Rural development in Botswana: Experience from elsewhere and emerging issues
Poverty incidence is one of the most critical concerns in Botswana and the government has resolved to eradicate this problem and ensure that every citizen live in a dignified and acceptable condition consistent with the national aspirations as set out in the National Vision 2016. Currently, rural areas are persistently experiencing the highest poverty incidence compared to any other place in the country. This has been the case ever since we have measured the extent of the poverty problem in 1985/86. Rural development in Botswana has been a central policy and strategy of government effort to improve the welfare and standard of living since independence. Since the 1970s, a rural development council that was traditionally chaired by a Vice President demonstrates the importance that government takes about rural development. The membership of this council involves all permanent secretaries and key non-government stakeholders. The Council has made tremendous success in transforming Botswana from a primarily rural based population to a country where the majority of its residents live in urban areas. Initial rural development efforts that provided basic infrastructure countrywide contributed to Botswana’s urbanization as part of this process involved a reclassification of many former rural villages into urban villages, particularly after the 1991 Population Census. Rural population is now a minority but the problems of poverty and vulnerability remains higher than in other areas. The nature and outlook of rural areas have changed dramatically and so have the needs of the rural people. There is a need to review our definition of a rural area, and re-visit the policies and processes of facilitating rural development to make them more relevant to emerging issues and challenges. This papers proposes that the country should choose its programmes and projects for development based on their ability and past record to perform, target government support more efficiently and effectively, acknowledge emerging challenges and respond accordingly by improving the operations of a market system, even if it requires government intervention.
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