Economic Valuation of Communal Rangelands in Botswana: A Case Study
University of Botswana - Department of Environmental Science
CREED Working Paper 17
The literature on rangelands is extensive but very little includes an examination of rangeland valuation. Where it does appear, rangelands tend to be undervalued, mainly due to the fact that most analyses are a) restricted to a specific sector (mainly livestock production); b) biased towards one market product (primarily beef sales or slaughter); or c) limited to use values. Undervaluation of rangelands may contribute to their mismanagement or their transformation to monoculture, such as for livestock or wildlife. Similarly, this may lead to inappropriate policy recommendations and prescriptions, for example that vegetation changes in rangelands are not a problem as long as they do not affect livestock productivity.
This paper undertakes a valuation exercise in an effort to address the first two causes of undervaluation mentioned above. The objective is to estimate the annual direct use value of an average hectare of communal rangeland in Botswana, based on an analysis of secondary data. The exercise incorporates the three major direct uses, both marketed and non-marketed, of rangelands - livestock, wildlife and gathering. The valuation clearly shows that each use makes a significant contribution to the direct use value: in the case of hunting and gathering it amounts to around one third of the total direct use value during the period under study. Another conclusion is that non-marketed products are very important; milk production and processing represent a considerable, although partly potential, use value which requires further investigation. Considerable discrepancies were found between private and social use values for livestock, mostly as a result of government subsidies to that sector. The use values for wildlife based on hunting quota has dropped significantly. This suggests a trade-off between livestock and wildlife use values. With the observed decline in wildlife numbers, a switch towards game viewing offers opportunities to boost the use values. alternatively hunting values should be raised to net market values. It is critical to ensure that any benefits from wildlife should accrue to the local population. These conclusions raise important policy questions as to the future use of rangelands in Botswana. Total land productivity per hectare should be the key variable in assessing the significance of eg, vegetation changes or erosion, as well as the merits of different single or multiple use options, such as livestock expansion, wildlife utilisation and/or gathering. The growing resource scarcity not only raises concerns about efficiency and sustainability but also about the distribution of current and future use values.
JEL Classification: Q21, Q31
Date posted: March 31, 1998