Colonialism and cattle marketing in Botswana, 1900-1954
Mushingeh, Andrew Chiponde Selemani Mutemwe
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Botswana ranks among the least developed of black Africa's independent states. In this predominantly rural nation, most people have depended on subsistence agriculture (sorghum and maize) and on the rearing of cattle as a means of livelihood since the 19th century. Cattle rearing has been the principal cash earning sector of the economy since the establishment of the Bechuanaland Protectorate in 1885, and continued to provide over 90 per cent of the country's exports before the discovery of diamonds in the post-Independence period. Although Africans have now taken control of the central bureaucracy, mass poverty still grips the nation.This dissertation attempts to make a modest contribution toward the explanation of the origins of the culture of poverty in Botswana. Our basic aim is to provide some historical analysis of how colonial underdevelopment in this country manifested itself through the thwarting of the cattle economy. The process is followed from the eve of the 20th century, up to 1954 when the Lobatse abattoir was built by the Colonial Development Corporation (CDC) We focus on the relationship between ecological factors and the pre-colonial socio-economic formations on one hand, and the colonial land and political legislations and labour problems on the other. We have argued that the interaction of these forces had a far-reaching impact on cattle production in general. For instance, the way in which Africans were dispossessed of their land or prevented from access to sufficient land was one important factor explaining the structure of the underdevelopment of the cattle economy. As access to productive land determined economic opportunities, the drastic reduction of African land by colonial land alienation combined with other factors to influence animal husbandry in a negative way. The nature of animal husbandry which evolved accounted for the poor quality of cattle produced during the colonial epoch. To a large extent the constraints on the marketability of these cattle stemmed from their poor quality and from the colonial state's pursuance of the policy of neglect and non-development of local resources. Our conclusion is that land alienation marked the underdevelopment of the cattle economy at the level of production, while the maintenance of an exploitative and discriminatory market system which favoured European settlers against Africans, also underdeveloped the cattle economy at the level of exchange.In our view the internal constraints combined with the constraints arising from the operations in general of the colonial political economy in Southern Africa, to undermine the viability of the cattle economy in Botswana, thereby creating the culture of poverty there. As Donald Kowet points out, underdevelopment in this sense does not indicate the state of society prior to the "modernizing" impact, but rather the outcome of colonial penetration and the articulation of the colonial political economy.