Winners and losers: privatising the commons in Botswana

Winners and losers: privatising the commons in Botswana

Impacts of livestock privatisation on pastoral livelihoods

This paper explores key issues relating to the privatisation of livestock production in Botswana, with particular relevance to pastoral livelihoods.

The paper reviews the history of land policy; summarises developments in recent years of rangeland policies; and analyses the economic, social and environmental impact of the process of privatising the commons in Botswana.

Main conclusions include:

  • the benefits of the privatisation of the commons have mainly been concentrated in the hands of a small number of wealthy cattle owners, an elite consisting largely of members or supporters of the ruling party
  • economies of scale have enabled owners of large herds, whose number is now decreasing, to maximise any benefits from the commercialisation of beef production on the rangelands
  • poor rural households in Botswana have mainly been the losers in this process. They have lost:
    • access to land and/or been permanently displaced
    • access to the benefits of the government's support to the livestock sector
    • their livestock: the number of cattle-less households is increasing
    • their livelihood: many San have been displaced and some mixed farmers have had to leave agriculture as they cannot survive without a few cattle
  • wildlife has also been a loser in the process of privatising the commons.

[adapted from authors]

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