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Archive for Thursday, June 4, 1998

BOTSWANA VIEW

June 4, 1998

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To the editor:

I was delighted to read the May 31 article on the Peace Corps in Botswana, having been a Peace Corps volunteer there myself from '94 to '96. While I would agree that Botswana is currently a rare thriving African nation, the country's future is not so certain. On the bright side indeed it has an educational system unsurpassed by most African nations. Every student has a textbook (usually), every student has a uniform (usually), and the rate of primary school attendence, even in remote desert regions, is approaching 100 percent.

Judging from first-hand experience, the Botswana take education quite seriously. The country enjoys a relatively corruption-free and stable democracy, and the discovery of large deposits of diamonds shortly after independence in 1966 has allowed for generous government funding of education and fueled a vibrant and economy. However, the country has just that: diamonds. It is a one-industry economy, and furthermore by some estimates the deposits are slated to run out in the next decade.

Most of the country is consumed by the Kgalagadi (Kalahari) desert making agriculture infeasible in most areas, and it relies heavily on imports from South Africa paid for with diamond revenues that won't last. The country has made some attempts to diversify its economy, but no industry has emerged as a clear replacement for diamonds.

The country also faces serious and growing environmental dilemmas. The Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 1998 lists Botswana among the top six African nations in top soil loss due to desertification. This has put growing pressure to reap more yield out of what arable land is left and lead to a deminishing supply of water. Plastic bags, Coke cans, and other litter lie strewn about the land. The checks and environmental regulations that necessary must accompany a rapidly growing economy have not been present and no steps have been taken to ensure land and water policies are sustainable. Botswana has been enjoying the short-term benefits of development, and indeed it is thriving, but the long term doesn't look so optimistic.

Nathan Carlson,

1520 Lynch Ct.

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