Desiccation and Other Factors Affecting Community Life in the Mopipi Area Along the Boteti River in Botswana

Desiccation and Other Factors Affecting Community Life in the Mopipi Area Along the Boteti River in Botswana

Eagilwe M. Segosebe (University of Botswana, Botswana)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3440-2.ch017
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The inhabitants of Mopipi who live in the downstream section of the Boteti River previously (prior to 1982) enjoyed abundant natural resources as water flowed to the periphery of their village into Mopipi pan. Flood failure over the last two decades has meant that the people of Mopipi are subjected to both natural and socio-economic stressors, which negatively impact their livelihoods. Based on field observations and focused group discussions this paper attempts to explain major influences of livelihoods in Mopipi village and surroundings. Variable and limited rains together with the pattern of the Boteti River flow into the Mopipi Pan in the past are seen as major natural factors. In particular, the flood failure in the mid-1980s coincided with drought conditions which caused considerable hardships to the local community. Local perceptions of constraints in the natural resource base due to droughts and flood failure are contextualized in relation to stresses produced by natural and social processes.
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Mopipi community refers to the communities living in the Mopipi and Mokobaxane villages located in the Central District. Populations of the two villages are relatively small. According to the 2001 population census report, the population of Mopipi was 3, 066, while that for Mokobaxane was 1, 290 (Central Statistics Office 2002). The two settlements are located less than 15 kilometres apart and are situated about 70 kilometers west of Orapa (one of the diamond mining towns) along the Orapa-Maun road and south of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, the biggest of which are the Ntwetwe and Sua Pans (Figure 1a&b). The area is characterized by low precipitation with mean annual rainfall between 350 and 400 mm (Bhalotra 1985).

Local soils vary according to parent material and formation, but they are generally characterized as sandy and poorly drained. Along the Boteti River fluvisols, which have a relatively high fertility level are common and are the most preferred for agricultural production.

This is evident in the many fields that are found strung along the Boteti River bed or bank, as well as, in its floodplains and tributaries. The Center for Applied Research (CAR 2006) attributed this concentration of cultivated fields along the river channels to the fact that away from the channels, soil salinity tends to increase. Black clay soils (vertisols) also occur along drainage lines, albeit in isolated areas. Although they are fairly fertile, black soils are difficult to work because they are rich in clay, poorly drained, and harden and develop cracks upon drying, which jeopardize their productivity. As will be indicated later, in the absence of annual flood the soil is chronically hardened, making it difficult to work. According to CAR (2006) a land suitability index for traditional dryland farming involving maize, sorghum, and millet developed by Barnhoorn et al indicated that the majority of soils in the District are of marginal suitability for maize, implying that they were better suited to the other two crops. But, local people choose to grow maize because it is minimally labour intensive and less susceptible to destruction by pests, particularly quelea birds.

Figure 1.

Location of the Study Area



Gathering of data pertaining to community perception began with a pilot trip to the study area. A meeting was held with the chief of Mopipi village followed by two kgotla1 meetings at both Mopipi and Mokobaxane villages. In these meetings the chief and the community were asked to provide general information about their livelihood means in the village. They were asked to (1) narrate their livelihood means of the past and in the contemporary period and indicate the problems they face and, (2) indicate changes in their livelihood means when compared to the past. Issues drawn from these meetings were organized to provide a basis for data collection during field work. During field work these issues were interrogated through focus group discussions to verify the claims made in the earlier meeting. In addition some of the most vocal community members (those who expressed most concern about the state of community life in the study area were followed up and interviewed individually on the same issues. Information obtained from individual interviews was strengthened with that obtained through focus group discussions. Interviews were also carried out with community leaders such as village development committee chairperson, the MOKOPI2 Community Trust chairperson, as well as relevant government officers in Mopipi to validate data collected from the community. Field observations were also carried out to assess the situation on the ground.

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