USAID Southern Africa Mission Director John Groarke and Botswana Department of Water affairs Principal Hydrological Engineer David Molefha

Good Sanitation Means Healthier Lives

By USAID Resilient Waters

More than half of rural people living in southern Africa do not have access to safe and reliable sanitation. That figure emerged during the development of Botswana’s new National Sanitation Roadmap 2020-2022, the country’s first ever sanitation-focused initiative.

Speaking at a public launch in Maun on Monday December 2nd 2019 USAID Southern Africa Mission Director John Groarke said the issue is crucial and must be addressed as quickly as possible.


A man in a beige suit holding a microphone in front of a presentation screen
Botswana Local Presenter and Master of Ceremonies at World Toilet Day Commemoration Event

“That is why this initiative by the government of Botswana is so very important,” he told. The public gathered in Botswana’s most famous tourist destination town, Maun. The village is crucial tourist hub and has grown in population from 10,000 to 30,000 people in less than two decades. This rapid expansion has led to a critical shortage of safe sanitation impacting the entire village. Botswana’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services Bonolo Khumotaka said Gaborone is now hard at work updating their infrastructure.

“In Botswana, basic sanitation coverage across the country stands at 77%,” she said. “We still have about 33% of the rural population which practices open defecation, while the figure in urban areas is at about 1%. These statistics clearly shows where our focus must be and as a government our intention is to continue to improve sanitation infrastructure to address this challenge.”  

Regent Kealetile Moremi who represents the residents of Maun welcomed the initiative saying there are major challenges when it comes to water and sanitation in the town.

“Sanitation is managed Nationally, in Maun and the surrounding areas it is special because it will guide on how we address the number of sanitation management problems we face,” Ms Moremi said. “The village of Maun has no functional sewerage network; this has an impact on the overall health well-being of everyone residing in and around Maun people and also has an impact on businesses.”  

The good news, as the USAID Mission Director pointed out, is that an entire economy sits behind and is part of the development of improved sanitation. “Poor sanitation not only affects people’s health but impacts the regional economic productivity as it contaminates soil and water, which the region’s wildlife economy depends on. Today, there is a growing pipeline of businesses, both globally and across Africa, creating innovative products that would support a sanitation-services economy that stands to flourish in an area like Maun,” said Mr. Groarke. 


Copy of Botswana National Sanitation Roadmap booklet
Copy of Botswana National Sanitation Roadmap booklet

The Botswana National Sanitation Roadmap 2020-2022 creates a platform for improving sanitation management in the country. It identifies critical activities to implement in the next three years in order to establish a strong foundation for sanitation in Botswana.

In developing the Roadmap, the Government of Botswana engaged stakeholders from the sanitation sector and representatives of all relevant players of what is known as Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH).

“Here in Maun, the flow of the river Thamalakane is no longer as it used to be. It’s getting hotter and drier,” warned Mr. Groarke. “And people are having to dig deeper and travel farther in search of water. The absence of water makes sanitation that much more difficult to develop and poorly managed sanitation has become not only a national risk, but a business risk,” he said.  

At the same time fixing a problem could lead to opportunities for entrepreneurs. “Innovative sanitation models, household toilet products and services, onsite waste management models generating water, energy, fertilizers, and many grids and other innovations surrounding feminine care and nappy disposal will bring about important improvements in public health and in disease prevention,” he said. 

The Roadmap is in line with commitments in the National Vision 2036 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is a priority for the Government of Botswana. As such, the Roadmap is expected to be approved by the Botswana cabinet by 2020. Activities outlined in the Roadmap will pave the way for a more detailed National Sanitation Strategy.  

Permanent Secretary Khumotaka was upbeat about the future of sanitation in Botswana.  

“A clean environment means good health for our children; it means protecting our women from the indignity they are forced to suffer; and it means the reduction of healthcare costs. If we can properly invest in the provision of quality sanitation services, we surely stand a chance of building a more inclusive economy which can breed a more inclusive society,” she said.

Resilient Waters
Strategic Objective
Water and Sanitation, Water Management

USAID Resilient Waters

USAID Resilient Waters is a five-year, $32 million project implemented by Chemonics International. Its goal is to build more resilient and water secure Southern African communities and ecosystems through improved management of trans-boundary natural resources and increased access to safe drinking water and sanitation services.

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