Study on NGOs' involvement in Land Issues

NGOs are increasingly realising that they need to be more involved in addressing land issues as pressure on the land and its related resources increases. Land Policy and Legislation, Management and Planning, Access and Rights all require attention. It is in this context that Mr. R. White carried out a study in 1998 for IUCN Botswana under the HIVOS funded IUCN Botswana NGO Support Programme and ZERO. The paper describes and analyses the general land issues and recommends for NGO key land issues interventions. For more information on the NGO Support Programme,visit IUCN Botswana's web site

  • Major Findings and Recommendations from Land Issues Paper (summary)
  • Land Issues Paper (full text)

  • Major Findings and Recommendations from Land Issues Paper (R. White)

    The Land Issues paper describes and analyses the general land issues such as Policy and Legislation, Access and Rights, and Management and Planning, and recommendations are made for NGO key land issues interventions.

    The paper argues that NGOs have played a limited role in land matters in Botswana to date:

    The analysis concludes, however, that in many cases NGOs have not been effectively involved in CBNRM, mainly because Natural Resources Management Project (NRMP) project managers have pushed co-operating NGOs to expand the scope of projects beyond the level at which the NGOs had resources to adequately manage their involvement. As result, the NRMP have set up what are, in effect, project-dependent NGOs to run particular projects, or even invited other donor agencies, such as the Netherlands Development Organisation - SNV, and the US based NGO, PACT, to fulfil the NGO role. As a new initiative, not directly linked to CBNRM, some NGOs (e.g., Forum on Sustainable Agriculture (FONSAG)) have recently started to be involved in land use work with focus on the issue of desertification.

    Mr. White concludes that there is room for NGOs to play a more active role in land matters in Botswana:

    However, the paper warns that if NGOs are to succeed in this, they must improve their operational ability to enhance credibility and to fulfil more effectively their advocacy and development roles. The following points are mentioned:

    1. NGOs must become more democratic in the way they operate, define their constituency more clearly and set out vigorously to enlarge their membership (if they are membership based);
    2. NGOs must set out to become service providers and to earn fees in return for the services they provide. Alternatively, they must take other measures to attain financial stability and security, which do not depend on donors. In order to do this they must define clearly their technical mandate and focus their energy on being able to fulfil it effectively; and
    3. NGOs must become more businesslike in their approach to what they do.

    Land Issues Paper

    Richard White


  • Land Tenure, Land Policy, Land Reform and Land Law
  • Land Administration, Land Allocation, Ownership of Rights and Access to Land
  • Land Administration
  • Land Allocation
  • Ownership of Rights and Access to Land
  • Land Use and Land Use Planning
  • The Road to Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM)
  • Implementation of CBNRM Projects and NGO Participation in CBNRM
  • Institutional Weaknesses
  • Implementation Mechanisms
  • Linkages between Land Reform and CBNRM
  • The Role of NGOs in Land Matters in Botswana
  • References and Sources
  • Botswana is a semi-arid and sparsely populated country (estimated 1998 population 1.4 million), of 581,000 square kilometres located in the interior of Southern Africa. Due to its lack of known mineral resources, low rainfall and powerful and well-organised traditional chiefdoms (merafe), the country was less affected by colonial rule than any other territory in Southern Africa. Britain declared a protectorate over the country in 1885, and pursued a policy of indirect rule that involved minimal interference in the internal governance and systems of customary law of the indigenous peoples. In particular, settlement by white farmers was never a major feature of the country, and no more than 5.5% of the land was ever alienated for white-owned farms. In this feature also, Botswana differs markedly from almost every other Southern African country. Botswana achieved independence in 1966 as a parliamentary democracy.

    Land Tenure, Land Policy, Land Reform and Land Law

    There are three categories of land ownership in Botswana, these are tribal land, state land (crown land before independence) and freehold land. At independence, about 49% of the national land area was tribal land, less than 4% was freehold and the balance state land. Between independence in 1966 and 1972, a further 15 000 square kilometres of state land, mostly in Ghanzi and Kgalagadi Districts was alienated and sold as freehold. While most of this land was acquired by whites, wealthy Batswana also acquired freehold land under this programme. By 1980, transfer of state land on a substantial scale and purchase of freehold land in congested areas, had caused the proportion of tribal land to increase to 69%, while the proportion of freehold land had increased to 5.7% and state land fallen to 25%. Today, in 1998, tribal land comprises 71% of the national land area, freehold about 4.2% and state land the remainder. Thus, land policy in Botswana has been to increase the proportion of land owned by the tribes at the expense of both state ownership and private ownership of freeholds. It should be noted however that during this period some tribal land was alienated to the state for mining developments and some state land was alienated and sold as freehold. While a general policy of not alienating further state land as freehold was adopted in 1972, and long-term leases given instead, small amounts of state land in Ghanzi district were sold as freehold as late as 1988.


     Tribal land

     State land

     Freehold land




























    Tribal land may be occupied communally under customary law or under common law lease. Some tribal land is occupied by the state as Game Reserves and Forest Reserves, but no Game or Forest Reserves can be declared on tribal land without the consent of the land authority. State land may also be occupied communally. While the formal legal status of such occupation is not entirely clear, as such occupants are strictly speaking squatters or tenants at will, such occupation in practice is administered in accordance with customary law. Local chiefs make allocations as land authority is under the ultimate authority of the District Commissioner. Most of the state land which was occupied communally has been tribalised since independence in 1966, but some small areas still remain, notably in Ngamiland and Central District near the Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve.

    In addition, state land may be gazetted by the state for Game Reserves, Forest Reserves or as National Parks. Some state land is also gazetted as townships (or as cities), and here land is held by individuals as fixed period grants. Some land in the more established townships (Gaborone, Francistown, Lobatse, and Ghanzi) is freehold.

    The great majority of individual land holdings and land rights in common property are held under customary law. Broadly speaking, under Tswana Customary Law, every tribesman is entitled to the grant of sufficient land for cultivation and housing to meet his household's subsistence needs, and he has the right of access for his livestock to graze on the communal grazing land. The tribesman also has the right of access to natural surface waters (including sub-surface flow in sand rivers) for household and livestock watering purposes and to develop artificial ground water sources (e.g. wells or bore holes ) or surface water sources (e.g. dams and hafirs) for his own use. These rights are heritable, but are not otherwise freely exchangeable or transferable and may not be sold except with the consent of the land authority.

    In practice, tribesmen have open access to grazing and natural surface water sources (almost all of which are either seasonal or ephemeral). Since the exercise of rights to residential or arable land or to develop artificial water sources may impinge upon the rights of others, tribesmen wishing to exercise these rights must apply to the land authority. Prior to 1970, the chief filled the role of land authority and regulated the exercise of these rights. Since 1970 the exercise of these rights has been regulated by the Tribal Land Boards, which were established under the Tribal Land Act of 1968. The constitution and functions of the Land Boards are discussed in more detail in the next section.

    While access to natural water sources and communal land (including the resources of grass, fuel wood and other natural resources) is effectively open, access to arable or residential land or to artificial water sources is not, but is controlled by the grantee who has the right to exclude other people. Thus arable fields and residential compounds may be, and usually are, fenced and the grantee may decline to allow another person to draw water from an artificial water point. Many wells, dams and hafirs are, however, shared either because they were communally dug or because they are old and the original owners' descendants share them.

    Access to other common properties, most notably wildlife, could be regulated by the chief who could organise communal hunts or limit the taking of animals of particular value or scarcity. Most of these rules and powers have fallen into abeyance today.

    The Tribal Land Act did not change or amend customary land law in any way other than by transferring the role of land authority away from the chief to the Land Board, and by introducing certificates of customary grant as evidence of customary grants of individual rights for wells, borehole drilling, arable lands and individual plots. No fees are payable for the exercise of any customary right under the Tribal Land Act. While all grants made after 1970 are certified by a certificate issued by the Land Board, no attempt has been made to register grants made by the chiefs prior to 1970. These were usually given verbally in the kgotla and are mostly undocumented in any way. Since these rights are heritable, and a large number of the original grantees are still alive anyway, many people who have legitimate title to land have no documentary evidence to prove this. Conversely, this situation can be used by individuals to claim more rights than they were actually granted.

    This has led to difficulties and to the adoption of practices, such as the sale of rights to use tribal land, which appear to be contrary to customary law. In a well publicised case, Kweneng Land Board vs Matlho and Motlhabane, heard in the High Court in 1990 and the Court of Appeal in 1991, the courts gave a decision which appears to give what are virtually freehold rights to people who held tribal land prior to 1970 or who have inherited land from persons granted land prior to that year. However, the Land Board's case was ineptly presented to the High Court. The Land Board failed to challenge the respondent's affidavit evidence and also failed itself to introduce proper evidence of the current state of customary law. The High Court itself ignored the opinion of its own, assessors as to the Customary Law and relied on the affidavit evidence of the respondents witnesses, all of whom had an interest in the matter.

    Briefly, the facts of the matter are as follows: Motlhabane inherited the role of land warden (modisa) at Mogoditshane from his grandfather and sold a piece of land to Matlho for the purpose of house building. Motlhabane was also the headman of the area. The Land Board challenged Matlho's rights to the land and attempted to evict him. The attempt failed and the court found that Matlho had acquired the land lawfully and that Motlhabane had the right to sell it.

    Prior to the Mogoditshane Land case, sale of tribal land rights without the knowledge or consent of the Land Board had become widespread in the peri-urban areas. Elsewhere, it had become the practice, and it appears to be accepted, for individuals to sell improvements to the land and to transfer the land to another person with the approval of the Land Board. The 1993 amendment to the Tribal Land Act made it unlawful to transfer Tribal Land without the consent of the Land Board.

    In 1993, the Tribal Land Act was amended to do away with the concept of tribesmanship. Between 1970 and 1993, it was the duty of the Land Board to administer the land in the interest of the tribesmen of the area. Since 1993, Land Boards have been required to administer the tribal land in their area in the interest of all citizens of Botswana and are not allowed to discriminate against non-tribesmen in allocations. Prior to 1993, a Land Board could make a customary grant to a non-tribesman with the consent of the Minister of Local Government Lands and Housing, but was not obliged to do so. Under the amended act, the Minister's permission is no longer required and a citizen who is not a tribesman has the right to be allocated land if it is available and there are no prior claims.

    The Land Board as Land Authority, as did the chiefs prior to 1970, also allocates land by lease under common law for non customary uses, such as shops, fenced ranches or other commercial enterprises, or to non-customary applicants, such as non-citizens for residential purposes. Leases may also be given for community projects, to government for housing, offices and other facilities, and to the District Councils for housing, offices etc., but the councils are not required to pay rent. Land administration is discussed in detail in the next section.

    State land (called Crown Land prior to independence) in Botswana is administered under the terms of the State Land Act by the Department of Lands in the Ministry of Local Government Lands and Housing. Before re-organisation in 1992, State land was administered by the Department of Surveys and Lands, which was called the Department of the Surveyor-General until 1970. At the district level, some of the work was undertaken by the District Commissioner on behalf of the Department of Lands.

    Up to independence, there were quite large areas of state land which were occupied communally under customary law by local communities. The areas were generally rather sparsely populated and were occupied by communities who did not owe allegiance to the major tribes who occupied the Tribal Territories. The areas concerned were the whole of Kgalagadi, Ghanzi and Chobe Districts and parts of Central, Ngamiland, North East and Southern District. Some of the state land in Kgalagadi and Ghanzi District was alienated to freehold farmers, while the state land in the North-East district comprised that part of the Tati Concession which was occupied by local Kalanga and Tswana communities.

    The North-East District (called the Tati District before independence) was severely congested by 1966 with acute problems of excessive population density, shortage of land and soil erosion. The whole district, which had been a buffer zone between the BaNgwato and the Matebele, had been ceded as the Tati Concession by Lobengula and had become the property of the Tati Company. The Tati Company had divided the area up into freehold farms in the early years of the 20th century, leaving minimal areas to the indigenous inhabitants. These were entirely inadequate long before independence, and the problems which resulted had become politically unacceptable by independence.

    A significant number of the farms were owned by absentee land owners and had been occupied by members of the local communities to ease their congestion problems; and conflicts between the communities and freehold farmers on occupied farms over "squatting", grazing by the tribesmen's cattle and other forms of trespass had reached serious proportions. In order to address the problems which had arisen, the government bought a substantial proportion of the freehold land in the district which became state land and was administered by the District Commissioners office before being tribalised in 1970, along with the eight colonial-era Tribal Territories.

    In the Kgalagadi, Ghanzi and Chobe Districts, which were entirely state land at the time of independence, it was clear that administration of the land by a central bureaucracy in Gaborone would be inefficient, inequitable and politically unacceptable. A model for devolution of control over the land to a district-based institution was needed. Following the experience with the Tati settlement scheme, it was decided to vest the bulk of the unalienated state land in the three districts to tribal Land Boards, one in each district to manage the land on behalf of the communities concerned. Freehold land, land gazetted as National Park, Game Reserve and Forest Reserve and some leased state land was excluded. The vesting took place in 1975 and the Land Boards started to operate early the following year.

    In Ngamiland, Central and Southern Districts most of the State Land has been tribalised since 1975 by vesting it in the Land Board concerned. In North-East, South-East and Southern Districts further freehold farms have been purchased to extend restricted tribal territories which were becoming congested. This has been done on a rather piecemeal basis and the land purchased by negotiation between the state and the former freehold owner. Some freehold land around Gaborone, Francistown and Lobatse has been acquired by compulsory purchase to provide for extension of these townships. A small area of freehold land at Hereford in Kgalagadi District, was acquired by the state and tribalised in order to regularise the tenure of a squatter settlement which had arisen there, and to enable the state and the district council to provide services to its inhabitants.

    Where the state requires freehold land for public projects such as roads it usually attempts to purchase the land by negotiation from the owner. In many cases the owner donates the land to the state, knowing that construction of the road will enhance the value of his farm. Where land is required for township expansion, disagreements over price usually lead to compulsory purchase being resorted to. It is noticeable that the courts have generally upheld freehold owners claims for higher compensation than that offered by the state.

    For road projects, compulsory purchase is only rarely resorted to, but in a recent case on the Trans Kgalagadi Road, a Cabinet Minister attempted to blackmail the government into buying his entire farm at an inflated price by refusing the contractors access to the land. The state responded by compulsory purchasing a 60-hectare strip of land for the road reserve at its agricultural value. The minister concerned has since resigned.

    Where tribal land is required by the state for development projects, outright acquisition by the state may be resorted to and compensation paid to the Land Board, or no compensation may be paid at all.

    In general, for major projects which effectively result in the total loss of access to the land by the community and with limited benefits to the community, such as major mining projects or large dams for urban water supply, the state usually acquires the land outright and pays compensation to the Land Board. Where a project has substantial public benefits or the community retains some access rights to the land, such as for road projects, schools, health facilities or other facilities offering important social services, the land may be given for the project without compensation or rent being payable.

    Many types of projects fall between these two extremes and rent will be paid to the Land Board for the use of the land. These include housing for government employees and many types of office accommodation for the government. District Councils are usually not required to pay rent as their activities are perceived to have significant local benefits.

    On state land, resident communities are 'tenants at will' and have very limited rights. When the Basarwa inhabitants of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve were removed in 1997, they received no compensation for the loss of access to their ancestral lands but were compensated for physical developments such as huts, fields etc. Their rights to hunting and gathering were not deemed to be land rights at all. This reflects a legal opinion given by the Attorney General's Chamber in the early 1970's that the Basarwa were true nomads and had no customary rights save to hunt wild game and gather wild plant foods from the veld.

    Land Policy

    In 1982 the government appointed a Presidential Commission on Land Tenure, which reported in 1983. The commission's main recommendation was that any major change in the system of communal tenure would be inappropriate. The commission made a number of recommendations on land administration, and recommended that common law leases should become transferable to enable citizens to pledge their property as security for loans. A category of citizens' common law leases for residential property was thus introduced in which no rent is payable and land is granted for a fixed term of years.

    While in its broadest sense, the thrust of Land Policy in Botswana has been to reduce both individual and state ownership of land in favour of more locally accountable ownership of land as tribal land, there are a number of contrary forces at work.

    First of all, Land Boards are not entirely democratic or locally accountable institutions. When first established, two members were elected by the District Council from amongst its members, the Chief was an ex officio-member to represent the tribe, the District Agricultural Officer was an ex-officio member to represent agricultural interests, and the remaining members were appointed by the Minister of Local Government Lands and Housing to represent local interest. Since 1984, the chief has come to be an ex-officio member of the Land Board but appoints a representative to the Board, while appointments by the Minister have been made following "elections" in the kgotlas of each district. The "elections" are not held by secret ballot and only persons actually present in the kgotla may vote. Such persons are usually wealthier members of the community and large cattle owners. As a result, the election results may not represent the wishes of the community as a whole. In any case, the results are not binding on the Minister, who appoints three from a slate of six. As a result, appointments to the Land Board are widely viewed as a form of political patronage.

    In addition, the President may give directions to a Land Board and the Minister has the power in some circumstances to dismiss a Land Board (or any member of a Land Board). While these powers have never actually been exercised, their existence is a constraint to serious defiance of central government's wishes by a Land Board. The Land Boards receive advice on technical issues from the District Land Use Planning Unit (DLUPU), created by transformation of the older Land Use Planning Advisory Group (LUPAG) in the mid 1980's. The membership of both institutions is dominated by civil servants, but the older LUPAG included a Land Board member, usually one of the district counsellors, amongst its members.

    This latter change, and the incorporation by co-option of more district-based representatives of central government departments in the DLUPU, has weakened politically accountable district input into land use planning at the district level. More importantly perhaps, the general improvement in all forms of communication in Botswana has made it easier for the central government officials concerned with land matters to involve themselves in detailed discussion and resolution of issues at the district level relating to land.

    In view of the centralising nature of all expanding bureaucracies, it is perhaps inevitable that the Ministry of Local Government Lands and Housing has taken advantage of the opportunity to involve itself more closely in the affairs of the Land Boards and other land matters at district level. As a result, Land Board's receive a steady stream of instructions from officials in Gaborone, who lack even the limited local accountability of the Land Board. At the same time, the Land Board's own staff is appointed by the Ministry of Local Government Lands and Housing and is subject to the Ministry's control. As a result, the Land Board's ability to act independently is somewhat curtailed. However, it should not be construed from the above that the Land Boards are 'rubber stamps' for central government.

    In 1993, the statutory duty of the Land Boards to administer the land for the benefit of the tribesmen of that area was changed to require the Land Boards to administer the land for the benefit of the citizens of Botswana. This has also limited the power of the Land Board to pursue an independent local agenda for development. This change was strongly opposed by the tribes as it limits their rights of ownership of the land and opens up their land to speculative land acquisition by outsiders. In effect the Government has done away with tribal land in favour of national land.

    Finally, there persists in Botswana within government a strong belief that the communal tenure system is causing mismanagement and over exploitation of the nation's land resources, and is leading to degradation. It is widely held that individuals, particularly livestock owners, are over exploiting the communal resources, especially grazing, because, while individuals receive the benefits, the costs are shared with the community. This is of course the hypothesis put forward by Garrett Hardin in his "Tragedy of the Commons"(1968). Although Hardin himself has effectively retracted this hypothesis, and it has been systematically discredited in its application to Botswana by White (1993) on technical grounds and Peters (1995) on socio-economic grounds, it is still widely accepted by policy makers.

    The reason for the persistence of this belief is that the wealthy, livestock-owning elite resents competition from the large numbers of poorer commoners exercising their communal rights. Quite apart from direct competition for grazing, there are problems of loss of extensively managed livestock due to straying and stock theft. Since this livestock-owning elite dominate political office and the administration, they have the opportunity (combined with a strong incentive) to influence policy in their favour.

    As a result there is a strong inclination of policy towards privatisation of tenure by small groups or individuals. This has led both to the TGLP of 1975, conceived before the "Tragedy of the Commons" had been discredited, and the fencing component of the New Agricultural Policy, conceived in 1991 after both TGLP and the "Tragedy of the Commons" had been found wanting.

    The Tribal Grazing Lands Policy of 1975 aimed to address the perceived problem of overgrazing in the communal areas by encouraging the large herd owners to move out of the overcrowded and overgrazed communal areas into fenced ranches, most of which were to be located on unused land in the sandveld. By any objective standard, the policy has not been a success and the White Paper on Agricultural Policy of 1991 admits as much.

    Firstly the policy has not led to any reduction of stocking rates on the communal grazings, because any animals removed by the big farmers were quickly replaced by others. Further, when their fenced farms were grazed out, the TGLP ranchers simply moved their cattle herds to the communal land where they retained customary rights. Secondly, and in spite of the opportunity occupation of a fenced farm offers for improving herd management, most of the ranches are managed in exactly the same way as cattle posts in the communal areas, with no rotation of grazing and similar stocking rates, which are far in excess of those recommended by the Ministry of Agriculture. As a result, there is no difference in productivity between TGLP ranches and cattle posts. Thirdly, there was almost no unused land in practice. Fourthly, the paradigm of rangeland ecology and the related management assumptions upon which TGLP was based are false. The traditional cattle post system is both economically and biologically more efficient, under Botswana conditions, than fenced ranches. This issue is discussed at some length in White (1993).

    The 1991 fencing component of the New Agricultural Policy cuts new ground in that, for the first time, the planners target is the commonage. Under the TGLP, the planners target was the "unused" land beyond the commonages. The aim of the 1991 policy is to enable individuals and groups to fence the land around their water points. Prior to 1991, it had been clearly recognised that any attempt to enclose the commonage or individualise tenure there posed serious risks of loss of access to land for poorer people and a rise in rural poverty.

    Peters (1995) in her analysis of TGLP and the underlying trends in land policy, and White (1993) in his analysis of the fencing component of the New Agricultural Policy, both argue that the effects of privatising tenure and fencing on the existing commonage will be damaging. The policy will:

    In the first 10 to 15 years after independence in 1966, the thrust of policy was to decentralise and democratise ownership and administration of land. Tribal lands were enlarged at the expense of freehold and state land and the administration of the land was taken from the chiefs and handed to the tribal Land Boards, which were local, semi-autonomous bodies which were intended to be representative of the tribesmen. Since about 1975 there has been a slow but accelerating reversal of policy towards centralisation of land administration, towards de-linking of communities from the land they occupy (and collectively they own), and towards increasing privatisation of tenure arrangements.

    The main beneficiaries of this shift in policy are the elite, who are largely synonymous with the large cattle owners. They have acquired profitable opportunities for speculation in land, particularly in the peri-urban areas on the periphery of the townships and the major villages (which might be better called traditional towns). They are also in the process of acquiring exclusive rights to large areas of productive rangeland, unfettered by the need to share it with the animals of smaller farmers or to compete with them for grazing.

    The main losers are the poorer households of lower social status in the rural areas, and in particular those from marginalised, sometimes ethnically distinct, sections of the community. In the peri-urban areas, households have lost arable fields to urbanisation while in the remoter areas numerous BaKgalagadi, BaLala and Basarwa have lost access to land and resources, they have used for generations. In the latter case, policy has failed to recognise these groups need for substantial areas of land to pursue distinctive lifestyles as hunter-herders and hunter-gatherers. In all cases, compensation has been either nugatory or non-existent. These issues are further discussed in the next two sections.

    Although Botswana has been a multi-party parliamentary democracy since independence, as Molutsi (1993) has pointed out, democratic institutions are weak and are dominated by the administration. The administration is largely staffed and effectively controlled by the elite, who also provide leadership of the political parties, the Members of Parliament, District Counsellors and Land Board Members. As a result, politics in Botswana is about differences in personality rather than alternative policies.

    By contrast, the poor tend to be politically unassertive and passive and to wait for whatever may fall to their lot from the rich. It should be noted too that the distribution of wealth and income in Botswana is becoming more skewed (Hudson and Wright 1996, Fidzhani 1996), and as a result class distinctions are becoming more distinct with the emergence of a new and politically assertive nouveau riche class as well as an urban proletariat in addition to the old cattle owning elite and peasant classes.

    In this situation, it is perhaps inevitable that Civil Society in general and NGOs in particular should be relatively weak and disorganised. NGOs in Botswana generally have few members, limited income from domestic sources, and a shortage of capable and energetic employees and office bearers, and are quite often dominated by the personalities of a very few members. Most NGOs also operate with a limited technical mandate and an ill-defined constituency.

    Land Administration, Land Allocation, Ownership of Rights and Access to Land

    Land Administration

    Almost all communal land is now administered by Land Boards, so this section will concentrate on Land Administration by the Land Board. There are 12 Land Boards in Botswana today and each has 11 members. The members of the Land Board are:

    The members of the Land Board elect a chairman from amongst their number.

    In the seven larger tribal territories and tribal areas, several subordinate Land Boards have been established to undertake some of the routine tasks involved in land administration. These tasks include:

    There are no maps or detailed boundary descriptions of the administrative boundaries of the Subordinate Land Boards. Each subordinate Land Board has seven members, who elect a chairman from amongst themselves. The members are:

    The main Land Board is responsible for land use planning, determining land allocation policies, allocation of boreholes, allocations under common law and hearing appeals from the decisions of the subordinate Land Boards.

    Land Allocation

    The staff of the Land Boards is recruited by the Department of Local Government Service and Management, a department of the Ministry of Local Government Lands and Housing. Land Boards have very little say in the recruitment or management of their staff, who are answerable to a central government department rather than to the Land Board for whom they work.

    The activities of the Land Boards are overseen by the Department of Lands in the Ministry of Local Government Lands and Housing. The Department of Lands is responsible for communicating policy guidance and directions from Central Government to the Land Boards, for monitoring their operations, and for channelling to them the financial and material resources which allow them to do their job.

    The Department of Lands fulfils this role through two channels. It can communicate directly with the Land Boards, and in addition, a District Officer Lands (DOL), who is an officer of the Department, is posted to each District and to many sub-districts. His duties are to give the Land Board advice on technical and policy issues (especially land use planning) and to report back on what is happening to the department. The District Officer Lands is attached to the District Commissioner's or District Officer's office, and is the Secretary of the District Land Use Planning Unit (DLUPU), the successor to the Land Use Planning Advisory Group (LUPAG) set up under TGLP.

    The Land Board is also supposed to receive policy guidance from the District Council under section 11 (1) of the Tribal Land Act. Under an amendment passed in 1975, the President may also give general or specific directions to the Land Board, which the board must implement. This power is, in practice, exercised by the Department of Lands, which has largely usurped the policy guidance function of the District Council, in a very similar way to that in which the Ministry of Local Government Lands and Housing has itself taken away much of the autonomy of the District Councils (Egner 1987). As explained in the previous section, Land Boards have become subject to much more intervention in their affairs by the Department of Lands. As a result, the District Councils now have much less influence over land policies than formerly.

    Ownership of Rights and Access to Land

    In theory, everybody in Botswana has equal access to land, but in practice some groups are discriminated against. Under the customary law, individuals are entitled to be allocated land according to need. This is generally interpreted to mean "according to their ability to use it". As a result, some individuals have been able to amass large holdings either of arable land or of grazing land. By the same token, those who are unable to use land, whether by virtue of disability or lack of material resources to clear and cultivate it or lack of livestock to graze it, are effectively denied land.

    The economic processes which are leading to the concentration of wealth, income and political power in the hands of the elite are also leading to the creation of a landless rural underclass with a precarious livelihood. Most rural households in Botswana are engaged in agro-pastoral mixed farming, in which inputs from livestock and especially cattle are an essential component of the system. At the same time an increasing number of households have no access to cattle - this has risen from 50% in 1974 (RIDS 1974) to 74% in 1991 (White 1993). This trend has been accompanied by a rise in the number of farming households without cattle, who are generally very poor, and of rural households who are not involved in farming, most of whom are not in formal employment and who are poorer still (Jefferis 1995, Mazonde 1995). In 1981, 29% of rural households were not involved in agriculture, and 22% were involved in agriculture but had no cattle. By 1991, 43% of rural households were not involved in agriculture and 25% were still involved but without cattle. Most rural households which are not engaged in agriculture are dependent on casual employment for their livelihood (CSO 1991).

    As a result we, are seeing a situation of serious inequality arising. A relatively small number of wealthy households control large areas of arable and grazing land. In a dry environment without surface water, control over water points gives de facto control over the surrounding grazing land. At the same time, while many rural households do have access to grazing land and more have access to arable land in small amounts, a substantial and growing number of poor households do not have effective access to productive land as they lack the means to use it and are being marginalized economically.

    There are also differences in access due to gender. Firstly, unmarried and divorced women with children form a disproportionate percentage of the poor households without access to productive land, because they lack the means to use it (referred to above). In addition, married women may be refused allocation in their own right and be advised to apply through their husbands who have what is called marital power over all household assets (BIDPA 1997).

    While discrimination due to ethnic origin is not commonplace and most minority ethnic groups are treated equally, it is noticeable in many districts that arable land allocations to Basarwa (San or Bushmen) are smaller than to other groups, due to their perceived inability to clear or cultivate larger pieces of land. There is also an undoubtedly ethnocentric view of what land needs are. These are generally held to be limited to the motse (compound), masimo (field) and moraka (cattlepost) of the traditional Tswana system. The rights of Basarwa groups to extensive areas of land as hunting and gathering territories have never been recognised. As a result, these territories have been allocated to Batswana (or other) cattle owners for use as cattle posts, or as ranches, resulting in the elimination of wildlife and diminution of wild foods and the reduction of the former users to poverty (Mitchelsen 1995, Gulbrandsen 1994).

    Land Use and Land Use Planning

    Serious land use planning started in Botswana after independence in 1966. Initially, a series of surveys was commissioned from the Directorate of Overseas Surveys, primarily of the state lands but also of irrigable lands in eastern Botswana. The surveys indicated that large-scale commercial development of the state lands was probably not viable, but land was gazetted as National Parks and Game Reserves on the state lands following these surveys. The focus for development then turned to the tribal lands, and the government policies of developing the livestock industry and protecting the rangelands (which were seen as degrading) were to be met by introducing modern livestock raising practices in the tribal lands. This led to the Tribal Grazing Land Policy described in the first section, and in order to implement the policy a land use planning and land use zoning exercise was initiated in 1975-1980, which has been steadily revised, amended and moderated since then.

    Under the TGLP, land was to be zoned as communal, commercial or reserved. The wildlife authorities drew attention to the fact that Botswana's wildlife populations are nomadic and depended upon access to land outside the protected areas. If no land outside the protected areas was zoned for wildlife use, most of Botswana's rich wildlife resources would disappear. A further category of land use zone was introduced to address this issue. It was called Wildlife Management Area and was intended to be a zone in which human use of the wildlife resource would be the primary economic activity. In the event, no land was zoned as reserved. The area of land for the different zones for 1979 and 1997 is shown below.


    Freehold Commercial

     Leasehold Commercial



     National Park, Game Reserve or Forest Reserve

    Not zoned or other














    Land Use Zones in square kilometres. Source: Ministry of Local Government, Lands and Housing.

    There is unfortunately very little data on the amount of land being used for customary purposes, such as ploughing fields allocated under customary law, as the Land Boards do not keep records of the size of customary allocations, and apart from a few rather abortive pilot projects in consented areas, no attempt has been made to survey land holdings or to register them. A rather crude estimate by the World Bank, based on Ministry of Agriculture statistics, suggests that about 1870 square kilometres of land is cleared for agriculture, but much less land is actually cultivated in any season.

    Similarly, there is almost no data on the amount of land being used for communal grazing. A rough estimate available for Kgalagadi District indicates that the grazed area in Kgalagadi District on communal lands was approximately 32,000 square kilometres in 1990 and had increased 2.5 times since 1950 (White 1993).

    There is data on the land zoned for various purposes, but it should be noted that a good deal of land zoned communal is in fact used for wildlife and some land zoned commercial is actually used communally or for wildlife. For example, in Kgalagadi District in 1980, 76% of the 31,490 square kilometres of land then zoned communal was being used for the purpose; the balance was being used for wildlife due to lack of water. The table above shows how land was zoned in 1979 and 1997.

    In the early 1980's, attempts were made to use the district development and land use planning skills and capacity built up in the 1970's to start to plan rural development in a more integrated manner. This led to the development of the Communal First Development Area (CFDA) policy from 1980 onwards. This was not a success, mainly due to the strength and resilience of the sectoral ministerial system and a general centralising trend as the central bureaucracy expanded (White et al 1994). The CFDA strategy was abandoned in 1994. In this period, both land use planning and district development became more centralised, despite a continuing rhetoric of decentralisation, and the ability of the District Councils and other local institutions to influence events in their areas declined (Egner 1987).

    The Road to Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM)

    This centralising trend was well illustrated in the approach to Wildlife Utilisation. In 1966 Botswana had one of the largest surviving reservoirs of African plains game left on the continent. This was mainly due to the country's sparse population and considerable degree of under development.

    The colonial government had generally taken little interest in wildlife due to lack of resources and a limited perception of its potential value. There was a game ordinance, but it was mainly concerned with persuading whites to buy game licences as a source of revenue. On tribal land, control over wildlife was firmly vested in the chiefs, and tribesmen had the right to hunt, subject to such limitations the chiefs might impose.

    On the crown land (state land after independence), Africans had the right to hunt most species for subsistence and there was a substantial trade in skins and bones of wildlife. Some species, notably Eland and Gemsbok, were declared royal game and were supposed to be hunted under licence. Elephant were scarce throughout the colonial period, especially on state land.

    Just before independence, the colonial government started to appreciate the potential value of wildlife as a source of revenue from hunting by non-residents, and in 1962 introduced a Fauna Conservation Proclamation to regulate safari hunting by the wealthy and biltong hunting by the less wealthy non-residents from South Africa and Rhodesia (as it was then).

    Initially, Africans (i.e. indigenous inhabitants of Botswana) were exempted if they hunted in their home district, but after 1967 they were included. Their hunting was then regulated by tribal land (or district-based state land) hunting regulations, with locally issued licences and revenue accruing to the District Councils. Citizens wishing to hunt outside their home district paid higher fees and had limited quotas. In 1979 the system was changed and the Unified Hunting Regulations were introduced, under which all citizens were treated equally. This created an open access system, which led to an explosion in demand for licences.

    A raffle system was then introduced to distribute the licences, with the result that local residents obtained fewer licences and outsiders an increasing proportion. Since the outsiders pay none of the social cost of the wildlife resource and are basically recreational hunters while many local people are subsistence hunters, this is clearly inequitable.

    In conjunction with significant land use changes involving loss of habitat to the cattle industry and a severe drought in the 1980's, the result of this policy change was a marked decline in wildlife resources throughout Botswana (Crowe 1995). There was also a marked change in attitudes.

    Up to the early 1980's rural people in those parts of Botswana with significant wildlife resources saw wildlife as a valuable asset. However, declining access to the resource and the diversion of benefits away from the communities in the wildlife areas have led to a significant change of attitudes, with public perception of the value of wildlife showing a marked decline (White 1995a).

    By the late 1980's it had become clear to those responsible for policy that the situation had become unsustainable. With a rapidly declining wildlife resource and steady pressure from the livestock industry on land used for wildlife, it was clear that a radical change in policy was urgently needed. Centralisation of the administration and management of wildlife resources had clearly failed. Furthermore, the distribution of benefits from wildlife nationally, while many costs were localised, was in marked contrast to the treatment of livestock (with benefits accruing locally and costs subsidised by government), and was leading to undesirable changes in public attitudes. These were manifested in growing political pressure on land used for wildlife.

    In order to address these problems, the USAID-funded Natural Resources Management Project was conceived in 1989 and initiated in 1991, located in the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. The aims of the NRMP are to:

    The programme has had to overcome some major hurdles, which include an over-optimistic project design based on flawed assumptions that workable and reapplicable community-based natural resource management models excited; that there is an adequate resource base; and that there is sufficient NGO capacity to implement the programme (Odell 1993). Other constraints have included an emphasis on decentralisation from Central Government direct to community level. This has been resisted by District Councils and Land Boards. In addition, being located in DWNP has meant that the project has not been well placed institutionally in relation to its important commitments to community development, which is the portfolio responsibility of the Ministry of Local Government Lands and Housing, and to the management of plant-based resources, which is the portfolio responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture.

    Implementation of CBNRM Projects and NGO participation in CBNRM

    The first CBNRM project to be implemented under the USAID funded NRMP in Botswana was in Chobe district in an area called the Chobe Enclave. The enclave's northern boundary is the international border with Namibia, which is the Linyanti and Chobe Rivers. On the Botswana side of the border, the enclave is entirely surrounded by the Chobe National Park and includes the Chobe Forest Reserve and the proposed Shaile WMA. There are six villages in the enclave.

    The NRMP started work with the Chobe enclave community in 1991 shortly after its inception, but it was to take nearly two years before agreement could be reached with all stakeholders and the hunting quota could be allocated to the community to manage. The main barriers were the need to resolve disputes within the community and to agree on a community structure with adequate representation for each village. Once this had been agreed, the next stumbling block was the role of NGOs in the project.

    Two NGOs expressed interest. One was the Chobe Wildlife Trust, locally based but largely representative of the non-citizens involved in the safari and tourist industries. The other was the WWF/USA. The project design called for an NGO to be involved as advisor to the community on natural resource and business management strategies and to assist with their implementation. The community was intensely suspicious of the Chobe Wildlife Trust because of its links to the existing, foreign-dominated safari and tourist industries. The WWF/USA was an unknown quantity and the community was not willing to commit the future of the enterprise to them either. In the end, the project went ahead without an NGO partner, with NRMP staff filling the gap until a community adviser could be hired. This in itself proved difficult as skilled manpower is at a premium in Botswana.

    The Sankuyu community project, in which the community lease their area from the Land Board and then sub-let it to a photographic safari company, also does not involve an NGO partner, although project design called for one, and NRMP staff have again filled the role. At Gweta, where the community is involved in harvesting Morula for sale, there is no NGO partner and the design does not include one. Again NRMP staff fill the advisory role.

    In 1995, the NRMP invited PACT, a US-based NGO which also has an office in South Africa, to come to Botswana to set up a programme called Institutional Reinforcement for Community Empowerment (IRCE), which is now responsible for the community and institutional development aspects of the project, while NRMP deals with the Natural Resource Management aspects. PACT/IRCE works mostly with community-based organisations (CBOs) and uses local NGOs as facilitators where possible.

    NGOs are involved in three projects under the USAID-funded NRMP and PACT/IRCE project and one independent project.

    The Permaculture Trust is involved as a sub-contractor to NRMP at Kubu Island, and is working with the community at Matshumo village to develop appropriate institutions and tribal community consensus.

    In the Tswapong Hills, a community initiative to start a CBNRM project aimed at tourism and preserving some of the area's unique natural features and promoting incomes from sustainable utilisation of natural resources was fostered by the Roman Catholic Church and the Palapye Branch of the Kalahari Conservation Society. The NRMP was asked to assist and funded a programme to develop the harvesting and marketing of 'Phane', an edible caterpillar with a substantial market in the region. The co-operating NGO was the KCS Palapye Branch. This project was not a success. There appear to have been differences in aims between the NGO and the NRMP. The NRMP staff maintain that KCS failed to deliver services to the community, while KCS maintain that they were not provided with the resources of transport and accounting staff needed in order to be able to do so.

    The NRMP then withdrew from the agreement and signed a new agreement with an NGO called Women's Finance House which included the provision of transport and a revolving fund to offer micro-credit facilities to producers. This has operated for over a year and appears to be a success, with incomes from Phane, Morula, thatching grass and other natural resources sharply increased because the producers, who are all women, have the resources to take their produce to more lucrative markets. The KCS Palapye Branch have gone back to the community and are in the process of establishing a community-based conservation-cum-tourism project at the Moremi Gorge.

    A grant was given by the USAID-funded NRMP project to Conservation International, a US based NGO with a branch at Maun in Botswana, to work with the community at Ditshipi in an area known as NG 32 in Ngamiland. This has not succeeded so far partly because CI has made mistakes in its approach to community development and organisational issues involved but partly because they have not received sufficient support from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks staff on the spot.

    The fourth community project, which does not involve the USAID funded NRMP, is the establishment of the Nata Sanctuary. This community initiative was supported by the Kalahari Conservation Society, mostly through its Francistown Branch, with financial assistance from NORAD. The community set aside an area of land on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pan as a wildlife sanctuary. The KCS assisted the community to establish the infrastructure and community institutions to run the project from 1992 to 1996, and now plays a limited advisory role to the project, which appears to be able to sustain itself after some teething troubles.

    The KCS was also involved in the preparation of Management Plans for the Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park, while IUCN performed a similar role in the preparation of a management plan for the Nxai Pan National Park and Makgadikgadi Game Reserve complex. These management plans were funded by US AID but administered by the NGOs as a capacity-building exercise.

    Institutional Weaknesses

    Most NGOs in Botswana have not found it easy to work with USAID, which is an extremely demanding donor. Its procedures are highly formalised and bureaucratic and its accounting and audit procedures are very rigid.

    At Xai Xai in Ngamiland and Ukwhi in Kgalagadi, SNV, which is a Dutch Government funded development and volunteer organisation, is fulfilling the NGO role in attempts to start up community-based natural resource management projects at the sites. SNV has been working with other NGOs, including Thusano Lefatsheng, on the development of natural resource utilisation enterprises with these communities. Work has been continuing for three years at Ukwhi, but due to divisions within the community and refusal by the District Council and Land Board to sanction community based natural resource management projects until the land use plan is agreed, progress is stalled.

    The CBOs are not in a position to contract directly with business in managing or optimising their returns from natural resources. They lack appropriate experience and skills in management and entrepreneurship, so that they are not operating on a level playing field. Business operated for profit can easily exploit them. In order to level the playing field, the CBOs need an honest broker to act on their behalf in their dealings with business. This can be an NGO or consultant with appropriate skills and experience.

    As the brief outline above indicates, implementation of the programme has highlighted a number of institutional weaknesses.

    Firstly, implementation has required large external inputs of skilled manpower and financial support, not only to start projects but also to run them for some considerable time in many instances. The lack of a CBO network has made it difficult to transfer lessons learnt from one community to another and means that each community has to reinvent the wheel in relation to common problems, which has increased the amount of external support needed and its cost.

    Secondly, it is not at all clear if many communities retain sufficient commonality of purpose and internal cohesion to manage their natural resources sustainable. For example, in many areas there is a conflict between cattle owners, who want to exploit water and open grazing to expand their herds, and hunter-gatherers who may prefer to develop wildlife resources. The difficulties are greatly exacerbated by the fact that the cattle owners belong to an ethnically distinct and hierarchically superior group to the hunter-gatherers, and that the two activities are probably mutually exclusive (White 1995b). In addition, the livestock owners are trying to maintain their socially dominant position, while the hunter-gatherers see community-based management as an opportunity to escape from it.

    Nor is it clear that community management will arrest the loss of biodiversity or other forms of resource degradation in those instances where it does work. Communities may very well choose to invest the profits from management of communal wild natural resources in private domestic resources such as livestock or arable farming. This is a particularly likely scenario where the community's tenure of its land base is more secure than its tenure of the natural resource base, which is the case in all the schemes involving wildlife (White 1995b).

    Thirdly, the capacity of the existing NGOs is often limited. Many NGOs recognise this and want to start small projects, and build up slowly. This does not suit the dynamics of donor-funded project implementation, and NRMP project managers have pressed co-operating NGOs to expand the scope of projects beyond the level at which they have resources to cope. Alternatively, they have set up what are, in effect, bespoke, project-dependent NGOs to run particular projects, or even invited other donor agencies, such as SNV, to fulfil the NGO role.

    The problems for the local NGOs are that the withdrawal of donors from Botswana, following liberation and democratisation in South Africa, combined with the weakness of civil society in Botswana in general, has left them without sufficient support. The NGOs are now competing with the CBOs for what support is available. The NGOs have tended to get involved in projects primarily to pay salaries etc., rather than to help communities. In this changed climate, the NGOs need to reappraise their role and position themselves as service providers in return for fees. This requires them to improve the quality of the services they provide so that they offer value for money and can compete with commercial consultants.

    This process will not be easy to implement as communities have become used to receiving large amounts of free advice and material assistance through government or donor agencies and are not, at present, prepared to pay a fair price for the assistance they need. There is also a philosophical problem for membership-based NGOs, which is how to charge members fees for services rendered to them.

    All these institutional difficulties must question the long-term viability and sustainability of the concept as at present implemented under Botswana conditions. Viability is also hampered by the fact that markets for some products are somewhat limited, there are often high entry barriers to cross, and prices are frequently volatile.

    Implementation mechanisms

    Where a community-based initiative is starting up, the first stage is for the community to be assisted to form a structure such as a committee, representative of all stakeholders, to implement it. This stage alone can be extremely time-consuming and demanding of external manpower as competing claims are resolved. If money is to be handled, an appropriate formal structure must be established to be accountable for it, usually a community trust.

    Thereafter, the management structure takes charge of the resources and becomes responsible for allocating access to it. In the case of a wildlife project, this first stage would involve the management structure in applying for a quota for the area from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. The Department of Wildlife and National Parks retains sole control over the setting of the quota and may, if it so chooses, vary the quota without reference to the community. This poses risks for the community, as the profitability of the community's enterprise is dependent on an institution in whose decisions they have little say.

    If the community wishes to engage in some form of joint venture with an outside partner, e.g. by leasing a safari hunting or a photographic tourism concession, they must first obtain a lease on the land from the Land Board. This has required the active involvement of the Land Board in the process, as they have not been willing to act as mere rubber stamps but have insisted on being consulted.

    The formal role of the District Councils in the CBNRM process is not well defined. In most instances it has been found desirable to involve the council at the political level, as councillors are influential in most communities and their support can speed the process up. In addition, most District Councils strongly support the principle of decentralisation and are unhappy with the centralising tendencies of the Ministry of Local Government Lands and Housing (Egner 1987). The councils also still have influence in the Land Boards, by virtue of the two councillors who are Land Board members.

    Linkages between Land Reform and CBNRM

    Community-based natural resource management aims to promote decentralisation of decision-making in natural resource management away from central government institutions, and create subsidiarity by devolving as much decision-making as possible to the rural communities most affected by the decisions. In addition, it aims to promote equity by ensuring that the stream of benefits from resource management is directed to the community which pays the social cost of maintaining the resource. This is justified politically by devolving responsibility for management and its cost upon the community. Equity is also promoted by virtue of the fact that most rural communities in resource-rich areas are disadvantaged and marginalised to some extent.

    Land reform in Botswana started along similar lines, with a commitment to enlarge the tribal lands and promote democratisation and decentralisation of decision-making. Subsidiarity was promoted by the creation of Subordinate Land Boards and the transfer of most state land to tribal land. In principal, the state only retained control of the National Parks, Game Reserves proclaimed on state land, Forest Reserves and Urban Land. The Forest Reserves have since been vested in the Chobe Land Board.

    Since 1980, there has been a subtle reversal of policy, with much stronger emphasis on individualisation of title and the granting of exclusive rights at the expense of equity and a much greater degree of centralisation of control over policy. This is due to the peculiar nature of the state in Botswana, where a relatively small elite exercises disproportionate influence in spite of the existence of democratic structures.

    Most land reform programmes aim to promote equity in access to land and democratisation of the allocation process, usually by encouraging decentralisation and subsidiarity (the taking of decisions as close to their point of implementation as is practical). Land reform in Botswana thus runs counter to the norm.

    The tribal land remains the property of the tribes, but the Land Boards in whom it is vested are now obliged to manage it in the interests of all citizens, who all have equal rights of access to it. The Land Boards have only limited and declining accountability to the inhabitants of the area in which they operate and are subject to a good deal of direction from central government which is increasing. Nevertheless, where a Land Board leases land to a community for a community-based natural resource management project, that community has security of tenure for the duration of the lease. However, the Land Board is not obliged to lease the land to the community and in a number of instances, such as the Gweta and Tswapong projects, has not done so. In these cases, the communities are still subject to competition from other potential resource users. In those areas where leases have been signed, giving the community secure rights over the land and enabling them to exclude competing potential users or charge access fees, as in the case of wildlife-based projects, the communities do not have secure tenure over the access rights to the natural resource which remains vested in a central government department with limited local accountability.

    A land reform process and a community-based natural resource management programme, which both aim to promote equity, decentralisation, subsidiarity and democracy, should reinforce each other. The impact of land reform upon community-based resource management in Botswana, where each is following a somewhat contrary pathway and where tenure rights over resources are relatively ambiguous by comparison with tenure rights over land, remains to be seen.

    The Role of NGOs in Land Matters in Botswana

    Generally speaking, NGOs have played a limited role in land matters in Botswana. This is mainly related to the peculiar structure of the country's democratic institutions which, as described in the first section, are dominated by a small elite and in which the poor majority tend to be passive acceptors rather than actors.

    Most input has been in the field of human rights, with First People of the Kalahari (an NGO which represents the interests of Basarwa) and Ditshwanelo (the Botswana Centre for Human Rights) arguing that the rights to land of Basarwa are not being respected and that the present set-up discriminates against them as original occupiers of much of Botswana's land. The establishment has tended to ignore these arguments. Representatives of the government, including Cabinet Ministers, have evaded commitments to meet with these organisations to discuss the issue. The government is clearly suspicious of the NGOs' motives in this area and is uncomfortable with forthright assertions of rights over land. The government is very sensitive indeed about a wide range of issues affecting the rights, status and development of the Basarwa, which taken together comprise one of the more intractable problems that it faces.

    Involvement in land use and land access issues by NGOs has been more limited. The Kalahari Conservation Society suggested in 1984 that the Basarwa who lived in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve should be removed, as their presence was incompatible with the area's conservation status. This provoked a fierce controversy in the press, in which the Society was criticised by its own members who disagreed with its stance. The government responded by appointing a commission of enquiry. This recommended that the Central Kalahari Game Reserve should be developed as a multiple use area with the primary focus on tourism and wildlife utilisation and that the inhabitants should remain and be the primary beneficiaries of such development. The government did not accept these findings and removed most of these inhabitants in 1997. This action is being challenged by the First People of the Kalahari on human rights grounds.

    In 1987, the government was requested by Ghanzi District Council to reserve three of the last group of freehold ranches to be allocated in Ghanzi district for Basarwa groups. In 1988, these ranches were allocated to the District Council for use by Basarwa, in the teeth of fierce opposition from the then District Commissioner. The District Council, knowing that it did not have the capacity to develop the farms itself, asked a consortium of four NGOs to assist in designing and implementing a development programme for these farms. The NGOs were: CORDE, Permaculture Trust (Botswana), the Forestry Association of Botswana, and Thusano Lefatsheng.

    The government then intervened to tell the District Council that its involvement of NGOs was not acceptable. A controversy ensued in which it was alleged that certain high-ranking officials, including the District Commissioner and the Minister of Local Government Lands and Housing, wanted to be allocated the ranches instead. The Minister, whose portfolio responsibilities included supervision of the District Commissioner and District Council as well as land administration and Basarwa development, denied the charge. While the high officials were not allocated the ranches, which remain District Council property, the NGOs have not been allowed back and neither government nor District Council have been able to develop the farms to date.

    The Forum on Sustainable Agriculture (FONSAG) is involved in work on desertification and land use. A number of community-based organisations lease land from the Land Boards for community-based tourism and safari hunting enterprises, but are not involved at the policy level.

    There is obviously room for NGOs to play a more active role in land matters in Botswana. At the policy level there is need for the articulation of alternatives and the fostering of an informed debate about the issues and alternatives facing the country. While this is ideally the role of political parties, none has taken up the issues despite the potential political advantages involved.

    Below the policy level there is much scope for NGOs to address local land related issues. These include:

    However, if the NGOs are to succeed in this, they need to address a number of important issues affecting the way they operate.

    First, they must become more democratic in the way they operate, define their constituency more clearly and set out vigorously to enlarge their membership (if they are membership based).

    Secondly, NGOs must set out to become service providers and to earn fees in return for the services they provide. Alternatively, they must take other measures to attain financial stability and security, independent of donors. In order to do this they must define clearly their technical mandate and focus their energy on being able to fulfil it effectively.

    Thirdly, they must become much more business-like in their approach to what they do.

    These changes will enhance their credibility in the eyes of both the public and government, and enable them to fulfil more effectively the advocacy and development roles which they see for themselves and thus enrich the nation as a whole.

    References and Sources

    BIDPA (1997) Study of poverty and poverty alleviation in Botswana,Gaborone
    CSO (1991) Preliminary Report on the 1991 Population Census, Government Printer, Gaborone
    Crowe D (1995) Status of selected wildlife resources in Botswana and recommendations for conservation action. In: Leggett K (Ed.), The present status of wildlife and its future in Botswana, Kalahari Conservation Society and Chobe Wildlife Trust, Gaborone
    Egner EB (1987) The District Councils and Decentralisation, SIDA, Gaborone
    Fidzani NH (1996) Wealth accumulation and distribution in Botswana. Paper presented to a conference on the quality of life in Botswana, Botswana Society, Gaborone
    Government of Botswana (1983) Report of the Presidential Commission on land tenure, Government Printer, Gaborone
    Government of Botswana (1991) National Policy on Agricultural Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Gaborone
    Gulbrandsen O (1994) Poverty in the midst of plenty, Norse Publications, Bergen
    Hardin G (1968) The tragedy of the commons. Science 162, pp. 1243/4
    Hudson D & Wright M (1996) Income distribution in Botswana, trends in inequality since independence. Paper presented to a conference on the quality of life in Botswana, Botswana Society, Gaborone
    Jefferis K (1996) Poverty in Botswana. Paper presented to a conference on the quality of life in Botswana, Botswana Society, Gaborone
    Mazonde IN (1996) Poverty in Botswana and its impact on the quality of life. Paper presented to a conference on the quality of life in Botswana, Botswana Society, Gaborone
    Molutsi P (1993) Botswana's democratic institutions: their strengths and prospects. In: Brothers S, Hermans J & Nteta D (Eds.), Botswana in the 21st Century, Botswana Society, Gaborone
    Mitchelsen, Chr Institute (1995) NORAD's support of the Remote Area development Programme (RADP) in Botswana, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo
    Odell M (1993) Midterm Evaluation of the Botswana Natural Resources Management Project, Tropical Research & Development Inc for USAID, Gaborone
     Peters P (1995)  Dividing the commons: politics, policy and culture in Botswana. University of Virginia Press, pp277
    RIDS (1974) Rural income distribution survey. CSO, Gaborone
    White R (1993) Livestock development and pastoral production on communal rangeland in Botswana. Botswana Society, Gaborone
    White R, Byram M, Egner EB, Jansen R, Molokomme I, & Somolekae G (1993) A review and evaluation of the Communal First Development Strategy. Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Gaborone 2 Vols., 143pp
    White R (1995a) Licensing, utilisation and public attitudes to wildlife. In: Leggett K (Ed.), The present status of wildlife and its future in Botswana, Kalahari Conservation Society and Chobe Wildlife Trust, Gaborone
    White R (1995b) Kgalagadi Wildlife Management Areas. Draft final management plan. Kgalagadi DLUPU, Tsabong.
    World Bank (1997) African development indicators. World Bank Washington DC

    J Hazam NRMP
    J Levitt PACT-IRCE
    K Mphofu PACT-IRCE
    R Jansen IUCN
    S George Department of Lands

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    Last Updated: April 19,2000