We collaborated with San communities in the Omaheke region of Namibia to implement an integrated field programme that balanced the need for increased economic opportunities, food security and education with maintenance of the Kalahari ecosystem.
Characterised by the diversity of migratory birds, large mammals and plant species, the semi-arid landscape of the Kalahari in Namibia is home to the San, Africa’s oldest human inhabitants. Former nomadic hunter gatherers, the communities’ dependence on the Kalahari drylands ecosystem had led to a rich understanding of wildlife and plant species, traditionally used for food, shelter, clothing, medicines and ritual. Through this understanding and associated skills, they were able to hunt and gather, engage in agropastoral activities and sustainably manage their natural resources.
However, land dispossession, political marginalisation and cattle farming significantly impacted their ability to forage and maintain a nomadic lifestyle. Hunting had become prohibited in the majority of the areas in which the San live. Wild plants that traditionally provided food and medicine are threatened by overgrazing and diminishing knowledge of their traditional use. Accessing a reliable food supply is a major concern for most San in Namibia, who are amongst the poorest and most marginalised in southern Africa.
From 2006 to 2010, we worked primarily with San communities in the Omaheke region of Namibia in a collaborative project to improve food security and nutrition through home gardens. Coined the Kalahari Garden Project, we assisted with the development and maintenance of forty-two gardens spread throughout five villages in the Aminuis Corridor for the production of food year round for a population of approximately 550 San. We also set out to help promote and preserve traditional environmental knowledge of wild food and medicinal plants to encourage healthy lifestyles in sedentary settlements. Through this project, we contributed to building the skills and opportunities necessary for creating a renewed sense of self reliance within the community.