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The Ghanzi Ag-Show & Future of Botswana Cattle

Gazelle Ecosolutions

2 min read

Every year Ghanzi, a small town of no more than 20,000 in the northwest Kalahari, swells in size from ranchers, vendors and civilians pouring in by the tens of thousands. The town is the regional administrative capital for Botswana’s Ghanzi District- one of its ten administrative zones.

The country’s $100M dollar beef export industry is put on display at the town’s annual agricultural show, a tradition since 1974. Large cattle ranchers, farmers and stakeholders travel from South Africa, Namibia and neighboring countries to witness the annual manifestation of Botswana’s export-driven cattle industry.

Since independence in 1966 the country’s cattle industry has provided a means of steady employment, exports and economic activity. Second only to Diamonds, the agriculture sector has become the largest driver of GDP post-covid due to a decline in eco-tourism.

However, the growth of Botswana’s beef exports have come at a severe ecological cost. Rampant overgrazing across the Kalahari’s grasslands risks uncontrolled desertification of once productive pastureland. With much of the northern Kalahari (including Ghanzi) prone to bush encroachment, understanding carrying capacity and the important of sustainable agriculture is key to preventing the cycle of ongoing land encroachment.

The Kalahari, which is mostly characterized by a semi-arid grasslands, spans over 360,000 square kilometers and covers roughly 70% of Botswana. With most of the land being classified as open rangeland, uncontrolled communal grazing and a lack of land management has led to pastureland being left with nothing but sand and rock.

This leads to most small to medium size ranchers overgrazing plots, moving cattle to new grazing areas, and repeating the cycle of overgrazing and poor management. Given cattle ranching is an integral part of the livelihoods of much of the country’s population, ranchers are often willing to maximize productivity at the cost of ecological degradation.

In July the Gazelle team alongside our friends at the Kalahari Science Institute & TEXAS Digital Landscapes Lab attended the 2022 Ghanzi Agricultural Show. Thanks to a visit from the President of Botswana to some of the country’s largest landowners Ghanzi became the center of attention during the week.

Our team enjoyed insightful conversations with local ranchers, innovators in the ag-tech space and government stakeholders. It is clear everyone wants to build a better, more resilient Kalahari. At Gazelle we believe the best path forward is through engaging organizations driving decarbonization through nature based offsets. We value working directly with local ranchers for the development of conservation projects allowing communities to directly tap into the growing voluntary market.

You can read more about the MODISA- one of Botswana’s 1st nature based offset projects on a game ranch here. Stay tuned for an exciting update on new partnerships in the Ghanzi District spearheading sustainable game ranching efforts.

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