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Formerly Bechuanaland Protectorate under the British, Botswana became independent in Bot swana means "place of Tswana" in the dominant national language Set swana , and the citizenry are called Bat swana, or Tswana people. The term Batswana, however, bears a double meaning. In government rhetoric, it refers to all citizens of Botswana.

But the word also refers to ethnically "Tswana" people, as distinct from the other ethnic groups present in the country. This double meaning allows for both the expression of strong civic national sentiments and debate about the dominance of Tswana people and ideology over the broader population.

This fiction may indeed have supported the building of an officially nonethnic, state-oriented society, but has come under sharp challenge in the s, as minority groups request the privileges of official recognition. Botswana is a landlocked and arid country. Bordering on South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Zambia, it is , square miles , square kilometers in area, about the same size as France. Two-thirds of the country is comprised of the Kalahari Desert, which is covered with grasses and scrub but has scarce surface water.

Mean annual rainfall ranges from under 10 inches millimeters per annum in the southwest to over 25 inches millimeters in the northeast.

The entire country is prone to extended droughts, causing significant hardship to agriculturalists, pastoralists, and hunter-gatherers. The Okavango Delta, in the north, is a large inland delta, and people there fish and farm on its flooded banks; tourists are drawn to the large numbers of wildlife that congregate in the area.

The eastern third of the country, with more rainfall and fertile soils, is home to most of the population. The capital city today, Gaborone, was built on a village site in the southeastern corner of the country at independence, near the borders of several of the Tswana polities that dominated the country. While very high growth rates in the s and s have declined, high birth rates and declining infant mortality have led to a population structure heavily skewed toward young people: Although ethnically Tswana people are often said to be a majority, government censuses collect no information on ethnicity.

Earlier studies indicated that in some regions, Tswana were a minority, and that all polities were composed of people of heterogeneous origins, including Kalanga, Yei, Mbukushu, Subiya, Herero, Talaote, Tswapong, Kgalagadi, Kaa, Birwa, and varied peoples known as Bushmen or, in Botswana, Sarwa.

There are also resident Europeans and Indians. Bantu, Khoisan, and Indo-European languages are spoken in Botswana. English is the official language and Setswana the national language. This means that the language of government and higher education is primarily English, but that Setswana is the dominant language spoken in the country. Ninety percent of the population is said to speak Setswana. Most speakers of other languages are multilingual; some, however, have weaker competence in Setswana and have complained of disadvantages in primary schooling.

It is also the term for the national currency. The national anthem is "Lefatshe la Rona," "Our Country" , and its title captures the strong attachment most Batswana feel to the land and its resources, as well as some antiforeign sentiments. Cattle were tremendously important not just to a material economy but also to the symbolic economy of status, family, and social relations in the past, and cattle remain powerfully evocative to most Batswana today.

History and Ethnic Relations Emergence of the Nation. People known colloquially to the west as Bushmen have lived in Botswana for thousands of years. Herders and agriculturalists from a Bantu tradition appeared more than two-thousand years ago. Tswana polities under Tswana chiefs moved into Botswana from the south and east in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, some responding to the rise of the Zulu state and European encroachments.

Missionization of Tswana began in , and throughout the nineteenth century Tswana polities were drawn into trade, Christianity, and the migrant labor economy centered in South Africa, while defending themselves against incursions from the north, east, and south. In the British declared the area the Bechuanaland Protectorate, and in a famous visit to Britain in , three of the Tswana kings petitioned to remain under the British instead of being governed by the British South Africa Company.

British administration in the twentieth century strengthened the role of the Tswana chiefs and the dominance of Tswana laws and customs over the country.

Later, as independence movements emerged across Africa, people from a variety of ethnic groups looked forward to independence and formed political parties. The move to independence was quite peaceful. Independence was granted to the newly named Republic of Botswana in As a new nation, Botswana emphasized nonethnic citizenship and liberal democracy. Diamonds were discovered soon after independence was granted, and the prudent and equitable use of their revenues has underwritten stability and the repeated reelection of the dominant political party.

The domination of the country by the Tswana polities has persisted in a nonethnic government through the easy assumption of the predominance of Tswana people, language, and customs. Certain groups in the past were treated as serfs or subordinates by Tswana, such as the Sarwa, Kgalagadi, Yei, and Kalanga, and the latter two have been particularly active in the s to secure official recognition for minority "tribes," and in ethnic revivalism.

The nonethnic official rhetoric of civic participation, however, has also allowed many members of minority groups to move through the educational system into prominent management and bureaucratic positions. Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space Traditional architecture in Botswana is distinguished from modern architecture in three domains: By contrast, modern architecture uses purchased materials cement and bricks and roofing products and involves the labor of specialized and commercial craftsmen, is square, and features rooms for specialized activities bedrooms, kitchens.

The traditional Tswana residential area is a compound, often housing several closely related family groups. Into the s, much urban housing was financed and built by the government, and repeated a few basic patterns, including one that retained a courtyard structure, which later became unpopular. Households in the Tswana polities often maintained three residential sites: Cattleposts, where livestock are kept, are today sometimes complex compounds with several houses and nearby agricultural fields, and sometimes just an animal pen or two and a ramshackle shelter for the herder s.

Many urban residents today continue to maintain a house in a village of origin, and many men and some women also develop cattleposts. Villages are distinguished from towns and cities by a significant engagement in agriculture by residents, and by the political structure of the settlement. The village is divided into wards, each of which also has a kgotla where a headman hears lower-level disputes and matters of ward concern are aired. Urban areas have grown rapidly in Botswana since independence.

In , 46 percent of the population was urban, a percentage that continues to grow. Cities are centered by a downtown area of shops, businesses, and government offices. Some larger villages have come to be known as "urban villages" or "agro-towns.

Sorghum or corn meal porridge is the staple of most Botswana meals. People also use rice, but it is considered more expensive and associated with Europeans. Meats include chicken, goat, sheep, cattle, fish, a caterpillar known as phane and various wild game.

Village evening meals may include leftovers from midday, but for many people is often just tea and buttered bread. There are many restaurants representing food from around the world in the urban areas. In smaller villages, there are likely to be no restaurants.

Fatcakes, somewhat like round doughnut holes, are sold as snacks fairly ubiquitously. Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. At large public events, such as the opening of a new government building, and at weddings and funerals, men prepare the centerpiece: Beer is often served at weddings, and ginger beer at other events; tea and fatcakes are prepared for weddings and funerals that have all-night components.

At independence in , most people in Botswana relied on mixed agriculture crops and livestock , hunting and gathering wild foods, and remittances from migrant labor in South Africa. But diamonds were found soon after independence, and since the s mining has provided a strong backbone for economic development. Farming of sorghum, maize, millet, and beans, along with small stock and cattle, are still important for subsistence and also commercial returns.

Because of drought and urban migration, Botswana no longer aspires to be self-sufficient in agriculture, but instead focuses on "food security" incorporating regular imports of grain and processed foods. Thirty-seven percent of formal employment is by the government and almost 8 percent in state corporations , but employment in the private sector is now growing more rapidly; people work in service and retail, mines, construction, other industries, and in many small start-up businesses.

Earnings are typically remitted rather broadly through extended kin networks. Land Tenure and Property. The rest is communal land, also called "tribal land"; people are allocated rights to farm or build houses and pass the rights on to descendants, but they may not transfer the rights to someone else. Grazing land is generally not allocated, but people develop claims to grazing areas through registered wells and water rights.

Some tribal grazing land was zoned for commercial development in the controversial Tribal Grazing Lands Policy of , and is allocated in fifty-year leases.

Land boards, composed of elected and appointed members, administer the allocation of tribal land. Although all citizens are guaranteed access to land, there have been many complaints about land board allocation; the association of "tribal" land with the dominant Tswana polities has produced demands by some minority groups for tribal lands of their own.

Agricultural products are marketed both through government marketing services and privately. Small-scale retailing of manufactured goods is widespread. Small home industries, such as sewing, cement block manufacture, other household goods, and construction are common activities, and the government is promoting larger industrial enterprises.

Copper, nickel, and potash mines produce for an international market. Botswana has struggled to attract major industrial enterprise to the country. Textiles, clothing, and food processing constitute the major industries. Abundant wildlife, especially in the north, is the basis of a tourist sector that has focused primarily on high-end tours. In the s, an automobile assembly plant added vehicles to the list of exports, but that plant was closed in , and the government is seeking new operators for it.

Around 80 percent of exports go to Europe. Diamonds account of about 80 percent of foreign exchange earnings. Botswana imports a wide variety of goods. Botswana is a member of the South African Customs Union.

There was very little specialization in the "traditional" economy, with the exception of traditional doctors. Within the household, tasks were distributed based on age and gender. Tswana practices are often taken as representative of the country as a whole: But women do care for and milk cattle in other cultures within the country as, for example, the Herero. When ox-drawn plows, and later tractors, were introduced, men became more involved in crop agriculture.

Apart from the heavy wooden supports, women did most of the construction and maintenance of traditional houses; today, men tend to specialize in modern construction techniques. Young boys and men, along with other dependent males, used to work at cattleposts, but now younger people attend school and Batswana complain frequently about finding reliable herders. In the "modern" economy, there is no formal division of labor by gender, age, or class.

Social Stratification Classes and Castes. In the past, class differentiation was not strongly marked in material life.


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