Practitioners of traditional medicine provided the only health care services available in most of Botswana until the first part of the decade following independence in 1966. The recent introduction of allopathic services throughout the country appears to have reduced the influence and activities of traditional medicine practitioners, but only to a limited extent and mainly with respect to younger and more formally educated population groups. Traditional health practitioners are well respected and influential in rural areas and remain central figures in the everyday lives of the majority of the rural population.
There are about 3100 traditional health practitioners in Botswana, approximately 95% of whom reside in rural areas.
The first reference to the official acceptance of traditional medicine practitioners in Botswana appears in Section 14.86 of the National Development Plan of 1976-1981:
Although not part of the modern health care system the traditional healer (ngaka) performs a significant role in Botswana, especially in the rural areas… The policy of the Ministry is to evaluate further the contribution of traditional healers to the health care system of the country and possibly then to seek ways of closer cooperation and consultation.
Similarly, Section 13.28 of Chapter 13 of the National Development Plan of 1979-1984 (10, 11) reads:
There are a large number of traditional practitioners of various types who are frequently consulted on health and personal matters. The Ministry of Health will continue its policy of gradually strengthening links with traditional practitioners – both diviners, herbalists, and faith healers. The emphasis will be put on improving mutual understanding, especially about the practices and techniques of the traditional practitioners. No full-scale integration is envisaged, but referrals between modern health care services and traditional practitioners will be encouraged where appropriate.
The Medical, Dental, and Pharmacy (Amendment) Act of 1987 outlines registration requirements for chiropractors, osteopaths, naturopaths, acupuncturists, and other complementary/alternative medical professionals in Botswana.