Former President of Botswana Ketumile Masire died in the capital city of Gaborone on June 22 at age 91. The Hunger Project deeply mourns his loss. He received the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger in 1989 and was known as one of Botswana’s most remarkable leaders.
President Masire won the Africa Prize award in 1989 in recognition of his food distribution efforts that helped the country stave off starvation during the drought of 1981-1987. President Masire was able to avoid national disaster through a series of initiatives that included programmed nutritional surveillance, early warning systems, food distribution and “cash for work.”
President Masire boasted a long and successful career that also saw him work as a local development activist, journalist and later Minister of Finance and Vice President. He was elected president in 1980 and held the office until 1998. In addition to the drought response, he was hailed for his distinctively inclusive approach to government, which saw Botswana turn into one of the most robust democracies on the African continent.
Born in southern Botswana in 1925, Masire grew up as a herder before enrolling in primary school at 13. After leaving office, Masire – who often described himself as a “farmer who has been drawn into politics” – divided his time between farming and promoting sustainable agriculture, primarily through the Sir Ketumile Masire Foundation.
Read a full synopsis of his life provided by the Government of Botswana.