rate: Botswana’s maternal mortality ratio dropped from 151.6 per 100,000 live births in 2016 to 133.7 in 2018. The government’s goal is to decrease the ratio to under 70 deaths per 100,000 by 2030. In other good news, estimates determined that 99.8% of all births have taken place in a health facility with the supervision of a skilled health professional.
  8. COVID-19 Update: Botswana is taking strong measures to fight the pandemic. On June 13, 2020, the capital city of Gaborone returned to extreme lockdown after there were eight new COVID-19 cases at one hospital. On June 16, 2020, the lockdown ended. Four additional cases brought the total number of cases in the country to 175, with one death.

Healthcare in Botswana is improving. According to a study that The Lancet conducted, Botswana rose to the fourth decile in Healthcare Access and Quality Index (HAQ) between 1990 and 2000. Botswana now ranks 122 out of 195 countries, with a HAQ index of 52, having risen from an index of 39.7 in 2000. Botswana’s total spending on health per capita (International $, 2014) was $871, and total spending on health as a percentage of GDP was 5.4%. These facts about healthcare in Botswana show that the country should increase spending on healthcare and improve education about communicable diseases. Accomplishing these goals should improve the general health of its populace.

– Sarah Betuel
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in Botswana
For a wealthier African country, the prominence of hunger in Botswana may be surprising. Botswana is considered a high middle-income country with several strong industries, particularly mining diamonds. The exports of diamond mining produce roughly 70% of the country’s GDP. Despite being wealthy in diamonds, however, the country is poor in food. Compared to such behemoths as the diamond industry, agriculture makes up a minuscule 3% of the economy. From 2016 to 2018, 70% of Botswana’s population faced moderate to severe food insecurity and 26% were malnourished, most of these cases occurring in poor, urban communities. The country has a large wealth gap between its wealthy and poor citizens, and it is the poor that shoulder the burden of food insecurity and malnourishment.

Inconsistent Food Production

One of the root causes of food insecurity is poor and inconsistent food production. Botswana’s farmers are hampered by a tempestuous climate that threatens frequent droughts. The Kalahari Desert extends into the country and the arid climate causes large temperature fluctuations; this makes growing crops extremely difficult. There are few crops that can grow in even the most favorable conditions in Botswana. The four main crops that can be raised are maize, millet, cowpeas and sorghum. Even though these crops can survive, however, only 0.65% of Botswana’s land is suitable for farming, and on this fraction of farmland, droughts are still frequent. In 2018, drought eliminated 75% of the nation’s crops.

Due to these unfavorable conditions, most agrarian practices revolve around herding cattle. 85% of agricultural output in Botswana comes from animal products. Only recently, because of several droughts shrinking herds, has the number of people living in Botswana surpassed the number of cows, which are essential for many rural Botswanans. Drought can kill most of a herd and destroy a farmer’s livelihood. In a four-year time period from 2011 to 2015, the cattle population of Botswana dropped from 2.5 million to 1.7 million because of severe weather.

A Reliance on Imports

Some Botswanans eat beef from their own cattle, but they still must look elsewhere for the remainder of their diet. Because they cannot produce much on their own, much of Botswana’s food is imported from surrounding countries, mainly South Africa. In 2018, Botswana brought in $380 million USD worth of food from South Africa to feed its people. While it is beneficial that Botswana’s next-door neighbor can supply them with a majority of their food, supply chains are not as reliable as domestic production. This has become evident as the COVID-19 pandemic has burdened South African production and supply chains. Hunger in Botswana is expected to rise over the coming months.

Next Steps

There is a serious lack of consistent food production in Botswana, and it is responsible for the malnutrition and food insecurity that plagues many citizens. Looking to combat this issue, Go Fresh!, an award-winning startup company, has brought grade-one vegetable production to Botswana. Using greenhouses and hydroponics, the company is able to produce quality vegetables throughout the entire year. With this new technology, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and other large vegetables can be grown locally instead of coarse traditional crops. Hydroponics also reduces the amount of water needed in the arid climate: plants require 2% the water of normal commercial farming. As modern farming technology continues to improve, Botswana will be able to shoulder a greater load of food production, helping to aid the crisis of hunger in Botswana.

Brett Muni
Photo: Flickr