The Tswana migrated into central southern Africa in the 14th century. As hunters, herders and agriculturists, they found the land abundant in game, lush grazing for cattle, and fertile soil for the cultivation of sorghum, beans, pumpkins and sweet melons. Maize, introduced later by Portuguese explorers, was also highly productive. Over time, these came to form the foundation of Botswana traditional cuisines.
Village settlements had a kgosi (chief) and kgotla, a meeting place where social and judicial affairs were discussed.
Traditional village houses (ntlo) were round thatched huts made from mud bricks plastered with soil and cow dung, decorated with exterior designs.
With Botswana’s economy rapidly modernising, many people have migrated to the towns and cities.
Sometimes children are left in village communities to be raised by family members. Extended family networks are an important part of society.
Today, houses are mostly rectangular and made from cement and breeze blocks with metal or tile roofs.
Botswana’s traditional local dishes use sorghum or maize as their basis, prepared as a porridge (bogobe) or pap.
This staple is accompanied by servings of meat such as seswaa (a salted stewed beef) or vegetable sauces such as wild spinach or pumpkin.
Other popular local dishes include serobe(made from goats, sheep or cow lungs and intestines) and recipes which use imported bread-flour such as matemekwane(dumplings) and magwinya, dough balls deep-fried in fat (known as fat cakes).
Melons are popular in Botswana. Local varieties include the lerotse or lekataneand the watermelon. This is believed to stem from the wild tsamma melons of the Kalahari – go to Namibia, Kalahari to see what this desert region looks like.
A wide variety of vegetables and other crops are grown commercially, including beans and groundnuts/ peanuts.
Beer is a popular drink in Botswana, with cloudy local varieties fermented from sorghum, maize, millet and wild fruits or berries. But beware! Some home brews have an extremely high alcohol content.