Most published data on Botswana’s cattle population neither represent demographics of cattle and cattle ownership nor capture political and gender factors that affect cattle farming. Decline in cattle population has largely been attributed to unthrifty climatic conditions of the predominantly semi-arid desert terrain of the nation. This demographic and characterization study estimated cattle population, its spread and ownership. It also investigated some non-climatic factors like, politics and gender dynamics of cattle ownership and farming that affect Botswana’s cattle population. Non-participatory structured questionnaire, interviews, physical enumeration and measurements were used to collect primary data from farmers (n=149). Data were analysed and results presented using descriptive statistics (means±SEM). Demography of cattle, cattle ownership and farming potentials were analysed along the lines of gender, age, education, farming capacity and practice. Results show gaps for gender inequality and discrimination against women in land tenure system (for cattle farming), land ownership, cattle ownership and cattle inheritance. Difficulty in accessing credits arising from recent government policies favouring non-agricultural sectors, absence of insurance, erosion of socio-cultural pride derived from cattle farming and non-dependence on “cow money” resulted in decline in local young farmers’ participation in cattle farming. Majority of cattle in Botswana are farmed in the Western Region by wealthy white Afrikaans women. Beef farming was preferred to dairy farming, and local and exotic beef breeds were more adapted than the exotic dairy breeds which were rarely farmed in Botswana; making Botswana a net importer of milk; also, Tswana breed was the most favoured breed. Thus, cattle insurance, land reforms that can encourage youth and women participation in cattle farming and fodder farming for making dairy cattle feed are recommended.
Key words: Botswana, cattle farming, demography, gender inequalities, youth in agriculture
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