Sophie was born and raised on the Okavango Delta, a swampy fertile area formed by the Okavango River in the center of the landlocked country. Rich in plant life and animals it is a place that combines unparallel joys of a diverse landscape with abundant food and water. It also has the dangers of sharing a space with predators like hyenas and lions.
Its main city is Maun, the fifth largest city in Botswana, the center of the highly lucrative tourism trade and the center of the agriculture trade. Tourists on their way to many safaris in the area mix with ranchers who bring their cattle to sell.
Sophie loves the atmosphere but when she wants to get away and still be in country, she and her LUC8K handmade leather goods go to dryer areas. She doesn’t have to go far as the Makgadikgadi Pan, (the largest complex of salt flats in the world) are short trip away. While nearby areas are awash with fauna and flora the salt flats barren and deserted. Giraffes can go a long period of time without water so this allows her a great place to relax without the threat of predators. The only threat here is the climate itself and when it gets too difficult Sophie gathers her handmade leather goods and returns to the delta.
The most interesting place in the Makgadikgadi Pan for Sophie is Kubu Island. The entire island (actually a granite hill between the Nwetwe and Sua pans) is a national monument and is considered a sacred site by the indigenous people of the area. The most striking aspect of this area is the large and mysterious looking ancient baobab trees. These plants provide a supernatural, eerie atmosphere of this place.
Botswana has maintained one of the most prosperous countries in Africa since its independence in 1966. It’s fueled by diamond mining, which accounts for about a quarter of its GDP, 85 percent of export earnings and about a third of government revenues. Tourism is the secondary earner of foreign exchange and many Batswana engage in subsistence farming and cattle raising. Through fiscal discipline and sound management, Botswana transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country with a per capita GDP of $17,700 in 2015.
Things aren’t perfect yet. Despite its growing wealth, unemployment is at nearly 20 percent. The government, led by President Seretse Khama Ian Khama, signed a 10-year deal with De Beers to move its rough stone sorting and trading division from London to Botswana’s capital city of Gaborone in 2013, to support the development of Botswana’s downstream diamond industry.
The government also is looking to diversify its economy through projects in agricultural production, construction, manufacturing and tourism.
In addition, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is second highest in the world and threatens the country’s impressive economic gains.
Relaxing beneath an ancient baobab Sophie contemplates whether to move on with her handmade leather bags or stay for a while longer.