© 2018 Dr. M. Sheppard

Botswana Kanye Households People Lands Cattle-post Crafts

Traditional doctoring of crops and preparations for harvesting

Before continuing with a description of the agricultural year, perhaps the traditional doctoring of crops should be mentioned in more detail as it is probably fairly widespread and, even though people may have turned increasingly to accept the advice of modern agriculture from the demonstrators, many still in addition doctor their crops in the traditional way.

Reference has already been made above to the fact that people doctor their seeds. They ask for traditional medicine from their traditional family doctor and mix it with their seeds before planting them. Use is also made of certain mothusa plants such as modubatsipe (see above). When the crops have germinated the owner will doctor a small part of his field again with the same traditional medicines to encourage good development of plants and then a third time when the grains start to appear, so that large seed heads will form and they will not be adversely affected by "natural" conditions. These medicines and mothusa plants are believed to help the crops germinate and have a big harvest, for example large maize cobs and sorghum heads, and protect them from the destructive pests and birds and adverse weather conditions.

Some people protect their fields from thieves. Fields are not fenced as cattle are not usually kept in the Lands areas. Normally an individual does not enter another's fields unless invited by the owner to do so. Owners who wish to protect their fields from thieves put certain traditional medicines in the fields mixed with the seeds. If someone steals crops from the fields the thief is supposed to become mad, and, instead of stealing small things like the odd maize cob or melon, will grow up to become a bad criminal. Stealing from the fields does not seem to be a big problem, but often adult criminals were explained as having become so after stealing from a certain Mr X's fields when still a child.

Another practice commonly followed is that a passer-by does not greet people working in their fields unless greeted by them first. This is the opposite of the normal practice of the one who is arriving being the first to greet. This is because it is believed that to do so will attract birds to come and eat the developing crops, for example sorghum grains are particularly at risk.

While the crops are growing, and in between weedings, the women will prepare the threshing floor, this is usually made within the compound behind the houses. It is called a seboana. An area of about 10-15 metres square is enclosed with a low mud and cattle-dung brick wall and a floor is made of the same material and sealed with a final layer of cattle dung.

The threshing floor is protected from all people with "hot blood" i.e. widows, women who have lost their children, or suffered miscarriages etc., by making a cross with sekaname (a sort of wild onion, which is also used by potters to protect their pots from the same group of people, from cracking). Smearing this plant in a cross on the threshing floor not only protects the floor and the crops when they are being threshed, but also the crops as they are developing in the fields. Such people as those mentioned above can, if they walk across the floor, destroy the crops or make the harvest much smaller than expected if the floor is not protected in this way.