Competitive smallholder livestock in Botswana


The smallholder sector produces most of Botswana’s meat and over 70% of the country’s agricultural gross domestic product. Although past policy and research have focused on the beef export sector, rather little information has been generated on the circumstances and potential of the 80,000 smallholders who own most of the country’s cattle, and the 100,000 households that earn livelihoods from sheep and goats. This leaves strategies and investments for rural development and livelihood generation without a basis in data and analysis. For both cattle and small ruminants, more competitive smallholder systems can improve livelihoods. Several factors constrain the production and marketing of surpluses by smallholders: poor animal is one example, that is often made worse by the complexities of communal grazing, and by limited access to services.


This 3-year research project asks the following questions, and engages partners in research industry and government to help answer them:

  • What are the characteristics of smallholder livestock producers in Botswana and what factors constrain their livelihoods?
  • How can livestock-related marketing systems in Botswana be improved for the benefit of smallholders and the rural population?

The project has three objectives:

  • To better define smallholder livestock production systems and to identify the factors affecting the productivity of smallholder livestock producers and assess their competitiveness
  • To understand and improve conditions for market participation and value addition in markets for livestock, livestock products and inputs
  • To strengthen the capacity of agricultural education and extension

Project activities centre on:

  • Data collection and analysis
  • New thinking arising from new knowledge
  • Regular communication of results
  • Packaging of results into training and extension materials


Some of the project’s first steps are to:

  • Define and measure competitiveness
  • Select project sites for a baseline survey
  • Identify animal diseases and measure their prevalence


The outcomes from this project will be improved and more sustainable livelihoods amongst smallholder livestock keepers, and increased uptake and use of scientific and economic knowledge by those providing services to smallholders.



  • Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis
  • Botswana Ministry of Agriculture


Sirak Bahta

Sirak Bahta

Senior Agricultural Economist