Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Twenty Chickens for a Saddle

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Twenty Chickens for a Saddle

The Story of an African Childhood

by Robyn Scott

Twenty Chickens for a Saddle by Robyn Scott
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2008, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2009, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Vy Armour

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Interesting Facts About Botswana (map)

Since independence in 1966, the former British Protectorate of Bechuanaland has transformed itself from one of the continent's poorest nations into one of its most prosperous. Botswana's vast diamond wealth has underpinned this boom (Jwaneng, the world's largest and richest diamond mine, was discovered when termites looking for water brought grains of diamond to the surface), but, making it almost unique among its neighbors, the money has been carefully spent and reinvested in infrastructure, education and health by a judicious government.

The small population – fewer than two million in an area about the size of France – has also contributed to the country's remarkably high per capita GDP ($15,800 in 2008 according to the CIA Factbook). In 2004, it was declared Africa's least corrupt country by Transparency International but the country is beset by high unemployment (~25%) and the second highest rate of AIDS infection in the world.

The first reported case of AIDS in Botswana was in 1985; by 2002 the rate of HIV/AIDS infection in adults was 38.8%. According to the World Bank, life expectancy at birth in Botswana increased steadily for more than 30 years until 1987, but plunged 15 years between 1987 and 1998 (life expectancy by country).

Mothers For All, a not-for-profit organization founded by several of those who appear in the book, runs skills training and income generation schemes for the caregivers of Botswana's children affected or infected by AIDS. Some of the proceeds from the sale of Twenty Chickens for a Saddle are being used to fund the start-up costs.

Botswana is the setting for the popular mystery novels by Alexander McCall Smith, the first in the series being The No. l Ladies Detective Agency. The light-hearted series is appreciated by many for its human interest and local color.

British author and historian Susan Williams' book, Colour Bar: The Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation, tells the story of the marriage and struggles of Sir Seretse Khama and Lady Ruth Williams Khama.

Botswana was the location for the 1980 movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy.

More about Botswana at the author's website, which includes many photos of her childhood.

Article by Vy Armour

This article was originally published in April 2008, and has been updated for the March 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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