Mosothwane, M



Environmental Education Policy and Planning in Botswana: The basis for environmental quality and sustainable development.

Modise Mosothwane

University of Botswana


The 1980s in Botswana witnessed an escalation of environmental problems associated with gains in technological and industrial developments. These environmental problems are to a large extent blamed on poor environmental planning and policies that are not enforced. This paper articulates environmental policies and legislation covering environmental protection in Botswana and argues for their enforcement. The paper also describes environmental problems in Botswana and how enforcement of legislation could have prevented the occurrence of some of the problems.

The paper argues that although environmental quality has become a matter of public concern, environmental education policy in Botswana is lacking. Educators have the task of developing an environmental education policy that would raise the environmental literacy of the public. Such a programme should equip the public with skills, expertise, and experiences that would enhance environmental quality and improve the quality of life of the people.

The paper suggests that environmental problems should be studied using indigenous knowledge to facilitate the implementation of environmental policies. Furthermore, the paper suggests that a participatory process model be used to solve environmental problems as well as other models that could be used in developing environmental education policies to raise the environmental literacy of the public in Botswana.

In all government policies and planning, emphasis should be on environmental education because it is the basis for environmental quality. The paper argues for the development of a strong environmental education programme for the non-formal education sector to expose the public to policies and legislation because it will enable citizens to read environmental legislation with understanding. Finally, the paper suggests that the development of a multidisciplinary environmental education programme for the formal education sector at all levels in the education system in Botswana must include policies and legislation as an essential part of the curriculum.


The Commission on Sustainable Development was set up by the United Nation in 1992 to monitor the progress of the implementation of the objectives of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development based on Agenda 21 which called for sustainable development (Connect, 1996). Agenda 21 pleads with the world community to utilise and at the same time protect fragile environments so that future generations can benefit.

Agenda 21 reiterates the importance of environmental education for promoting sustainable development and for increasing citizens’ knowledge of managing their environment in an effective way.

Through training, in environmental education the public’s environmental awareness could be raised. DaSilva (1994) holds the view that environmental education is a panacea for a variety contemporary problems, namely population growth, nutrition, health and sanitation all of which are arguably connected to environmental degradation.

Meadows (1989) on the one hand takes a holistic view of environmental education, and says that it is learning to understand, appreciate, work with, and sustain environmental systems in totality. Meadow (1989, p. 5) contends


environmental education means learning how to employ new techniques, increase productivity, avoid environmental disasters, alleviate existing damage, see and utilise new opportunities, make wise decision. Environmental education therefore has the potential to promote in citizens an awareness of the causes and possible solutions to environmental problems. 

In view of environmental problems that have negative impact on Botswana’s environment, environmental education should not only be targeted to pupils but also to communities to enhance their skills, knowledge and attitudes to solve environmental problems.

Environmental Problems in Botswana

Environmental protection and conservation have been crucial elements of Botswana’s regulations since independence (Mmusi, 1987). As industries gain momentum, Botswana begin to experience more environmental problems (Cooke & Campbell, 1984). To redress environmental problems, Botswana formulated other environmental legislation and policies.

According to Silitshena and Osafa-Gyimah (1992) environmental problems that are prevalent in Botswana include the following:-

(A) Pollution

Amongst all forms of pollution in Botswana, solid waste is most common. Indiscrimate disposal of solid waste degrades and pollutes the environment. Other forms of pollution in Botswana include:

(1) Air Pollution. In Botswana, the following are the main sources of air pollution:-

(i) Selibe Phikwe- a mining town where copper-nickel smelter emits sulphur dioxide into the air. When sulphur dioxide combines with rain water, sulphuric acid is formed. Sulphuric acid is highly corrosive and as a result kills vegetation.

(ii) High density of motor vehicles. Major towns in Botswana have the highest number of motor vehicles which emits unclean air into the atmosphere. This causes acute respiratory infections such as TB and bronchitis.

(iii) Water pollution.

Water is one of the most scarce natural resource in Botswana. Due to drought and the high rate of evaporation, the country depends mainly on underground rather than surface water. Boreholes are therefore the main sources of drinking water both in urban and rural areas. In villages such as Ramotswa, the level of nitrates content in underground or borehole water is very high, thus showing the presence of human faeces and cow-dungs. These together with sewage ponds pollute both surface and ground water..

(iv) Soil and Vegetation Pollution

The Selibe-Phikwe mine smelter emits sulphur dioxide which combines with rain water to form sulphuric acid which corrodes and retards plant growth. The smelter has also contributed sulphur and heavy metal content to both soil and natural vegetation, thus affecting plant metabolism and hence retarding plant growth. Plants are unable to grow on soils polluted with metals, chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

(v) Solid Waste

Solid waste pollution is one of the most serious environmental problems in Botswana. Major towns and villages in Botswana are having problems of disposing solid wastes. Most of solid wastes from towns and villages are disposed off indiscriminately or dumped in poorly designed landfills and as a result winds blow them away to different places.

One worrying thing about the disposal of solid wastes into landfills is lack of differentiating between hazardous and non-hazardous wastes. It is very important that hazardous wastes be disposed in ways in which no permanent damages could be done to the environment.

(B) Pressure on Water Resources

Water is a natural resource needed for all human activities. Major uses of water include domestic, industrial, livestock, mining and agriculture. As industries flourish population increases and the demand for water also increases. Urbanisation and population growth rates in Botswana are high.

(C) Degradation of Range Lands

Overgrazing is one of the most serious environmental problem in Botswana. This degradation of rangelands is a result of disparities between livestock species and the carrying capacity of the fragile ecosystem.

Overgrazing of range lands could be reduced by implementing the Tribal Land Grazing Policy (TLGP). The TLGP’s aim is to deal with the problem of overgrazing in communal areas. Degradation of range lands has caused very serious soil erosion. Vegetation has disappeared due to soil erosion and desertification is creeping in.

Silitshena and Osafa-Gyimah (1992,p.56) say that:

The degradation of range land has a number of consequences. They are environmental, economic and social. Soil erosion reduces the productivity of the land. When productivity of the areas is reduced, so is its carrying capacity. The final result is declining living standards.

(D) Depletion of Wood Resources

In Botswana, the major source of energy is wood. Since the number of people has increased, the demand for wood particularly in rural areas has also increased. Wood does not increase in number and as a result some people are cutting down trees for fire wood and this has led to deforestation and other environmental problems. Wood is also used as source of income and since it is scarce, its price has increased, thus affecting the poor people who have no alternative sources of energy.

(E) Over-utilisation of Veld Products

Some Batswana especially the remote dwellers and the unemployed use veld products for their livelihood and income generation. They gather grass for thatching houses/huts, they cut down tress for rafters and use plant leaves and roots for medicines. Such people also collect a range of insects including caterpillars, locusts. Many rural people use veld products to generate income. They imbrasia-belina (phani worms), devils’ horn and silk cocoons. There is some evidence that over-exploitation of veld product contributes to their depletion and environmental problems. In the North West people make baskets using palm trees. In order to protect veld products that are threatened to extinction, the Agricultural Resource Conservation and the Forest Acts should be enforced. This hasn’t been the case. In view of the fact that the public practice towards environmental protection has not improved, there is a need to have environmental policies and legislation that could be enforced to ensure that veld products are preserved rather overutilised. Environmental legislation and policies formulated to protect Botswana’s environment are discussed in the next section.

Environmental Policies and Legislation

Botswana has clear environmental policies and legislation which were formulated in the vanguard of international law-making. The enforcement of environmental policies and legislation are effective means of saving the quality of the environment.

Through NGOs and ministerial departments, environmental policies and legislation could publicly be made available. In Botswana, it is difficult to discover exactly what environmental laws are enforced. The Botswana government appears reluctant to enforce environmental legislation, perhaps that is why the environment is being polluted. It is the responsibility of the state to enforce environmental policies and legislation.

As the number of tourists, non-governmental visitors and industries continues to rise, there is a need to protect the environment. Rapid industrial developments in Botswana have contributed to problems which are adversely affecting the environment. Therefore, there is a need to find potential solutions to environmental problems that Botswana currently experiences (Cooke & Campbell, 1984).

Conservation and protection of the environment is not new to Botswana. Mmusi (1987) observes that Botswana has a long tradition of conservation practices because it is basis on which Batswana livelihood is established. The list of legislation which includes attention to conservation and environmental matters is testimony to conservation and preservation practices by Batswana (Mmusi,1987).

According to Silitshena and Osafa-Gyimah (1992) the list of legislation and policy issues related to environmental protection and conservation in Botswana include the following:-

(1) The Agricultural Resource Conservation Act

The purpose of the Act is to make provision for the conservation of Botswana’s agricultural resources especially soil, vegetation, water and animals. The problem of degradation of range lands could be reduced by the enforcement of this Act.

(2) The Atmospheric Pollution (Prevention) Act

The purpose of the Act is to provide for the prevention of the pollution of the atmosphere caused by industrial processes. The Act also provides for the appointment of pollution control officers as well as inspectors.


(3) Borehole Act

The Act provides for drilling or deepening of boreholes beyond 15 metres. The Act allows the drilling of boreholes to be 8 Km apart, since the Act is not enforced, there are many crowded boreholes causing soil erosion.

(4) Public Health Act

The Act is very extensive providing for, among other things, the control of diseases subject to International Health Regulations, prevention of the spread of smallpox, prevention of foodstuffs in place of sale, and prevention of and destruction of mosquitoes. People who are to enforce the Act has not done so, as a result many people in Botswana died from malaria in 1996 and 1997. As for the smallpox, the law forces parents to vaccinate their children against it.

(5) Mines and Minerals Act

The Act provides for the orderly prospecting for and exploitation of minerals by seeking to protect the environment. It provides for, among other things, the activities to be performed such as filling up shafts, pits and excavation after the prospecting or mining rights has expired. It further provides for (a) the treatment of tailings ore; (b) protection of cracks or mouths of shafts; and (c) protection of landscape where alluvial deposits are exploited; and (d) fencing of water containing poisonous substances.

Environmental Programmes and Projects that Protects and Save Botswana’s Environment.

In addition to environmental legislation and policies, there are other programmes and projects which aim at protecting and saving Botswana’s fragile environment. The aim of these programmes is to ensure that projects are subjected to rigorous environmental impact assessment before implementation.

According to Silitshena and Osafa-Gyimah (1992) the programmes and projects include the following:-

(1) The National Policy on Tribal Grazing Land and Land Use Planning Projects

The National Policy on Tribal Grazing Land (TGLP) was launched in 1975 but was implemented very recently. The aims of TGLP were:

a) To stop overgrazing and degradation of the range through grazing control and better range management.

b) To promote greater equality of incomes in rural areas; and

c) To allow growth and commercialisation of the livestock industry on a sustained basis.

The aims were to be achieved by zoning the country into three categories, namely commercial, communal and reserved land. However the zoning exercise was concerned mainly with the commercial sector. Ranches were to be fenced and the farmers were expected to adopt improved livestock and range management strategies. Government thought that the exclusive use of land for which economic rent was to be charged would give the farmers an incentive to look after their farms properly.

In the communal areas, it was hoped that land tenure would continue to be communal but improved farming methods such as stock control would be introduced. Government thought that some cattle would be moved to commercial farms thus creating space for communal farmers. This has not been the case. In communal areas overgrazing is a very serious environmental problems yet the Agricultural Resourse and Conservation Act has the power to reduce the number of livestock.

(2) Arable Land Development Programmes (ALDEP)

In 1980 the Government launched a programme aimed at improving production in the arable sector called ALDEP. ALDEP has three goals:

a) to increase production of food crops to enable the country to become self sufficient and, even to export surpluses;

b) to improve incomes especially small farmers; and

c) to create jobs thereby reduce the rate of rural-urban migration

ALDEP subsidised inputs- draught power, implements, fencing materials and the development of water on conditions that farmers adopt good farming methods. Although farmers’ fields have been fenced, still farmers have not adopted good farming methods and also after sowing crops some farmers abandon their fields and go to towns to look for jobs. This has led the Government to stop and review ALDEP programmes.

(3) The National Settlement Policy (NSP)

Disparities in incomes between rural and urban areas led to the establishment of NSP by the Government to reduce some advantage enjoyed by town people. The main aim of the National Settlement Policy is to develop a long term strategy for integrating physical, environmental and

economic planning. The policy is to improve water supply and to provide every settlement with a primary school.

(4) The Communal First Development Area (CFDA) Rural Development Strategy

The intention of the government is to move towards an integrated rural development. The policy is to divide each district into production zones, concentrating on one zone at a time. The Government will asses environmental impact on the zoned area for each type of development.

(5) Sanitation Programmes

The Government has launched the National Sanitation Programme. The programme aims at providing rural households with improved latrines through a subsidised self help scheme. The programme provides technical expertise for improved latrines to ensure safety and protection of underground water sources from contamination by faecal matter. Due to the high risk of underground water pollution it has been realised that pit latrines are unsuitable on health and environmental grounds. The Government provides water borne sanitation in residential plots in towns so as to reduce diseases and to protect the environment from human wastes. Unfortunately this does not include the site and service areas.

(6) Other programmes to ensure a healthy environment

(a) The Government aims at establishing a water examination programme to ensure that clean and safe water is available to all the people of Botswana.

(b) The Government is to establish a programme that would assess the effects of toxic and hazardous substances.

(c) The Government has established a programme that ensures chemicals from agriculture and industries are not seriously impacting the environment.

These environmental regulations, policies and programmes have lead to the development of environmental education policies.

Environmental Education Policy

The need to have an Environmental Education Policy in Botswana is no longer debatable. Environmental Education Policy will set out guidelines for the development of formal and non-formal environmental education courses. Environmental Education Policy should be committed to environmental protection and to minimising human impact on the environment so that environmental quality is enhanced.

In Botswana, Environmental Education Policy is lacking (Botswana Environmental Education Strategy, 1997 (BEES). However, in 1995 the National Conservation Strategy Co-ordinating Agency established an Environmental Education Strategy Committee which will provide a general framework needed for the development of a comprehensive National Environmental Education Programme. Environmental Education Strategy Committee will carry out activities of the Environmental Education Policy Committee (BEES, 1997).

Documents containing guidelines and directions to help Environmental Education Strategy committee in the development of environmental education policy include:

a) The National Conservation Strategy (1990)

b) The National Policy on Education (1994)

c) The National Development Plan (NDP 8)

Document c) is being discussed in parliament. The NDP 8 provides guidelines for conservation and environment and relates environmental issues to rural development.

The National Conservation Strategy (1990) has its primary goals of pursuing policies and measures which:

- increase the effectiveness with which natural resources are used and managed, so that beneficial interaction are optimised and harmful environmental side effects are minimised.

-integrate the work of the many sectoral Ministries and interest groups throughout Botswana, thereby improving the development of natural resources through observation.

- increase the public’s awareness of environmental problems that are prevalent in Botswana (BEES, 1997).

The National Policy on Education (1994) contains information on:

- the goals of environmental education in Botswana

- methods of teaching environmental education in an integrated approach

- the role of environmental education officer in the Department of Curriculum Development and Evaluation as the overseer of the introduction of environmental education.

- a curriculum panel for environmental education with representation from all subject areas

- methods of teaching environmental education to pre-service and in-service teachers in teacher training institutions including the University of Botswana. Environmental education policies will help in the development of environmental education programmes.

Environmental Education in Botswana

The concept of environmental education gained momentum in the 1980s when Botswana started to experience several environmental problems. It was thought that environmental education would help in teaching citizens ways of solving environmental problems and thus protecting the environment. It was thought that the best way to teach environmental concepts was to integrate them into other subjects in the school curriculum (Cantrell & Nganunu, 1992). The interdisciplinary approach to environmental education was done in the hope that the concepts will be learned by all pupils so that environmental literacy of the public would be enhanced.

According to Botswana Environmental Strategy (1997, p.2)

The overall goal of environmental education is to increase public awareness and understanding of the environment and its related issues in order to promote sustainable development and respond to challenges facing Botswana. To achieve this, environmental education should

develop environmental awareness, i.e. a capacity to be alert to the wide range of factors which determine the nature and quality of the environment;

promote an understanding of the environment, its associated benefits and problems and procedures for implementing solutions

foster attitudes and values that developmental responsibility and active participation in environmental improvement

develop knowledge, skills and commitment which enable individuals and groups to take effective action in support of environmental care.

According to UNESCO-UNEP Congress (1987) environmental education should include:

a) Content- factual information on the ecology of planet earth

b) attitudes- skills required to promote responsible environmental behaviours and inculcate positive environmental attitudes into the public.

c) Concern- sympathetic feelings and actions the public can take to uphold environmental quality.

In Botswana, environmental education forms an integral part of the education process that centres on practical problems, it aims at building up a sense of values, contributes to public well being and concerns itself with the survival of human species.

Environmental education in the formal sector is taught in an interdisciplinary character. According to Connect (1981), single subject or monodisciplinary education has led to the fragmentation of knowledge in line with the theory that somehow the fragments taught would add up to what is called culture. Research reported that monodisciplinary is not effective in promoting environmental literacy (Canrell & Nganunu, 1992; The Revised National Policy on Education, 1994. Government Paper No.2 of 1994; Oakes, 1997). This has led Botswana to infuse environmental education concepts into Social Studies, Science and Agriculture curricula at primary and junior secondary levels of education while in senior secondary levels of education, they are infused in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History and Geography. Environmental education concepts in Botswana, are therefore taught in an interdisciplinary character to ensure that every pupil has access to them.

Research studies reported that environmental literacy could successfully be transmitted to the communities through non-formal environmental education programmes (Finger, 1989; Silitshena & Osafa-Gyimah, 1992). Finger (1989) reported that non-formal environmental education should become a process of personal development. He says children should learn responsible environmental behaviours at a very early age so that they become environmentally aware, concerned and committed to environment and protection of nature. Finger (1989) reported that Switzerland is the only industrialised country in which environmental education is closely linked to the total life of a person. The social climate which has radically changed the Swiss people seems to be by far the most important motivation to environmental education transformation. If environmental education is taught in a way that attitudes, values are built up at a tender age, then can environmental quality can be maintained. One Swiss person met by Finger (1989) was asked why Switzerland was so clean and he replied ‘For me it is simply normal to care about the environment today, to save and recycle resources and use public transport whenever possible’. This shows the effectiveness of environmental education in Switzerland.

Environmental quality could also be enhanced by teaching environmental education using local or indigenous knowledge. DaSilva (1989) says that

environmental education can be more effective if local knowledge is used in a way that permits it systematic translation to more formal setting without losing intuitive integrity inherent in it. Silitshena & Osafa-Gyimah (1992) hold the view that environmental quality could be promoted if communities understand the relationship between sustainable development and environmental issues.

Environmental legislation and policies are not part of the environmental education programme. There is a need to teach the citizens environmental legislation and policies so that the public is exposed to them.

Use of Local Knowledge in Environmental Education

Educators and social scientists hold the view that environmental education should use local knowledge as the basis for discussion, planning and implementation processes (DaSilva, 1994) The British Undersecretary for colonies in 1861 also recognised the importance of indigenous knowledge

( Ndaba, Mmusi & Clark, 1995). Ndaba, Mmusi & Clark observe that traditional societies possess deep and highly practical knowledge of their environments which is based on experience accumulated over many years. Many industrial developments which result in severe environmental problems are a result of failure and lack of understanding of the valuable traditions and the way of life practised by indigenous people.

DaSilva (1994) acknowledges indigenous knowledge for teaching environmental education because such knowledge contains wisdom to sustain environment.

Witton (1992) says environmental education that builds on local knowledge in a way that is both appropriate and effective for solving current problems must start from the recognition that local people possess wisdom about dealing with their environment. Otherwise how could they have survived for so many centuries , or in some cases, millennia? As such environmental education is obliged to study existing knowledge in order to understand how problems are dealt with traditionally.

Although the western nations regarded indigenous knowledge as primitive, there is recognition that it has sustained the environment for many centuries (Ndaba, Mmusi & Clark, 1995). The western nations now recognise that their model of development is not the best and as a result they are moving away from rapid industrial development to sustainable development (Ndaba, Mmusi & Clark, 1995).

It must be admitted that in cases of increasing population, dwindling resources and changing patterns of human settlement, production and consumption traditional practices are not sustainable. What is traditional is not necessarily sustainable or even desirable. DaSilva (1994) observes that in industrial development, indigenous environmental knowledge is lost because it may be irrelevant to the new situation. He says that educational systems are now a reflective scientific way of knowing. Meadows (1987) supports the view of using indigenous knowledge in teaching environmental education because it comes from familiarity, instinct, intuition and emphatic observation of the living world.

Traditional knowledge is not always scientific in the western context. However, with renewed focus and fear of a pending ecological disaster, long over-due attention is now giving attention to the relevance of traditional knowledge and its role on environmental sustainability. Environmental sutainability is the backbone to environmental quality.

However, developmental processes should not ignore indigenous practices and beliefs, local knowledge has been used to conserve and preserve the quality of the environment for a long time (Ndaba, Mmusi, & Clark).

The Concept of Environmental Quality

Batswana are concerned about the quality of the environment. This is shown by a number of environmental legislation that have been approved by parliament. The conditions of Botswana’s environment led to the formation of environmental organisations in Botswana. These environmental organisations all aim at upholding the quality of the environment (Cooke & Campbell, 1987). Environmental quality refers to the environment which sustains its people and enables them to actively participate in solving environmental issues.

The Concept of Sustainable Development

The concept of sustainable development received world wide attention in the 1980 (Bathily, 1995; Fien, 1996, Silitshena and Osafa-Gyimah, 1992). Ndaba, Mmusi & Clark (1995) hold the view that sustainable development means using the planet resources in such a way that future generations and tomorrow’s children will benefit. Bathily (1995) says that sustainable development takes the environment into account and attempts to promote forms of development based on rational and economically productive ways of exploiting natural resources so as to improve the people’s living conditions and at the same time giving them better access to health and education.

Fien (1996) says that sustainable development is a way of producing and distributing resources equally to all people without disturbing the environment. Environmental education is education for sustainable development because it teaches citizens ways of using the environment to benefit and at the same time to preserve for future use by future generations (Cantrell & Nganunu, 1992). Brandt (1987) holds the view that without sustainable development neither peace can be assured nor the environment preserved.

Silitshena and Osafa-Gyimah (1992) hold the view that sustainable development is improving the living standards of the mass of population without necessarily eroding the economic base on which they depend. Botswana has sustainable development as one of its objectives, but since the environmental regulations are not enforced, it is difficult to see how the objective will be achieved. Research indicates that there are models that could be used in developing environmental education programmes to enhance the concept of sustainable development (Clark, Makwati and Boers, 1997; Ibikunle-Johnson, 1989). The models are discussed below.

Models for Developing Environmental Education Programmes

Participatory Process Model

This model calls for collective, discussion, planning and acting. It is the foundation on which environmental problems could be solved. The participatory model of solving environmental problems has worked very effectively in Botswana ( Clark, Makwati & Boers, 1997). The model enables the local people to talk about problems, to suggest solutions and to plan strategies to tackle problems. Clark, Makwati and Boers (1997) hold the view that model facilitates communication among the local people.

Ibikunle-Johnson (1989) holds the view that the participatory model of curriculum development is a process that transforms local patterns of awareness and increases participation in the developmental activity. He says if students learn about environmental management then one could safely say sustainable development will be maintained.

This model should be used as a basis for developing environmental education programmes in Botswana. If local people, teachers, agricultural officers, administrators, etc. participate in the development of an environmental education programme, then it will be easier to enforce environmental legislation and policies and to implement the programme

The Constructivist Model

This model has also been identified by researchers as the most appropriate model for developing environmental education programmes (Ballantyne and Packer, 1996). It uses the environment and indigenous knowledge as the basis for developing environmental education programmes. This model is built on the belief that knowledge is environmentally determined. The conceptions people have influence the way they interact with the environment. When environmental education programmes are developed, they should start with pupils’ conceptions and build on them. A well balanced environmental education programme will include knowledge, attitudes and behaviours.


This paper argues that environmental education policy in Botswana is lacking and points out that such a policy is necessary because it would promote the spirit of sustainable development. This paper gives a detailed description of environmental problems currently affecting Botswana and argues that the problems are a result of lack of enforcement of environmental legislation and use of indigenous knowledge.

The paper argues for the use of the participatory model as the appropriate model for developing effective environmental education programmes because it facilitates communication between different parties involved in the promotion of environmental quality. The model also promotes socialisation between the public and teachers. The constructvist model is also applauded in this paper for it uses environment as the basis for learning new concepts. The paper suggests that environmental education in Botswana should include indigenous knowledge, policies and legislation as part of the content. The basis for sustainable development is the responsibility of the school to articulate since environmental education programmes are to promote environmental awareness and action so that environmental quality is maintained.


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