Climate & Agriculture
Straddling the Tropic of Cancer, Botswana has a sub-tropical ‘desert’ climate, with low rainfall and temperatures ranging widely from day to night and summer to winter.
During the coolest winter months of June and July, temperatures average around 25°C in the daytime. But they can dip well below freezing at night where there is no cloud cover.
In the wet summer months of January and February, daytime temperatures are moderated by cloud to between 20°C-30°C, but clear skies can see temperatures soar to 40°C.
Far from any coast, Botswana receives its rainfall from the water-bearing ‘Congo’ air which works its way southwards down the African continent.
With annual rainfall averaging just 460mm, Botswana’s climate is arid or semi-arid (low rainfall).
Downpours can occur from November to April. But the wettest months in Botswana are usually January and February.
Humidity can be high during these summer months, varying between 50% and 80%.
A very long dry spell
Threat of drought
Droughts lasting up to five or six years occur every couple of decades and these bring ruin for harvests and badly affect livestock.
With dry red/sandy soil across much of the country and low rainfall, Botswana’s land is generally unsuitable for crops and many foods are imported.
However, a narrow corridor on the south-eastern side of the country (leading down to the Shashe, Limpope and Marico rivers) is more suitable for agriculture. This is where most of the population lives.
Crops grown for domestic consumption here include sorghum and maize and roots or tubers such as sweet potatoes.
Cattle, the national product
Agriculture consists mainly of livestock rearing – in particular cattle – and accounts for around a tenth of Botswana’s gross national product. Goats, sheep and chicken are also reared.
As well as the threat of drought and over-grazing, livestock farmers have to be especially alert for foot-and-mouth. This can spread from wild herds of animals, such as buffalo.