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Missionization of Tswana began in 1816, and throughout the nineteenth century Tswana polities were drawn into trade, Christianity, and the migrant labor economy centered in South Africa, while defending themselves against incursions from the north, east, and south.
The term Setswana refers both to Tswana language, and to Tswana practices/culture, and there has been increasing resistance to the dominance of Setswana as national language by speakers of other languages in the country; language-revival movements have also emerged.
The double meaning has also permitted the fiction, widely accepted in outside reporting, that Botswana's success as a multiparty liberal democracy is based on an ethnically homogeneous population, when abundant state resources based upon diamond mining, responsibly and equitably distributed, are the more likely source of stability. Bordering on South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Zambia, it is 224,607 square miles (581,730 square kilometers) in area, about the same size as France.
This fiction may indeed have supported the building of an officially nonethnic, state-oriented society, but has come under sharp challenge in the 1990s, as minority groups request the privileges of official recognition. Two-thirds of the country is comprised of the Kalahari Desert, which is covered with grasses and scrub but has scarce surface water.
Mean annual rainfall ranges from under 10 inches (250 millimeters) per annum in the southwest to over 25 inches (635 millimeters) in the northeast.
The entire country is prone to extended droughts, causing significant hardship to agriculturalists, pastoralists, and hunter-gatherers.