Botswana has been an economic miracle. One of the ten poorest countries in the world at independence in 1966, it has since become a middle income country, mainly due to good governance, and the discovery and mining of the world’s richest diamond fields (see also Distribution of Economic Activities). Despite this success, critical economic and social challenges confront Botswana: the need to diversify the economy; ability to implement policies, programmes and projects; unemployment; poverty; vulnerability to climatic changes, and changes in the world prices of its major commodities.

Within the Limpopo River basin the majority of population 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 (capital city) (LBPTC 2010). These cities have populations ranging from 17 362 to 39 769. There are four smaller cities, Tonota, Bobonong, Mmadinare and Masunga and several smaller settlements scattered throughout the predominantly rural region of the basin (LBPTC 2010).

Gaborone is the capital city of Botswana. Source: Hatfield 2011


Development Priorities and Needs

Urban regions in Botswana have been the focus of development, while rural regions are characterised by low productivity, deteriorating natural-resource bases, absolute poverty, high mortality rates and lower life expectancy. As a result, there has been migration from rural to urban areas, with the latter growing at up to 10% annually. Some of the major causes of relocation include (Gwebu 2004):

  • Low agricultural commodity prices, which make agriculture an unattractive occupation even in good rain seasons, coupled with weak agricultural marketing systems and policies;
  • Land-use conversion from subsistence to commercial tenure, leading to either absorption or displacement of certain rural communities;
  • Rapid rural population growth, leading to population pressure, which manifests itself as unemployment, over-exploitation and degradation of the environmental resource base; and
  • Periodic droughts and desertification, which have forced the rural population to relocate to the larger centres to access a reliable water supply, drought relief rations, and work.

(Source: Gwebu 2004)

A significant number of urban households engage in farming and consider their rural home as their true home. This sense persists for a very long time after arrival in town and over great distances (Krüger 1998). Nevertheless, there is severe unevenness of development between the rural and urban areas, with 55 % of the rural population living below the poverty line, compared to 46 % in urban villages and 29 % in urban areas. A significant percentage of the population still lives on less than US$ 2 a day and only 32 % of rural household heads are employed compared with 79 % in urban areas (UNEP 2007). At the root of rural poverty lies a structural limitation: a lack of agricultural diversity renders Botswana’s resources difficult to divert into more sustainable uses, cattle being the only effective means of attaining wealth above subsistence (Clover 2003).

Key Indicators

In addition to the aforementioned development challenges, HIV/AIDS remains a major threat, with an estimated HIV prevalence of 23,9 %. All-sector employment increased by 1,3 % from 384 633 persons in March 2009 to 389 811 persons in June 2009 (CSO 2010).

The Human Development Index (HDI) for Botswana is 0,694, ranking the country 125th out of 182 countries with data (UNDP HDR 2009). The Gini index for Botswana in the 2007/2008 Human Development Report was 61,0.

The districts of Botswana found in the Limpopo River basin. Source: Hatfield 2010


Current ongoing initiatives.

LIMCOM's current ongoing interventions being undertaken