Large parts of sub-Saharan Africa experience both low average rainfall and periodic and severe droughts. In a worst-case scenario these droughts precipitate famines, widespread loss of life and massive social and economic upheavals. In such circumstances it is not surprising that governments face strong incentives to engage in drought relief measures both on humanitarian and economic grounds. However, the policy choices are not straightforward. Low rainfall and high temperatures in many of Africa’s drought prone areas severely limit arable production and encourage extensive livestock production. Consequently the implications of drought for livestock and crop production are likely to differ.
The analyses reported in this paper relates to Botswana; an economy that is in many ways atypical in Africa. Botswana is constrained by neither internal nor external balance problems, and while its export base is very narrow (85 percent of exports are diamonds), its agricultural sector is not dissimilar to many of the drought prone countries in Africa. Agriculture remains the dominant employer, productivity is low, which explains the small contribution to GDP, and range of options open to farmers is limited. Thus Botswana provides a useful, if not ideal, case study for drought.