Rangeland tenure and pastoral development in Botswana: Is there a future for community-based management?
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Botswana has a long history of attempts to ‘rationalise’ land tenure so as to improve livestock production, which remains a mainstay for the rural economy. This paper addresses the profound transformations in land tenure systems that have been prompted by decades of government and donor-driven programmes and policy, resulting in the shrinking of the commonage through the exclusion of extensive tracts of land and their transfer to private interests. In particular, the implementation and impacts of two policies are examined: the Tribal Grazing Lands Policy (TGLP) (1975) and the ongoing National Policy for Agricultural Development (NPAD) (1991). Both these policies envisage improved management of common rangeland resources through allocation to private interests, but have failed to achieve their objectives of improved rangeland management or increased livestock production. The history of land and natural resource tenure in Botswana is reflective of wider trends in Africa, whereby the attrition of collectively- held natural resources under customary tenure is being accelerated by policies that favour individualised tenure. Programmes to decentralise management of specific renewable natural resources such as wildlife have been implemented for two decades, but nonetheless have yet to gain widespread support among policy makers. However, for states unwilling to devolve authority over land even further and accord full recognition to customary rights, approaches such as those established by Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) are one route to promote sufficient recognition of collective rights to prevent further loss of commonly-held lands to private interests. Within this context, this paper also examines a recent initiative by the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism to pilot community-based management of rangeland resources in several community grazing areas, and analyses the challenges that it faces. Unless CBNRM approaches are able to develop beyond the largely protected and semi- protected areas in which they currently operate, and expand into the production landscapes that support the everyday livelihoods of most rural residents in Africa, CBNRM risks irrelevance to most of Africa’s natural resources and its people.