© 2018 Dr. M. Sheppard

Botswana Kanye Households People Lands Cattle-post Crafts

Preliminary findings of the 1981 census were that there were still less than one million people. As this report had not yet been published (in the 1980s), the 1971 census figures and the projections of the 1973-1978 National Development Plan were used in this section. Also the 1978-9 Health Statistics were used. Obviously changes had taken place since then, but these earlier reports were useful indications for the purposes of this outline

Females were found to outnumber males 100:84. 30% of all households are headed by women, who also perform 70% of all arable work in a predominantly rural areas- only 9.5% of the population live in urban areas. However between the 1964 census and 1971, in common with all developing countries, there was a much greater increase in urban than in rural areas. For example in Ngwaketse District, the population had increased by 8% whereas that of urban areas increased by 202%.

There was also a low level of education, 67.5% had never been to school and still by 1978 it was planned that provision would be made for only 51.2% of 5-14 year olds in primary schools and 20.8% of 15-19 year olds at secondary schools. There was still a high degree of economic dependence on traditional subsistence agriculture - 67% of the labour force over 10 were engaged in farming, of which 60% reported they were totally dependent on it. (This age is taken as children act as herds boys and also help at the lands. Working like this was often one of the main reasons why children were not sent to school.)

A further 24% of the population reported no economic activity. However this figure should be treated with caution as for this census, subsistence hunting, gathering and fishing, and housewife, were not included as economic activities. Alec Campbell (1979) states that for 80% of the rural population agriculture is the "mainstay" of their existence, 35% of total rural income is from agriculture. (P.321) .

It was further recorded that 74% of the rural product was from cattle but 84% of the population owned less than 50 head (The minimum size of herd to provide subsistence) of whom 46% had less than 10 and 32% had none. Connected with these facts there was found to be a high rate of emigration from rural areas. During the 1971 census 83.1% were reported as resident in Ngwaketse District, 7.0%  elsewhere in Botswana and 9.9% absent from Botswana (i.e. at the South African mines, farms and as domestic servants). 84.6% of the 139,542 people employed in paid income received an income of less than P600 per annum.

Therefore this gives a general picture of a predominantly rural population of subsistence farmers with a high proportion who have not been to school, and a large number of males of working age under 50 absent as migrant workers. In Ngwaketse District 40% of all males were reported as absent.

Before the arrival of the whites the food economy depended on growing millet, sorghum, beans, gourds, melons, hunting wild animals, collecting wild foods, plants, honey, insects and milk from the cattle. Although the Batswana are traditionally cattle owners, cattle were rarely used for food except at ceremonial feasts - they were used to ensure mutual co-operation by establishing links when they were transferred during, for example, marriages.

However by independence cattle had become a very important part of the industrial economy with exports of meat products from the Botswana Meat Commission (B.M.C.) totalling P8 million. The National herd in 1976 was about 3 million and cattle exports totalled P43 million. By 1977 meat and meat products represented 25% of gross total exports, being second only to diamonds. ( Alec Campbell op cit. Orapa mine that started producing diamonds in 1971 is the world's second largest pipe. Diamonds are also found at Letlhakane (1976) and Jwaneng (1978). The Government and De Beers are equal share holders.)  The Geological surveys of the 1960's and 1970's have found this area to be rich in many minerals. Botswana could be self-sufficient in coal. There are also copper-nickel deposits and manganese, brine and soda ash.

Although mining in Botswana can provide revenue to the country, this has so far not had much effect on reducing the number of migrant workers to South Africa. In 1977 30,000 were employed in South African mines while not more than 5,000 were employed in Botswana. The opening of Jwaneng mine in 1978 only produced 2,000 extra jobs. The new coal mine at Morupule is machine operated and not labour intensive.

Another industry that is being developed is tourism. This exploits in particular the unique wildlife resources, especially in the Okavango and desert regions. This is a growth industry that depends on the development of communications such as roads to make these remote areas more accessible.

Preliminary Findings of 1981 Census and  Planning Implications

Economic Planning

Typical  village scenes in 1970s and 1980s

Cattle are normally kept out at the cattle posts but on occasion owners need to bring them into the village for e.g. bogadi (bridewealth) during marriages, or when a team needs to be yoked to an ox wagon to take the family to their Lands. During the day they will be taken out to graze and be watered and at night be kept in the family’s kraal in their kgotla

Main Lobatse-Jwaneng road via Kanye, constructed late 1970s. This was one of the new tarred roads constructed during the 1970s and 1980s. At Independence in  1966 there had few tarred roads and this was still  the situation by 1970 when there were only a few kilometres in the  new capital, Gaborone.