Botswana (/bɒtˈswɑːnə/, also UK: /bʊtˈs-, bʊˈtʃw-/), officially the Republic of Botswana (Setswana: Lefatshe la Botswana), is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966. Since then, it has been a representative republic, with a consistent record of uninterrupted democratic elections and the best perceived corruption ranking in Africa since at least 1998. It is currently Africa's oldest continuous democracy.
Botswana is topographically flat, with up to 70 percent of its territory being the Kalahari Desert. It is bordered by South Africa to the south and southeast, Namibia to the west and north, and Zimbabwe to the northeast. Its border with Zambia to the north near Kazungula is poorly defined but is, at most, a few hundred metres long.
A mid-sized country of just over 2 million people, Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Around 10 percent of the population lives in the capital and largest city, Gaborone. Formerly one of the poorest countries in the world—with a GDP per capita of about US$70 per year in the late 1960s—Botswana has since transformed itself into one of the world's fastest-growing economies. The economy is dominated by mining, cattle, and tourism. Botswana boasts a GDP (purchasing power parity) per capita of about $18,825 per year as of 2015, which is one of the highest in Africa. Its high gross national income (by some estimates the fourth-largest in Africa) gives the country a relatively high standard of living and one of the highest Human Development Index of continental Sub-Saharan Africa.
Botswana is a member of the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the United Nations. The country has been among the hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Despite the success in programs to make treatments available to those infected, and to educate the populace in general about how to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, the number of people with AIDS rose from 290,000 in 2005 to 320,000 in 2013. As of 2014, Botswana has the third-highest prevalence rate for HIV/AIDS, with roughly 20% of the population infected.
Botswana has diverse areas of wildlife habitat. In addition to the delta and desert areas, there are grasslands and savannas, where blue wildebeest, antelopes, and other mammals and birds are found. Northern Botswana has one of the few remaining large populations of the endangered African wild dog. Chobe National Park, found in the Chobe District, has the world's largest concentration of African elephants. The park covers about 11,000 km2 (4,247 sq mi) and supports about 350 species of birds.
The Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve (in the Okavango Delta) are major tourist destinations. Other reserves include the Central Kalahari Game Reserve located in the Kalahari desert in Ghanzi District; Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and Nxai Pan National Park are in Central District in the Makgadikgadi Pan. Mashatu Game Reserve is privately owned: located where the Shashe River and Limpopo River meet in eastern Botswana. The other privately owned reserve is Mokolodi Nature Reserve near Gaborone. There are also specialised sanctuaries like Khama Rhino Sanctuary (for rhinoceros) and Makgadikgadi Sanctuary (for flamingos). They are both located in Central District.
A baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) Botswana faces two major environmental problems, drought and desertification, which are heavily linked. Three quarters of the country's human and animal populations depend on groundwater due to drought. Groundwater use through deep borehole drilling has somewhat eased the effects of drought. Surface water is scarce in Botswana and less than 5% of the agriculture in the country is sustainable by rainfall. In the remaining 95% of the country, raising livestock is the primary source of rural income. Approximately 71% of the country's land is used for communal grazing, which has been a major cause of the desertification and the accelerating soil erosion of the country.
Since raising livestock has proven to be profitable for the people of Botswana, they continue to exploit the land. The animal populations have continued to dramatically increase. From 1966 to 1991, the livestock population has increased from 1.7 million to 5.5 million. Similarly, the human population has increased from 574,000 in 1971 to 1.5 million in 1995, a 161% increase in 24 years. "Over 50% of all households in Botswana own cattle, which is currently the largest single source of rural income." "Rangeland degradation or desertification is regarded as the reduction in land productivity as a result of overstocking and overgrazing, or as a result of veld product gathering for commercial use. Degradation is exacerbated by the effects of drought and climate change."
Environmentalists report that the Okavango Delta is drying up due to the increased grazing of livestock. The Okavango Delta is one of the major semi-forested wetlands in Botswana and one of the largest inland deltas in the world; it is a crucial ecosystem to the survival of many animals.
The Department of Forestry and Range Resources has already begun to implement a project to reintroduce indigenous vegetation into communities in Kgalagadi South, Kweneng North and Boteti. Reintroduction of indigenous vegetation will help with the degradation of the land. The United States Government has also entered into an agreement with Botswana, giving them $7 million US dollars to reduce Botswana's debt by $8.3 million US dollars. The stipulation of the US reducing Botswana's debt is that Botswana will focus on more extensive conservation of the land.
The United Nations Development Programme claims that poverty is a major problem behind the overexploitation of resources, including land, in Botswana. To help change this the UNDP joined in with a project started in the southern community of Struizendam in Botswana. The purpose of the project is to draw from "indigenous knowledge and traditional land management systems". The leaders of this movement are supposed to be the people in the community, to draw them in, in turn increasing their possibilities to earn an income and thus decreasing poverty. The UNDP also stated that the government has to effectively implement policies to allow people to manage their own local resources and are giving the government information to help with policy development.