The University of Arizona

Weaving a living: gender, craft, and sustainable resource use in Botswana

Rachel B. DeMotts


Abstract Botswana baskets are both an emblematic cultural symbol and a popular tourist souvenir, made by women from natural materials and reflecting gendered experiences of work, creativity, and resource use. The expansion of their production for sale over the past 30 years has often led to concerns about strain on the natural resources used for weaving, but more recently, the ways in which women talk about how they access these materials has changed. Rather than framing resources as scarce and under threat from poor harvesting practices, increasing numbers of women describe shifts in use practices that reflect growing awareness of the need to protect and cultivate plants such as hyphaene petersiana, or mokola palm. This change reflects the importance of rethinking what constitutes community-based natural resource management to include not only formalized trusts, but informal networks through which women harvest and use forest resources. It also highlights the insights of political ecology in considering the ways in which power impacts natural resource use, while emphasizing the need to expand notions of knowledge to become more inclusive and grounded. Key Words: Gender, political ecology, community-based conservation, Botswana, craft

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