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People and the River



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Distribution of Economic Activities  

The basin supports a wide range of socio-economic activities from mining and industry to agriculture in the rural areas to government, finance and consumer services in the large urban centres.

The major cities of Gaborone, Francistown (Botswana), Pretoria, parts of Johannesburg and Polokwane (South Africa) and Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) are major water users, supplying water to industry, power stations and municipalities.  Outside of the cities water is drawn from boreholes, wells, sand pits and dams to be used in agriculture.  Rainfed subsistence agriculture is widely practiced in the basin but because of the unpredictable climate this is often an unreliable source of food and income (LBPTC 2010). 

The Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa.
Source: Hatfield 2009
( click to enlarge )
The city of Pretoria, South Africa, is a centre for commerce and government in the Limpopo River basin.
Source: Hatfield 2009
( click to enlarge )

Mining is present throughout the basin, with the majority in South Africa and Zimbabwe, but including Botswana and Mozambique. With projected increases in mining activity, it is expected that economic conditions will continue to improve in the basin. However, there are legitimate concerns that increased mining activities will lead to increased pressure on water resources.

Eco-tourism is another water user and important economic activity that takes place in the four riparian states (LBPTC 2010), with some of the largest and most established nature and game reserves in the SADC region located in the Limpopo River basin.

The table below provides a summary of the various socio-economic activities taking place in the riparian states of the basin.

A summary of socio-economic conditions and activities in the Limpopo River basin.

  Botswana Mozambique South Africa Zimbabwe
Population living in the basin (2007)
69 % (1,21 million). 7 % (1,39 million). 22 %(10,72 million).

10 % (1,14 million).

Agriculture 65 % of the population lives on agricultural holdings. Mostly rainfed subsistence farming. Small scale irrigated commercial farming in the Tuli Block. 80 % of the population is employed in the agricultural sector. The coastal zone of Gaza province is favourable for agriculture. Most families practice subsistence rainfed agriculture. Some irrigated commercial farming in Chokwé District (30 000 ha).

Rainfed subsistence farming in all 4 Water Management Areas (WMAs), irrigation farming in the Limpopo, Luvuvhu and Oliphants WMAs.

Natural vegetation (livestock grazing) and game farming in the Oliphants and Crocodile WMAs.

64 % of the population in the basin is employed in the agriculture sector. 55 % of these are communal subsistence farmers or workers. Irrigated commercial farming is found in Upper Mzingwane.

Tourism Games reserves, game farms and cultural sites. Beach tourism and national parks and game reserves.

Kruger National Park.

Eco-tourism activities in the Oliphants WMA.

Mining/ Industry A number of minesin the basin in Botswana. Area within the basin endowed with natural gas. All four WMAs have mining activities.  
Source of Income Remittances. Rainfed agriculture (unreliable). Livestock sales. Remittances. Rainfed agriculture (unreliable). Selling of cane, charcoal and firewood. Remittances. Rainfed agriculture (unreliable). Irrigated commercial farming. Formal employment. Remittances. Rainfed agriculture (unreliable).Livestock sales.
Adapted from: LBPTC (2010)



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