Drought Relief and the Origins of a Conservative Welfare State in Botswana, 1965-1980

Year: 
2016
Working Paper Number: 
378
Author: 
Jeremy Seekings
Abstract: 
Drought played – and continues to play – a central role in welfare state-building across much of Africa. Botswana was perhaps the first major case of this, with drought in the mid-1960s prompting policy reforms that were to lead to the construction, decades later, of an extensive but conservative welfare state. Drought forced the colonial government and then the government headed by Seretse Khama to address aspects of poverty that might otherwise have been ignored. Emergency food aid was replaced by school and other feeding programmes, food-for-work programmes, and modest food relief for other ‘destitutes’. Drought relief in Botswana in the 1960s and 1970s was provided not only on an unprecedented scale but was also institutionalised through programmes administered by a dedicated national and local bureaucracy, independent of the chiefs, and in association with a new international agency, the World Food Programme. Drought also prompted and shaped the development of a normative doctrine of public welfare provision and a new understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the newly independent state to its citizens.
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