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Key findings
  • Batswana are about evenly split as to whether climate conditions for agricultural production in their regions have gotten better (35%) or worse (32%) over the past decade. Assessments of climate trends for agriculture vary widely by region.
  • Similarly, citizens are divided as to whether droughts and flooding have become more or less severe over the past 10 years.
  • Only half (51%) of Batswana say they have heard of climate change. Rural residents, women, and less-educated citizens are less likely to be aware of climate change than urbanites, men, and better-educated respondents.
  • Among Batswana who have heard of climate change, only 38% attribute it primarily to human activity.
  • Most Batswana who have heard of climate change say it is making life worse (60%) and needs to be stopped (58%). But fewer than half say ordinary people can do “a lot” (19%) or “a little bit” (23%) to help stop it.

Botswana is a semi-arid Southern African country characterized by erratic rainfall, recurrent droughts, low soil moisture, and extreme weather events such as flash floods (African Climate and Development Initiative, 2015) – a foundation of vulnerability for communities in the country. Frequent drought conditions have had significant impacts on domestic food production and other aspects of the national economy in the past (Seekings, 2016). In 2015/2016, Botswana experienced drought that resulted in the drying up of the Gaborone Dam – the main water supply for Botswana’s capital – and was declared the worst drought in three decades (News24, 2015), and President Mokgweetsi Masisi declared 2017/2018 an arable agriculture drought year (Botswana Daily News, 2018a; APA News, 2018).

Acknowledging the threats that rising temperatures, possible changes in rainfall patterns, and other effects of climate change could pose to sectors ranging from food security and water to health and tourism (Botswana Daily News, 2018b; SciDevNet, 2012), the National Committee on Climate Change leads efforts to build consensus around climate-change issues (United Nations Development Programme, 2018).

Botswana is also a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol seeking to limit greenhouse-gas emissions and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Botswana Guardian, 2018b).

But the latest Afrobarometer survey findings show that only half of Batswana have heard of climate change. Most who have heard of it say climate change is making life worse and has to be stopped, but few citizens are confident there’s much they can do.

Gugu Nonjinge

Gugu Nonjinge is the Afrobarometer communications coordinator for Southern Africa, based at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town