Motshikiri is Botswana’s national grass and provides traditional thatching material for a large part of the population in Botswana, almost all communities use this grass. The dried tall stems of Motshikiri are used in basketry, thatching and broom making.
Motshikiri is a tough grass which is rarely eaten by livestock. Batswana for many generations, have used it to put roofs over their heads, as well as advancing their socio-economic status through sale to local constructors.
Thatching as a career is a very physical job, so you need to be keen to work hard, not afraid of heights and willing to commit to long-term training. It can take up to five years to learn the skills to become a qualified thatcher. You may also need to move to an area where thatching skills are in demand.
With the rising cost of building materials over the years and the current extra tight budgets, the use of traditional and locally available materials has provided employment for the less skilled artisans in the community. Thatch is a widely used and attractive finish to a home, lodge or office building, and Botswana has many artisans who have learnt from their parents and grandparents.
Each square meter needs 95 bundles of grass, and when a roof has been professionally thatched, it should last between 40 and 50 years (so, the same as any other roof). The roof ridge will have to be replaced every eight to ten years.
Fun Facts about Thatching
Thatch is a good heat insulator, keeping buildings warm in winter and cool in summer.
Open fires are recommended by Authorities in thatched properties instead of fireplaces.
Thatch roof buildings are beautiful and popular in high end projects as a sign of prosperity.
Common thatch pests include birds, rats, insects and squirrels. Sparrows specifically were once known as “thatch birds” because of their habit to steal straw from thatched roofs for their nests in spring. Treatments can keep these pests at bay.
Thatch is not as flammable as many people believe. It burns slowly. The vast majority of fires are linked to the use of wood burners and faulty chimneys with dirty or poorly installed flues.
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