In This Review

Dividing the Commons: Politics, Policy, and Culture in Botswana
Dividing the Commons: Politics, Policy, and Culture in Botswana
By Pauline E. Peters
University Of Virginia Press, 1994, 302 pp

Botswana stands out among African countries for its stable democracy and steady economic growth based on sound management of mineral resources. The majority of its people, however, derive their livelihoods not from mining but from livestock, the management of which is the focus of this study by a Harvard anthropologist. Tracing policies and practices of communal grazing from the introduction of borehole used in the 1930s through the generally unsuccessful Tribal Grazing Land Policy introduced in 1975, the author rigorously critiques the conventional wisdom -- shared by wealthy Botswana ranchers, the World Bank, and others -- that fencing and private tenure necessarily result in superior range management. With evidence from her fieldwork in Kgatleng district, she shows that strong traditions of local-level democracy have acted as a restraint on the adoption of tenure policies that accelerate the growth of social inequalities. Not a book for beginners, this is a clearly presented but complex examination of the historical interrelationships between culture, public policy, and economic development.