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People and the River



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Distribution of Economic Activities: Botswana  

Botswana maintained the highest average economic growth rate in the world, from 1966 to 1999, averaging approximately 9 % per year through this period. Over the last 35 years Botswana has graduated from a low income country to a middle income country (Government of Botswana 2009). This has been possible largely due to diamond mining, prudent fiscal policies, international financial and technical assistance, and a conservative foreign policy.

Diamond mining accounts for a third of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (35 %) and 70-80 % of its export earnings (World Fact Book 2009). Other key economic sectors in Botswana include tourism, livestock agriculture (cattle), subsistence farming and financial services.  However, despite the increase in economic growth, there continues to be unequal income distribution between the rural and the urban areas (World Fact Book 2009).

The majority of the area of Botswana in the Limpopo River basin is considered to be rural. There are six administrative districts found within the basin: North East; Central; Kgatleng; South East and parts of Kweneng. The main urban centres within the basin are Serowe, Selebi-Phikwe, Palapye, Mahalapye, Francistown, Mochudi and Gaborone, in addition to a small number of small and medium settlements (LBPTC 2010).


Agriculture contributes only 4 % to the GDP in Botswana; however, 65% of the total population in the Limpopo basin lives on agricultural holdings and many rely on agriculture as their livelihood (UNEP 2007 and LBPTC 2010). Most agricultural operations in the basin are at the subsistence level with an average farm size of 1 to 3 ha of land (LBPTC 2010). With an increasing population in the basin there has been a corresponding decrease in the farm holding size. Smaller holdings have forced livestock farmers to switch from the traditional cattle to smaller ruminants. Other trends have seen an increase in peri-urban production systems such as intensive enterprises focused on specialisation and market orientation, and large commercial scale operations.

The portion of Botswana in the Limpopo River basin.
Source: Hatfield 2010
( click to enlarge )


Although not as prevalent in the Limpopo basin as in other parts of Botswana, mining of copper, nickel and diamonds within the basin is an important contributor to the economy. In addition to these operational mines, there are also plans to mine coal at Morupule and Mmamabula.


Tourism is increasingly popular in Botswana with resident wildlife populations and sites of historical importance found along the Limpopo River and throughout the Tuli Block. There are a number of game reserves and sanctuaries located in the basin, including: Tati farms, Mashatu Game Reserve, Mokolodi Game Reserve, Gaborone Game Reserve, Limpopo-Lipadi, Khama Rhino Sanctuary and a number of other private game farms. Sites of historic importance that draw tourists are Lepokole, Tswapong, Shoshong Hills, Moremi Gorge, Domboshaba ruins (LBPTC 2010), Kobokwe (Livingstone) Cave and Matsieng Footprints.

Another notable feature popular with tourists is the Tropic of Capricorn (Latitude 23°26S"), which passes through, among others, the Central District of Botswana, inside the Limpopo River basin.

The rich wildlife resources of Botswana contribute significantly to the economy - Mashatu Game Reserve.
Source: Hatfield 2010
( click to enlarge )



Explore the sub-basins of the Limpopo River

Tour video scenes along the Limpopo related to People and the River

View a historical timeline of Limpopo basin countries, including water agreements & dam construction