Gardening Matters: a Political Ecology of Female Horticulturists, Commercialization, Water Access, and Food Security in Botswana


Fehr, Rachel, and William G. Moseley. 2017. “Gardening Matters: a Political Ecology of Female Horticulturists, Commercialization, Water Access, and Food Security in Botswana.” African Geographical Review 38 (1): 67-80.

Authors: Rachel Fehr, William G. Moseley


The Government of Botswana and its partners have sought to address household food insecurity and poverty by experimenting with gardening initiatives of various sizes and commercial orientation. We use a multi-method approach, incorporating both econometric analysis and qualitative data, viewed through the theoretical lens of feminist political ecology, to determine how effective these women’s gardening initiatives are in addressing household food insecurity. We compare the relationship between commercial orientation and food security for women who rely on borehole water, tap water, and river water. We find that food security status improves with commercial orientation only when women are already experienced with the commercial market and/or when commercialization helps cover unavoidable water costs. When women have access to a reliable source of inexpensive water (as the river water users do), they can sustainably pursue subsistence-oriented horticulture and may in fact see greater food security benefits from consuming what they grow than from selling it. This study’s results call into question claims that commercialized horticulture will improve food security without first addressing the gendered dynamics of water access.

Keywords: commercial agriculture, feminist political ecology, food security, horticulture, water access, Botswana



Topics: Economies, Poverty, Feminisms, Feminist Political Ecology, Gender, Women, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, Livelihoods, Security, Food Security Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Botswana

Year: 2017

Enhancing Resilience of Women to Hazards through Mainstreaming Gender into Disaster Risk Reduction Policies in Botswana


Moyo, Nkosiyabo F. 2019. "Enhancing Resilience of Women to Hazards through Mainstreaming Gender into Disaster Risk Reduction Policies in Botswana." PhD diss., North-West University.

Author: Nkosiyabo F. Moyo


The absence of a gender perspective in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is a matter of serious concern for both research and practice. This is despite overwhelming evidence that women are disproportionately affected by disasters. During the past decade, there has been a worldwide alarming increase in the impact and frequency of disasters, especially hydro-meteorological hazards (heavy rain storms) as a result of climate change. It is estimated that two-thirds of the world's disasters are related to climate change (Mitchell and van Aalst, 2008:1). Likewise, Botswana is currently experiencing an increase in the number of localised disasters climatological as well as non climatological disasters, which hardly reached global headlines, but silently and persistently eroded the capacities of Batswana to survive and prosper. However, these disasters did not affect people equally. Women, especially those in rural female-headed households were profoundly impacted the most. In Botswana and other developing countries, existing and entrenched social inequalities contribute to the disparity in vulnerability. As a result Women are at a greater disadvantage, even before a disaster strikes, due to the implications of inequalities and how they manifest and influence existing historical, social, cultural, economic and political conditions in Botswana.

Generally, there is paucity of research on sex and gender differences regarding vulnerability to disasters. The limited data available suggests a pattern of gender differentiation in the various phases of disaster risk reduction. While studies in DRR include gender as demographic variable, they provide only basic information on gender, but do not engage in any thorough explanation or analysis of women’s experiences in a disaster situation. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effects of disasters on women in Botswana and provide concrete recommendations on how to address the practical (food, shelter, income) and strategic (human rights, skills and leadership training) gender needs and interests of women, without necessarily alienating men. This would help realise Vision 2036, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Sustainable Development Goals. To achieve these goals, it was posited that gender issues should be mainstreamed into DRR. 

Based on the premise above, the study examined the origins and the evolution of the concepts of disaster, gender and mainstreaming. It also examined best international practices in these fields. Such practices were analysed and discussed from within a global perspective and operationalised to Botswana's context. Following a qualitative design, the research used focus group discussions of households affected by disasters and subject-matter specialists (practitioners, scholars, politicians, traditional leaders and activists) to collect data. 

The findings confirmed the differential vulnerabilities between men and women and their differing adaptive capacities regarding disaster situations. These capacities were found to be influenced largely by culture and its institutional frameworks. The study affirmed the central role played by culture and institutions in marginalising women. 

Keywords: disaster risk reduction, climate-change adaptation, gender, mainstreaming, women, social vulnerability, resilience, sustainable development, Botswana

Topics: Environment, Climate Change, Environmental Disasters, Gender, Gender Mainstreaming, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Households, Rights, Human Rights, Security, Food Security Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Botswana

Year: 2019

How Important Is Gender in Transboundary Groundwater Governance?: A Question for the Ramotswa Aquifer in Southern Africa


Hawkins, Stephanie, Nicole Lefore, Saniso Sakuringwa, and Matshidiso Thathana. 2019. “How Important Is Gender in Transboundary Groundwater Governance?: A Question for the Ramotswa Aquifer in Southern Africa.” wH2O: The Journal of Gender and Water 6 (1): 40-67.

Authors: Stephanie Hawkins, Nicole Lefore, Saniso Sakuringwa, Matshidiso Thathana


In semi-arid Sub-Saharan Africa, groundwater is a critical resource for rural livelihoods given the pressures on surface water and lack of piped delivery. Socially defined gen- der roles in water management often create disparities and inequalities regarding water access, use, and labour, making consideration of gender issues an important component of groundwater governance. Resources shared across borders raises the question about the relevance of and approach to gender in transboundary ground- water governance. This paper explores this question in light of the lack of gender responsive governance arrangements over transboundary groundwater resources. It uses qualitative methodologies to examine the need for institutional approaches to improve gender sensitivity and equality in transboundary groundwater cooperation. The paper seeks to assess how legal instruments on gender and transboundary water resources influence equality for women and men in terms of: reach of water access, benefits of water use, and empowerment. First, it analyses the level of gender sensi- tivity in international and regional instruments that provide the governance frame- work for transboundary groundwater. It then proposes a new integrated framework for analysis, which it applies to the case study of the Ramotswa aquifer – a resource shared between South Africa and Botswana. The paper examines the extent to which international instruments, national law and local programmes and projects related to transboundary groundwater governance correspond with the realities on the ground. The results uncover constraints in both countries regarding equal participation in decision-making, deficiencies in meeting gendered needs and ensuring benefits, and disempowering legal frameworks. The paper concludes with entry points that link transboundary water governance and local level water management, offering potential indicators that can inform governance and programming, and enable improved moni- toring of the implementation of gender responsiveness at multiple levels.

Topics: Development, Gender, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, Livelihoods Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Botswana, South Africa

Year: 2019

"Women Have No Tribe": Connecting Carework, Gender, and Migration in an Era of HIV/AIDS in Botswana


Upton, Rebecca L. 2003. “‘Women Have No Tribe’: Connecting Carework, Gender, and Migration in an Era of HIV/AIDS in Botswana.” Gender and Society 17 (2): 314–22.

Author: Rebecca L. Upton


The country of Botswana currently has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. Government and international aid agencies have undertaken initiatives to address the rapidly growing epidemic, but few measures address the current crisis of care as a key element in that process. In this article, the author uses case study data to highlight how women in Northern Botswana are affected by the increasing burden of caregiving to children who are orphaned as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In particular, she describes how the role of women as caregivers in communities has been transformed as a result of the HIV/AIDS crisis. She suggests that the intersecting cultural patterns of migration and reproduction are central to understanding the spread of the disease in the current emerging crisis of care.

Keywords: Botswana, HIV/AIDS, fosterage, migration, reproduction

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Gender, Women, Health, HIV/AIDS, Reproductive Health, Households Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Botswana

Year: 2003

Update on the Women’s Movement in Botswana: Have Women Stopped Talking?


Bauer, G. 2011. “Update on the Women’s Movement in Botswana: Have Women Stopped Talking?” African Studies Review 54 (2): 23–46.

Author: G. Bauer


Across Africa in the early twenty-first century, autonomous women's movements have transformed the political landscape. With their support, African women are lobbying for constitutional reforms, entering political office in unprecedented numbers, and initiating legislation to expand women's rights. African women's movements have been emboldened by changes in international and regional norms concerning women's rights and representation, a new availability of resources to enhance women's status, and in many places, an end to conflict. In Botswana, the 1980s and 1990s were a period of heightened women's mobilization. Led by the women's organization Emang Basadi, the women's movement accomplished many significant victories, including winning a landmark citizenship case, prompting a comprehensive review of laws to identify instances of gender discrimination, issuing the first women's manifesto in Africa, and organizing workshops for political parties and women candidates. Some scholars have suggested that Emang Basadi's work was responsible not just for increasing women's representation in parliament, but also for broadening democracy in Botswana. Since 2010, however, a once vibrant women's movement has gone quiet. This article seeks to understand this development and to explore how the movement might be revitalized. The article concludes by drawing comparisons with other women's movements in the region and suggesting that the women's movement in Botswana, like others in the region, may be, in the words of one scholar, "in abeyance."

Topics: Armed Conflict, Citizenship, Democracy / Democratization, Gender, Women, Governance, Constitutions, Political Participation, Women's Rights Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Botswana

Year: 2011

Cross-Border Lives, Warfare and Rape in Independence-Era Botswana


Bolaane, Maitseo M.M. 2013. “Cross-Border Lives, Warfare and Rape in Independence-Era Botswana.” Journal of Southern African Studies 39 (3): 557–76. doi:10.1080/03057070.2013.823319.

Author: Maitseo Bolaane


During the 1970s, the violence in neighbouring states spilled over into Botswana, making untenable its previous policy of having no army. This article examines the experiences of women in the north-east border regions who suffered violence from South African and Rhodesian soldiers crossing illegally and yet routinely into Botswana. As these incidents show, rape as a weapon of war has a long history in the region, although world attention is more recent. I suggest that a key underlying factor in the cross-border violence was the difficult and incomplete transition from permeable boundaries within a wider colonial space to hard international borders between fully independent and hostile states. As a result, the role of Botswana in the liberation struggle of southern Africa served as the main reason for the regular violations of its sovereignty during that period. The lives of ordinary people straddled the border, and so did the violence of armies, making it crucial to consider the reactions of the people of Botswana to cross-border warfare. I will also use comparisons with other notable contemporary incidents of cross-border violence and cross-border ambiguity, including one incident that took place, paradoxically, in the middle of the country, involving travel on the Rhodesian-owned railway.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence, Rape, Violence Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Botswana

Year: 2013

Gender Mainstreaming Experiences from Eastern and Southern Africa


Tadesse, Matebu, and Abiye Daniel, eds. 2010. Gender Mainstreaming Experiences from Eastern and Southern Africa. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Organisation for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA).

Authors: Matebu Tadesse, Abiye Daniel


Mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in any area and at all levels. It is a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of women as well as of men an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres, so that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal of mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality. This work explores the experiences of Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia from Eastern Africa; and Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Swaziland from Southern Africa. All cases show the varied attempts to mainstream gender at national, institutional, and civil society levels, including grassroots experiences. (Google Books)

Topics: Gender, Gender Mainstreaming, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality Regions: Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Year: 2010

The Impact of Male Labor Migration on Women in Botswana


Brown, Barbara. 1983. "The Impact of Male Labor Migration on Women in Botswana." African Affairs 82 (328): 367-88.

Author: Barbara Brown


In recent years scholars have become increasingly concerned with the role women  play in society. Researchers  studying women in the Third World have focused particularly on the impact of  development on the social and economic role of women. However, there continue to be large gaps in our understanding of women in the development process. One such gap is the impact of labor migration on women. Labor migration is a common phenomenon today both within the Third World and between it and the industrialized countries. Yet, while numerous scholars have analyzed who migrates and  what causes the migration, there has been little in-depth study of the effect  of this migration on women. Most of the existing literature assumes that migration is a rational response to a  given range of resources and choices and that, as such, the family as a unit, including the women members, benefits from such migration. This view, however,  oversimplifies the situation.  The evidence shows that high male outmigration has led to a modification in the structure of family life and has transformed women's social and economic position to their detriment.

Keywords: labor migration, gender transformation


  • In her article, Brown examines that ways in which male outmigration from Botswana alters gender relations. She argues that as men migrate out of the country, development slows, and the decrease in human capital leaves women with the burden of agricultural reproduction at very little pay. Brown notes that gender is disregarded by many researchers in the field, and she focuses her study on the extent to which gender plays into the process of capital accumulation in Botswana. She concludes that migrancy entails changes in family roles that are detrimental to women.

  • Brown uses South Africa to briefly illustrate the effect that migration has historically had on the country’s economic system, explaining how rural dwellers were forced into wage labor in order to increase human capital. She proceeds to draw a parallel between this and the situation in Botswana, as the economy in Botswana has shifted from subsistence to commercial agriculture as a result of labor migration. In her study, she focuses on the impact of migration on women, specifically. She argues that as a result of male outmigration, women have become more isolated in their marriage and family positions and their social and economic situation has also changed for the worse. 

  • Because of the high levels of outmigration in Botswana, Brown argues, marriage is now delayed until a later age, which means that women oftentimes bear children before marriage and act as single parents. These single mothers face a variety of financial issues, including the fact that they are oftentimes denied child support. This forces women to turn to their immediate family for economic assistance; however, as individualism becomes more highly valued in society, family support becomes less reliable. Research shows that “households headed by single mothers are significantly poorer than male-headed households” (376), largely because women have fewer resources for farming (i.e. access to cattle) than men do. Brown also considers the effect of female outmigration on gender roles. Many unmarried mothers will leave their children with their own parents and search for work elsewhere, allowing her to earn more money.

  • In her conclusion, Brown writes that most of the new economic opportunities in Botswana go to men rather than women, making women dependent on men financially. As Botswana transitioned to a capitalist economy, the society became dependent on migrant labor. This increase in migration changed family ties and economic relationships, even leader to a “feminization of poverty” (387), as women are less easily able to access the resources needed to prosper economically.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Economies, Poverty, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Households, Livelihoods Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Botswana

Year: 1983

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