Tourism and agriculture are two sectors of the economy which complement each other. For example, the tourism industry relies on agricultural produce to provide the necessary food items required by tourists. Recently, Botswana’s livestock sector received a boost by the arrival of bulls and heifers from the USA to support Botswana’s beef production sector. The expansion of Botswana’s livestock industry is partly a result of moves towards integration into the global economy.
In the colonial period, livestock raising was the backbone of the national economy and in the post-colonial period remains the mainstay of the rural economy. Botswana’s export-driven cattle industry has led to the establishment of a well-equipped infrastructure such as marketing and veterinary services, which rank among the most developed in Africa. The industry has much support from the government; hence, the cattle population continues to grow.
The erection of veterinary cordon fences associated with the prevention of diseases and expansion of the cattle industry to meet export demands have also played a centre stage in Botswana. The globalisation of Botswana’s livestock industry from the colonial period to the present has resulted in significant commercialisation of the cattle industry and the opening of export markets, initially in South Africa, followed by regional markets in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mauritius, and the European Union. It has also led to a marked increase in cattle populations and the number of water points across the country, the progressive fencing of the country into separate veterinary regions and increased financial support to the livestock sector in comparison to other sectors of the economy.
The positive impact of globalisation in Botswana is demonstrated by the increased wealth of the country resulting from the international trade in beef cattle exports. Even though in recent years diamonds have displaced beef as the country’s chief export, the livestock industry has been a dominant force propelling the globalisation of Botswana’s national economy.
Botswana’s experience of globalisation for the wider world reveals that globalisation of the beef industry from the colonial period to present times has encouraged large-scale ranching and a strong association between government policy and large-scale commercial farming interests. Large-scale ranches have depended upon the state for their business and the state has subsidised the cattle industry. Agricultural policies in Botswana have been characterised by overwhelming financial support for cattle owners and the provision of welfare support for the rural poor.
The dominance of the beef barons has led to a strong over emphasis on the livestock industry in national development plans. The cattle industry receives a variety of subsidies, most importantly, a veterinary health system that is largely free to farmers and paid out of general tax revenues; many other inputs are also heavily subsidised.
It is critical that the traditional sector dominated by small farmers maintain a central role in the beef market and that the ensuing benefits of export growth are spread more equitably throughout society to avoid the marginalisation such as is now prevalent.
The commercialisation of the small-scale traditional sector needs to bear in mind the importance of maintaining subsistence production to meet basic needs and provide security for the pastoral sector. It is from this view point that strong linkages between the agricultural sector and other sectors such as the tourism industry should be encouraged. As a result, Batswana should be able to sell beef not only at the EU but to tourism facilities in the delta. Horticultural and poultry products and other agricultural sectors be encouraged to support Botswana’s tourism industry.