Tradition – Botswana

So at traditional weddings we have to kill an entire cow. Dowry is dealt with in number of cows. For example, if two people are getting married, the man pays a certain number of cows for the bride. And at funerals it’s more like a celebration. We also kill a number of cows for funerals. The president of Botswana just retired. So at every village, city, or town that he went to they gave him a cow from each place.

Ruchira said that all of these traditions show the importance of cows in the culture of Botswana. According to Ruchira, other than diamonds, cows are the second biggest part of their economy. Historically, cows are also a really important part of life because they were how people sustained life. They did this through the trading of cows. They traded them as a commodity instead of using money. It has been a recent development for the people to sell cows to meat companies for money, and cows are very valuable. Ruchira roughly estimates that cows can reach up to two thousand dollars in value.

In Botswana, cows have remained a symbol of wealth through time. The more cows an individual owns, the wealthier he or she is considered to be. People of the villages know who is wealthy by word of mouth and by just noticing the number of cows that a person owns. In the past, Botswana was mostly rural, and the people viewed cows as investments in the sense that they can provide milk, meat, and labor power. The people invested in cows rather than deposit money at the bank. Ruchira feels that this is logical and that cows are more beneficial than money in the bank. He said that nowadays people in Botswana keep cows mainly to maintain tradition, and people still maintain the traditional view that cows and diamonds equate to wealth.

Besides a difference in economy, the concept of dowry is also different between Motswana and American culture. According to Ruchira’s account, the groom pays the dowry in Botswana; while in America, the dowry is traditionally provided by the family of the bride. Also, Botswana’s preservation of the tradition of keeping cows as a sign of wealth ties into the idea of maintaining an identity. Although the people of Botswana actually sustained life with the ownership of cows in the past, people continue to carry out the tradition during modern times to preserve this part of their identity.