Botswana is home to some of the most amazing animals on earth. Our village of Maun is very close to the Okavango Delta. The Okavango Delta is one of the last totally unspoiled Wildlife areas in Africa. It is a 6,000-square-mile maze of lagoons, channels, and islands. The delta environment has large numbers of animal populations that are otherwise rare, such as crocodile, red lechwe, sitatunga, elephant, wild dogs, buffalo, wattled crane as well as the other more common mammals and bird life.

Country profile: Botswana

Full name: The Republic of Botswana

Population: 1.9 million (UN, 2007)

Capital: Gaborone

Area: 581,730 sq km (224,607 sq miles)

Major languages: English (official), Setswana

Major religions: Christianity, indigenous beliefs

Life expectancy: 50 years (men), 51 years (women) (UN)

Monetary unit: 1 Pula = 100 thebe

Main exports: Diamonds, copper, nickel, beef

GNI per capita: US $5,180 (World Bank, 2006)

Internet domain: .bw

International dialling code: +267

Botswana, one of Africa’s most stable countries, is the continent’s longest continuous multi-party democracy. It is relatively free of corruption and has a good human rights record.

It is also the world’s largest producer of diamonds and the trade has transformed it into a middle-income nation.

Botswana protects some of Africa’s largest areas of wilderness. It is sparsely populated, because it is so dry. The Kalahari desert, home to a dwindling band of Bushman hunter-gatherers, makes up much of the territory and most areas are too arid to sustain any agriculture other than cattle.

The government wants the remaining Bushman population of the Kalahari game reserve to move to nearby towns. It denies reports that some Bushmen have been forced off their ancestral land.

In the late 1800s Britain formed the protectorate of Bechuanaland, preventing territorial encroachment of Boers from the Transvaal or German expansion from South West Africa. In 1966 Bechuanaland became independent as Botswana.

Botswana was a haven for refugees and anti-apartheid activists from South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, but had to tread carefully because of its economic dependence on the white-ruled neighbour, and because of South Africa’s military might.

More recently, the country has seen an influx of illegal immigrants seeking respite from the economic crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Botswana, which once had the world’s highest rate of HIV-Aids infection, has one of Africa’s most-advanced treatment programmes. Anti-retroviral drugs are readily available.

However, the UN says more than one in three adults in Botswana are infected with HIV or have developed Aids. The disease has orphaned many thousands of children and has dramatically cut life expectancy.

Botswana is trying to reduce its economic dependence on diamonds.

The government has moved to boost local business and employment by encouraging more value to be added to diamonds locally.

It launched its own diamond trading company – Diamond Trading Company of Botswana – in a joint venture with diamond giant De Beers.

“What we are embarking on is nothing less than one of the largest transfers of skills and commercial activity to Africa ever seen,” said De Beers chairman Nicky Oppenheimer. “The diamond industry’s centre of gravity is shifting and tonight we see it shifting here.”

Safari-based tourism – tightly-controlled and often upmarket – is an important source of income.

President: Seretse Khama Ian Khama

Seretse Khama Ian Khama – the son of Sir Seretse Khama, first president of Botswana – took over as president in April 2008.

He is the chosen successor of Festus Mogae, who stepped down at the end of his second term, after a decade at the helm.

Ian Khama, graduate of Sandhurst officer training college in Britain, was commander of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) before becoming vice president in 1998.

He became chairman of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in 2003.

Critics describe him as authoritarian while supporters say he is decisive and efficient.

He is unlikely to change economic policy or political course, analysts say.

A general election is expected in October 2009, a poll that the (BDP) is expected to win. The BDP has governed since independence in 1966.

A call for the president to be elected directly by the people was rejected by parliament in 2008. Some critics have warned that the country was becoming a dynasty and that democracy was under threat.

Botswana has a long tradition of lively and unimpeded public debate, although opposition leaders have claimed that the government limits their ability to broadcast freely on the radio.

The constitution provides for freedom of expression and the government generally respects this right.

State-run television arrived relatively late with the launch of Botswana Television (BTV) in 2000. Officials stressed BTV would not be a government mouthpiece. Satellite-delivered pay TV services are available.

Radio is an important medium. Press circulation is mostly limited to urban areas.

Information and story from BBC NEWS

Crawford PaulDiscovering Botswana