Still, in a noiseless shower of stars
I listen, straining my senses
But only the vast silence
Time stands still, frozen in a moment
Then a jackal cries
Challenging the sky
For an eternal moment
Pull away from your present environment and take stock.
There are people who have told me it is only because of a deep-seated unhappiness or restlessness that I need time to myself but it is only when you are totally alone with yourself that you really hear and see things the way you are. Outside influences distort one's personal outlook and true appreciation of self.
At the edge of my senses I heard a lion roar
I stirred from my morning reverie
There it was again, thrilling in its distance
I contemplated a moment, an eternity
Then it roared again
And the moment was gone
by Leigh Kemp
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- Length: 2234 words (6.4 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Have you ever heard of Botswana? Well, it is a country in Africa. Most people have never heard of Botswana, just like most people do not know that Egypt is in Africa. Pretty interesting? I, myself, had never heard of Botswana until I was selected to spend six weeks on a missionary internship there. I also did not know that Egypt was in Africa until recently. I would not give up my experience in Botswana away for the world. That is not what I am here to tell you about, though. I would love to tell you all about the mission trip and my plans for going back for a two year stay; however, I would like to inform you about the country of Botswana. I would like to begin by telling you where Botswana is. We will then look at this country under South African rule, compared to the independent government of Botswana that now exists. I would also like to have you look at the people and their culture to sho3w you what kind of people they are, and how simply they live and still get along quite well. I hope you enjoy this informational page of a country that many people have never heard about, and maybe it will inspire you to at least make a visit to see if I am telling the truth.
The scope of this paper will identify and help readers to visualize the three National standards listed under the heading topic "Places and Regions." By explaining the past and the present of Botswana, including how the people, culture, economy, beliefs, and government have changed, the reader will understand National Standard number four which says: "Knows and understands the physical and human characteristics of places." I am hoping that this paper will open some of our ethnocentric minds to understand the growing world around us. It will also help define National Standard number five which states: "Knows and understands that people define regions and use them to interpret the world’s changing complexity." Botswana is a third world country, however, it is becoming more known because of its developing economy and stable government.
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Botswana Mission Trip Heard Regions Scope Weeks Internship Standard Page Stay
Also, the National Standard number six will be defined through helping people to open their eyes and compare what they believe to how it really is. It states: "Knows and understands that culture and experience influence people’s perceptions of places and experiences."
Location, Geography, and Climate
Botswana, being a country slightly smaller than the state of Texas, is a landlocked country (1), meaning it is surrounded on all sides by land. It lies directly to the north of South Africa. It is bordered on the north side and the west side by Namibia, and on the north side and east side by Zimbabwe. It is connected by a narrow strip of land on the northern border to Zambia (2). Botswana lies between latitudes 18 and 27 degrees south and longitudes 20 and 28 degrees west. It is considered to be a high plateau (3).
Consisting of 581,730 square miles (4), Botswana’s terrain tends to be mostly desert, savanna (5), and grassland (6). The capital which lies on the southeastern coast of Botswana is Gaborone which is pronounced as "Ha-bo-ro-neh" (6). "Although [the] area of Botswana is covered by the Kalahari Desert, and is only sparsely inhabited by humans, it is one of the richest wildlife regions in all of Africa" (2). In fact, "Botswana is still one of the few remaining destinations in Africa that still provides a good sense of adventure and safari. Its expansive game parks and preserves, while offering wildlife as diverse and abundant as that found anywhere else, are still largely undeveloped and untamed" (2).
In the northwestern part of Botswana lies the Okavango River which empties into the Kalahari Desert. This is an interesting river because it does not empty into an ocean, but stops dead in the middle of the desert creating the "largest inland river delta in the world" (2).
Botswana’s climate is mostly subtropical (5), meaning it has low annual rainfall and short scrubby vegetation. It is very dry in the land and air, especially in the desert in the southwest. The very hot summers, ranging from 18 to 32.5 degrees Celsius, fall in the months just opposite form the seasons in the United States. Summer for Botswana is from September to March (3). This summer, however, is tempered by a prevailing northeast breeze. The rainy months fall during the summer months of December through March (2) with an average rainfall of 46 inches. The winter months, which are warm as well, are the United States’ summer months. In Botswana, April through July or August are hot days with cold mornings and nights. This sometimes results in an occasional frost in northern Botswana (3).
Until early in the seventeenth century, Botswana was inhabited by the San people, better known as Bushmen who were hunters and gatherers. They were overwhelmed by immigrant tribes. This happened largely by reason of technology in that they were able to do things much better than the Bushmen. They were better and faster at cultivating, irrigating, etc. Basically, the Bushmen’s lifestyle and social class was a step lower than the other tribes coming in. One of the dominant tribes was the Tswana people who came from South Africa during the Zulu wars (5, 6).
Batswana, an inclusive term for all the Tswana people, began to discover gold in their country. This attracted the Boer’s from Transvaal (2, 5, 6), which caused conflict between the tribes. The Batswana then petitioned the British government to protect them from the boer’s. The British government accepted their request and put "Bechuanaland" under the British Bechuanaland Protectorate of 1885, "though local authority was maintained with determination by the Tswana chiefs" (2).
In 1966, Bechuanaland received its independence and became the Republic of Botswana. A president, Seretse Khama, was then selected to be the first president of the new republic. He served for fifteen years and died in office. The Vice President, Ketumile Masiri, then became President and is still serving (5, 6).
The government of Botswana, not unlike the United States, has a Parliamentary Democracy System based on Roman-Dutch law (6). It is probably the most stable government in Africa. "The roots of Botswana’s democracy lie in Setswana traditions, exemplified by the Kgotla, or village council, in which the powers of traditional leaders were limited by custom and law" (5). As stated previously, the government of Botswana is like the United States’ government in that it has three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.
"Local government is administered by five town councils and nine district councils" (5). The district commissioners are appointed by the central government and have executive authority when in office. "There has been an ongoing debate about the political, social, and economic marginalization of the Basarwa (Bushmen)." The government’s policy about this has provoked controversy and is continuing to be revised (5).
I experienced a lot about this controversy while in Botswana. The Bushmen were forced to take refuge in game parks in order to keep their way of life—traditions and culture. In a debriefing at Tsodilo Hills, a "Bushmen Holy Place" of their creation, observed the Bushmen continuing their living through selling homeade charms of seeds and tree bark and tools to tourists. I heard these people were about to be forced out of this "Holy Place" as well. I was saddened to hear of people, like the American Indians, being forced away from their "holy" land not being able to maintain their culture and traditions.
Since independence, Botswana has experienced a tremendous amount of growth averaging an economic growth rate (EGR) of over ten percent per year (5). The basis of this economic growth is the diamond mines. "Since the early 1980s, Botswana has become the world’s largest producer of quality diamonds" (6). Since 1972, Botswana has produced three diamond mines. "Botswana produced a total of 16.8 million carats of diamonds fromt eh three Debswana mines in 1995" (5). The other main exports averaging 2.1 billion dollars per year consists of mining nickel, copper, coal, soda ash (1), and meat and meat products (6).
Since one-half of the population lives in rural areas, they heavily depend on subsistence cropping and livestock farming. This, however, accounts for only four percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), "but remains a social and cultural touchstone" (6). The population of cattle was about 2.5 million in the mid 1990s. However, in 1995, the government ordered a slaughter of all the cows in the Ngamiland District to prevent the spreading of a "cattle lung disease" (5).
When I was in the Ngamiland District in July of 1997, I was afforded the privilege of hearing the excitement of the people when they talked about the cows coming back to Shakawe. Then I saw the cows being hauled back in by huge stock trailers and taken to be handed out to the people according to the number of cows that were slaughtered from their heard two years before.
The main crop exports are sorghum, maize, pulses, and millet (3).
Although, there seem to be many job opportunities through the government, mining, agriculture, and town jobs, there is still a 22% unemployment rate (estimated in 1996) (6). The GDP, the purchasing power parity, was established in 1966 as 4.3 billion dollars. The annual growth rate from 1996-1997 is 6.9 percent. From July to June (fiscal year) Botswana has an established per capita GDP of $2, 930. The average inflation rate of consumer prices is 10.08%; also established in 1996. The unemployment rate, however, despite all the good that is going on is still low (6).
People, Culture, and Religion
On a six weeks stay in Botswana, I was able to meet many of the nationals. I stayed in one compound for three days, visited the secondary school three times a week, visited lepers, played basketball with children, and worshipped with the Christians. This is the best way I know to really see what the Batswana are really like, how they live, what their culture is, and how they worship. The people are generally stoic, but pleasant, fairly hospitable, very sincere in that each person greets everyone already present in a meeting always shaking with two hands instead of one. The Batswana treated me, a female, white, young adult as royalty because I was a guest. They hold a high respect for each other (which is basically motivated by fear).
The Batswana live in a culture that is centered around African Traditional Religion (ATR). The traditional beliefs usually deal with worshipping ancestors. They have a cyclical world view which means you are born, you live, you die, you become an ancestor, which manifests itself in an upcoming generation, coming back into life as a child. The ATR makes up about 60% of the Batswana, while 30% are Christians, and 10% are involved in other religions (4).
One of the results of ATR is the infant mortality rate at 54.9 deaths/ 1,000 live births. This also displays a birth rate of 32.65 births/ 1,000 population, and a death rate of 17.9 deaths/ 1,000 population. Because the death rates are so high, the medical availability low, they are promiscuous, have an epidemic of AIDS and malaria, and they commit child sacrifices, the women have more children, an average total fertility rate of 4.14 children born to one woman. Though Botswana is only slightly smaller than Texas, its population is not comparable being only 1,500,765 (established in 1997) (1).
As you have just read, Botswana is not a scary place. In fact, it is a very nice place to live. It is one of the most peaceful and natural parts of Africa. It has the most stable government even though it is one of the more newly independent countries. They have a fairly good export system. People from America can always find some way to help the Batswana out. The weather is never freezing cold, so it is perfect for those who hate winter but love to have fun in the sun.
If you have a desire to go to see what this country is all about, you can read about Health Precautions, Immunizations needed, Disease Risk Summary, and Official Health Data on the Travel Health Online. Also, before you leave, you might want to check The Weather Underground to see what the forecast looks like so you will know how to dress comfortably and appropriately. To be safe, always dress in layers.
Return to the Table of Contents
1. "The World Factbook Page on Botswana." http://www.odci.gov/cia/pulications/factbook/bc.html (4 February1998).
2. "An Introduction to Botswana." InterKnowledge Corp. 1996. http://www.interknowledge.com/botswana/index (25 March 1998).
3. "Botswana." Nations of the Commonwealth. http://www.tbc.gov.bc.ca/cwgames/country/Botswana/botswana.html (25 March 1998).
4. "Travelocity Destination Guide—Botswana." Columbus Group plc. 1997. http://www2.travelocity.com/destg/content/BW/ovr (25 March 1998).
5. Web Development Team. "Botswana." http://www.whitehouse.gov/Africa/botswana (25 March 1998).
6. "Data on Botswana." http://www.usia.gov/abtusia/posts/BC1/wwwhbdat.html (25 March 1998).
7. Lephoto, Catherine, and Jacob Yarnell. "!Kung San Page—About the !kung San of Western Botswana." Lawrence University, WI. 1996. http://www.lawrence.edu/dept/anthropology/kunsan/kungsan (23 March 1998).
8. "Botswana—Summary Profile." Travel Health Online. Shoreland Inc. 1998. http://www.tripprep.com/country/sp22 (25 March 1998).
9. "Weather Underground: Shakawe, Botswana Weather Conditions." The Weather Underground, Inc. 1998. http://www.wunderground.com/global/stations/68026 (25 March 1998).
10. "Africa." Map Machine: Atlas @ nationalgeographic.com. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/resources/ngo/maps/atlas/africa/africa.html (April 16, 1998)