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Home Countries Botswana Economic sectors

The agricultural sector

Monday, may 08th 2017

The weight of agriculture in GDP has steadily declined. By 2016, it was only 1.8 %. Yet almost a third of Botswanan population lives on subsistence farming (70 % of the rural population). Botswana's agriculture is rather unproductive. Most farms are small-sized, and the methods are still traditional and dependent on rainfall.



Agriculture focuses on the production of cereals (sorghum in particular), fruits and vegetables. Their production has increased over the past decade, which has allowed Botswana to reduce its imports and thus move closer to self-sufficiency.


The biggest challenges for these crops are access to water, as only a small share of arable land is irrigated, lack of planning in land allocation and climate change leading to decreased rainfall.


Most of these challenges are common to the livestock sector, but unlike agriculture, it benefits from a more buoyant dynamic. Bovine livestock in particular is culturally and socially anchored in Botswana. In 1965, the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) was established to manage the slaughter and marketing of meat for export. The BMC is therefore the main buyer of Botswana breeders, who frequently complain about the single price that is offered to them.


Since the 1970s, Botswana has been exporting beef to Europe (at that time beef accounted for 40 % of Botswana's GDP). This cooperation was renewed in 2014 by an Economic Partnership Agreement signed between the EU and the Southern African Development Community. This agreement allows for exports of products from the sub-region without quotas or taxes and will especially benefit Botswanan beef.


Over the past two decades, the country has been engaged in horticultural production to diversify its economy and agriculture. The majority of the sector is dominated by large groups, but the share of small farms is growing.


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