Water for Urban Development or Rural Livelihoods: Is that the Question for Botswana’s Notwane River Catchment?

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Raban Chanda
Bothepha T Mosetlhi
Saniso Sakuringwa
Moemedi Makwati


The point of departure for this paper is the publication by Jeremy Meigh in 1995 entitled ‘The Impact of Small Farm Reservoirs on Urban Water Supplies in Botswana’. Urban water supply dams and small rural farm reservoirs occur within the same river catchments of Botswana’s eastern belt. The title of Meigh’s paper suggests conflict between the two sets of reservoirs. It could also be interpreted to imply the superiority or paramountcy of urban water needs over rural livelihood (agricultural) needs or of urban industrial development over rural development. There has been heightened debate in recent years as to what extent the failure of the Gaborone Dam late in 2014 was due to the small agricultural dams found upstream in the Notwane River catchment which is the source of its water. This paper uses documentary evidence to contribute to the debate. It highlights the legitimacy and livelihood significance of both the large and small dams and presents a more holistic explanation of the desiccation of the Gaborone Dam in the 2000s. It ends by noting the positive steps taken by the Botswana government towards sustainable water resource governance.

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