Wednesday, February 2, 2011

And How Many Homes Do You Have?

A single resident of Botswana is called a Motswana and a group of Motswana are called Batswana. The average Motswana might have up to three different "homes"; where they currently stay, their home village - called a motse (moh-tsee)- and a cattle post - called a masimo (mah-see-moh).

In a traditional village the ruling authority for hundreds of years (and even still today) is a chief - called a kgosi (koh-see). The kgosi has ruling powers over the village and can make judgments and settle disputes in the local gathering - called a kgotla (koh-tla). The kgotlas are unique to Botswana. They serve as a meeting place for the whole village and all are welcome. Each person also has an equal voice and can speak their mind on any issue.

Francistown is a little different because it was never a traditional village. Many will identify with their family's traditional home village, even if they were born someplace else. This is quite common in Francistown. There really aren't many hereditary ties here for people. Consequently, many people (even those who were born here) will call another village home. They are even subject to the authority of the kgosi in that village.

When you ask a Motswana here where they come from, a response could be something like this: "I stay in Francistown, I am from Sebina, and my cattle post is near there." This same person will have a house where they live in Francistown, a family home in Sebina, and then another traditonal structure out at the cattle post.

The cattle post (masimo) is also interesting. Each Motswana is entitled to free land from the government. All you have to do is go apply for it from the local land board. So just about everyone here has a masimo (or at least their family does). Batswana have raised cows for hundreds of years and cows are still a source of wealth today. These cows serve very much the same purpose a savings or retirement account does back in the US. The cows stay out at the masimo and a typical family will also have cropland where they grow a little food.

The plowing season begins sometime in late November or early December, depending on the first rains. (Irrigation is almost unheard of for these small fields). Because of this, many people take off the month of December to go plow, and the crops will be harvested in March and April. Popular crops include, maize(corn), sorghum, beans, squash, sweet reed (sugar cane), and melons. There is also a certain type of bean that I like called a "ground nut." These ground nuts are boiled for hours and have the same consistency and taste as boiled peanuts.

Despite the the modernization of the country and the fact that over 70% of the land is desert, the society and country still have deep agricultural roots. During the month of January, there were over 15 rainy days, which should make for a good season for crops - we will see.