© 2018 Dr. M. Sheppard

Botswana Kanye Households People Lands Cattle-post Crafts

Economic Life


Every family traditionally engaged in farming, and many still do even if individual  members are employed in the wage economy. Farming can be divided into arable lands called Masimo, and the areas where livestock are kept called Moraka (cattle-posts). These areas are quite separate from the villages. Each family traditionally has three homes - their village home, their home at their Lands, and their home at the Cattle-post. Traditionally a kgotla was granted its Lands for the individual families in the same area. Cattle-posts were also granted like this.

More details of Lands and Cattle-posts are given in the separate sections on Lands and Cattle posts

Although government policy is to try to develop the rural areas, most wage employment is still outside the area, involving migration. This obviously affects family life and agricultural development as many Lands and Cattle-posts are often cared for by old people and young children, the younger people being migrant workers.

Besides the wage economy there are various alternative opportunities of earning cash. Probably one of the most common is beer-brewing and being a "Shebeen Queen". Shebeens exist at various levels, from the simplest where the woman of the home brews traditional beer or kgadi (a home-brewed spirit) for sale; to the more sophisticated type that also sell chibuku (a local commercially produced beer), canned beers, spirits (brandy, whisky etc.). These commercially produced alcoholic drinks are bought in bulk and sold at a profit.

Apart from this method people can supplement their income by producing local crafts such as clay pots, baskets, kgotla chairs, winnowing baskets etc. There is a local market for these as they are still in use in most homes. Traditionally, and still today, these crafts are exchanged for sorghum or livestock, especially chickens. For example, the price of a basket or pot was to fill it with sorghum, a clay pot for storing beer, which would take a sack of corn to fill it, was equivalent to a goat. There is also a growing foreign market for craft products, local producers sell to the local Botswanacraft buyers and the crafts are then marketed by Botswanacraft to tourists or exported.

Dressmaking, crocheting and knitting also help to supplement incomes. These are done on a small scale and at the moment markets are very uncertain. Other people sell fruits and vegetables that they have bought in "bulk" from the various South African traders. Still other people are hawkers (for which they need a hawkers' licence) clothes, household goods and groceries being the most common articles they sell.

Gumba-Gumba parties can be another source of income. These in recent years have been banned in Kanye as they tend to lead to lawlessness but are still held in Lands and Cattle-post areas. Usually a group of women, often shebeen queens, come together to brew beer, kgadi, and to cook food. A man with gumba-gumba equipment (a record player, and gumba-gumba records) is hired. People come to buy the food and alcohol and to dance. In order to dance an individual has to "rent" the record.

If he puts down more money than anyone else he may dance alone or with selected friends, or even "rent" a girl to dance with him. If the girl refuses she must better the amount of money he has put down, similarly if others want to join the dancing. This, especially when people become drunk, can lead to disputes and even fights, hence the banning of gumba- gumba parties in Kanye. However, as with shebeens, these can be very profitable for the owners. (See section on the Lands for more details)

Migrant Labour and the Wage Economy

Besides farming many families still send their menfolk to the  mines in South Africa. For young men this is often regarded as a form of initiation, as well as a source of employment. Opportunities are gradually increasing for employment in the developing urban areas of Botswana and at the newly opened mines but these opportunities are mainly for the more educated people.


Setting off for the Lands