How much are Botswana’s drylands worth?

Botswana is an arid to semi-arid landlocked country that borders South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. More than 80 percent of Botswana is drylands and three-quarters of the total land area is covered by the Kalahari sands.

Slices of dried Devil´s Claw tubers in the hands of a local harvester, Botswana

Kgalagadi District in the southwestern corner of Botswana constitutes about 10.5 percent of the country’s total area. It has an average annual rainfall of 150mm in the south and 250mm in the north however the rain is very erratic and the region is subject to periodic drought.

The terrain is flat, with occasional low rocky hills, plains or pans and sand dunes. There is no surface water except in seasonal shallow pans and fossil valleys.

Based on the study results, dryland ecosystem services in the Kgalagadi District contributed a 191,260 USD to Botswana’s Gross National Income in 2006.

This is a significant contribution considering the low population density and the levels of poverty in the district. Of this, almost 50 percent came from wild plants, such as the medicinal plant Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum spp).

In terms of net annual private profit, the largest contribution to household incomes was from livestock production (1,124 USD per household) followed by the utilization of wild plants (USD 270 per household). Although wild plants provide about a quarter of the profit of livestock production, they are critically important for the resilience of rural households and their real value may greatly exceed the figures suggested by profit margins.

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