Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Indigenous Peoples and Biodiversity

According to the United Nations, there are approximately 400m Indigenous people worldwide, representing more than 5,000 distinct ethnic groups. First Peoples, a non governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of these peoples emphasises the following: Indigenous peoples are one of the largest minority groups in the world, spanning over 90 countries. While Indigenous Peoples total only about 6% of the world’s population, they represent 90% of the cultural diversity. Indigenous peoples inhabits 20% of the earth’s land mass that harbour's 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity. This is a very critical fact. It is therefore crucial that indigenous peoples, in this case the Bushmen be recognised as an important cog in the wheel that will sustain biodiversity in the regions they used to occupy, and are inhabiting at present. Their indigenous knowledge of ecosystems is invaluable to future planning and developing that influences them and their environment. But sadly this is not the case as indigenous peoples worldwide are sidelined from this kind of discussions and planning. It will be worth the effort to include first peoples in biodiversity planning with the aim to harness their wealth of intellectual assets and cultural property.

Image Credit:

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Ministries to the Bushmen - New Xanagas

"Glory" is a faith based ministry located within the community of  New Xanagas in the West of Botswana, not far from the Namibian Border on the road to Gobabis. The ministry serves a group of Naro speaking Bushmen scattered in and around New Xanagas. Following are a selection of photographs that gives more insight in what they are doing. You can visit the ministry website here 

 Road to Glory! New Xanagas

The Church Building

You can't miss the Glory!

Yes you can grow plants in the desert!
Community garden project at New Xanagas
New Xanagas falls into what is known as the Kalahari Basin. The area is classified as a desert due to it's lack of permanent surface water. Living in this kind of environment on a permanent basis brings unique challenges. Communities are dependent on a reliable supply of ground water which fortunately is available at the ministry. Renewable energy sources are utilised, for instance to supply household hot water. Botswana is blessed with plenty of sunshine and of course extreme temperature variations, very cold at night in winter and extremely hot at day in summer. Consumer goods most of us takes for granted are unavailable and goods that are supplied, are provided at great cost due to it being shipped over very long distances. So, if one wants to visit New Xanagas, the best is to be self sufficient and to have enough left to bless the local Bushmen, who does not take anything for granted.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Clash of the Diamonds 2
The controversial opening of the Gope mine in the Central Kalahari game Reserve must certainly be forgotten now that mining operations struck diamond bearing rock. At least by officials and investors, but maybe not by the Bushmen. No diamonds have been produced by the mine yet but as it can be seen from the news report below it is indeed promising. How this will benefit the future of the Central Kalahari Bushmen only time will tell. 
"Gem Diamonds Botswana has put smiles on shareholders’ faces following revelations that the company’s mine in the CKGR will start production on time after it struck a kimberlite late last year. The Ghaghoo has a diamond resource of 20.5 million carats, with an in-situ value of US$ 4.6 billion (about P41.5 billion) and the November 2013 discovery will boost investor confidence that the mine is in line for June production." - Sunday Standard 29 April 2014
Photo Credit: Gem Diamonds

Clash of the Diamonds

Central to the resettlement of Bushmen Communities from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is a war of words about the role and impact of the mining of diamonds in the Reserve. It erupted when the resettlement started during 2007 and Bushmen communities started to point fingers at the Botswana Government's prospecting of diamonds in the reserve. According to the Government this was never the issue and according to the Bushmen it was the only issue. Nevertheless the Bushmen have been resettled and the Diamond mine at Gope was opened by Gem Diamonds. The reality of the matter is that things will never be the same, and even if the Bushmen do return to the Reserve they will never be able to adapt to their age old nomadic lifestyle again. Too much have changed for them. That is the hard reality.

But how have diamonds ended up in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve? That I think is the wrong question. Rather one should ask: How have the Reserve ended up between the diamonds? Most probably when the Reserve was proclaimed in the early sixties knowledge about the existence of diamonds in the reserve never existed. One need to a qualified geologist to really understand how all of this comes together and for the layperson all the geological jargon is very much Greek. The map below nevertheless gives a clue how this actually "works". The alkaline volcanic pipe lineament displayed on the map below pinpoints to diamond bearing soils and rocks along this lineament. Diamonds are formed plenty of years ago under extreme heat and pressure conditions, deep within the Earth's mantle at a depth of between 100 -200 km below the surface. They are then brought to the surface of the Earth by kimberlite explosions, once again plenty of years ago.

This is where the greatest possibility is for finding diamonds and indeed is proved by the existence of diamond mining operations all along this lineament. Number 16 on the map is the mining operations at Gope, in the south of the CKGR, with number 15 further to the south the operations at Khutse, and to the north at number 17 the operations at Orapa. An article that explains to background to this map was published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. A copy can be downloaded here. Unfortunately at cost.    

So where does all of this leave the Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve? Only time will tell but for now sustainable ways need to be found to help The Central Kalahari Bushmen to edge out for themselves an existence where all the odds seems to be stacked against them. This is rather an urgent cause.

Key to pipe clusters: 1. Namaqualand olivine melilitites; 2. Bushmanland olivine melilitites; 3. post-Karoo diatremes; 4. Pofadder kimberlites; 5. Ariemsvlei kimberlites; 6. Noeniputs kimberlite; 7. Rietfontein kimberlite; 8. Southern Botswana kimberlites; 9. Kolongkweneng kimberlites; 10. Tsabong-Molopo kimberlites; 11. Khekhe fissure; 12. Mabuasehube kimberlites; 13. Kokong kimberlites 14. Kikao kimberlites; 15. Khutse kimberlites; 16. Gope kimberlites; 17. Orapa 19: Binga kimberlites and Katete carbonatite; 20. Sengwa kimberlites; 21. lower Luangwa (Kaluwe) carbonatites; 22. Kapamba lamproites; 23. Mushinje kimberlites; 24. Isoka kimberlites
The start of mining Operations Gope Mine
Image Credit: Gem Daimonds

The Road to the Bushmen - Central Kalahari Game Reserve Botswana

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve or in short CKGR, is a desolate desert like environment located in the centre of Botswana. It is classified as a desert because of it's lack of permanent surface water but it has no resemblance to other desert like environments for instance the Namib desert. It is covered with plenty of stocky, thorny bushes and trees and grasslands. It is unimaginable how wildlife can survive in such a harsh environment. But not only they, but also the Bushmen have been able to do so for thousands of years.

The CKGR was set up by the British administration of the protectorate of Bechuananland in 1961 as a reserve for the Bushmen to practise their traditional lifestyle, as they have been doing for ages. Starting in 1997 and continuing through to 2002 the Botswana Government, in order to protect the rapidly dwindling stocks of game according to their research, decided to relocate all of the bushmen that were living in the reserve at that time, to resettlement camps outside of the reserve. Villages consisting of whole family units, and everyone else that were part of a village were resettled. The effect on the bushmen was devastating. Their whole way of life revolved around their attachment to the land and what they could get from it to sustain them. Resettlement camps were nothing more than shanty towns full of hopelessness and despair, and even today stand in sharp contrast to their ancient hunting grounds that sustained them for so long.

Ancient hunting grounds of the Bushmen - CKGR

Ancient hunting grounds of the Bushmen - CKGR

Less than a handful of Bushmen communities still resides within the Reserve with a small community at Molapo in the east of the Reserve and other communities at Mothomelo and Gope in the South. The community of Bushmen at Molapo, although they still do hunt, do not follow their traditional nomadic lifestyle anymore. They stay in more permanent grass and wooden structures. The community at Mothomelo is said to be the last Bushmen community that have manged to keep their nomadic lifestyle largely in tact against all odds. The photos below are from the community of Bushmen at Molapo. 

Photo Credits all photos at Molapo:
The Bushmen at Molapo

Near Molapo: Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Sunday, 27 April 2014

The Indigenous rights in Southern Africa.

The International Journal of Human Rights

Special Issue: The Indigenous rights in Southern Africa.

Volume 15, Issue 1, 2011

The International Journal on Human Rights is a biannual journal published in English, Portuguese and Spanish by Conectas Human Rights. This special edition covers many of the issues critical to the future of minority and indigenous groups in Southern Africa. Unfortunately the articles are not free and are rather expensive to download. One can access it here

San Languages Botswana

Language, Education and Culture
The relationship between education and language and culture is very complex. It can either lead to total inhalation of minority ethnic groups or the elevation and self determination of those groups. Having the opportunity to be educated in a mother tong is self empowering and can be the biggest influence determining the future of any ethnic group. The following article sheds more light on this complex issue and give an indication how government policy is shaping the destiny of minority groups in Botswana, in this case the Bushmen.  The article was published by SOGIP (Scale of Governance UN and Indigenous Peoples). Following are an abstract with the link to the article below: 
"Botswana’s general approach to minorities, including the San, is assimilative. Botswana’s education and cultural policies are founded in the country’s strong anti-apartheid stance during its early decades of independence. Recognition of cultural and linguistic differences is still equated with the divisions of apartheid and with lack of access to mainstream institutions. Efforts to introduce minority languages in education or for other purposes have consistently been countered with the official argument that “we are all Batswana” and that it is against policy. The general position is that recognizing specific rights or needs of minorities will be divisive and unfair – either privileging or disadvantaging groups on ethnic grounds.
However, the government does recognize special needs based on circumstances, for example living in an area which is far from points of service provision. The Remote Area Development Programme (RADP), under the Ministry of Local Government, caters specifically for children from remote and impoverished communities (see also . There are no official figures illustrating the percentage of “Remote Area Dwellers” (RADs) who are San. However a common estimate is that more than 80 per cent of the RADS nationwide are San, and that this number approaches 100 per cent in some areas. The government of Botswana earmarks resources specifically to provide RAD children with the opportunity to attend government schools, including building and staffing hostels to accommodate children from remote areas."
You can find the full script here

Distribution of San languages in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve,
Source : Sidsel Saugestad and Kuela Kiema

Apart from a few communities the Bushmen communities depicted on the map have been resettled in settlements outside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. For those still living in or near the Park hunting is prohibited without a hunting permit.  

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Bushman Music Initiative

Bushmen indigenous languages are very unique and distinct from any other language group. To the foreign ear, it sounds like a lot if garble. But to them, it is maybe their only "artifact" left from their ancient past.Very few of their different languages have been recorded fully, and most of these languages will most probably one day vanish. The bushmen are very poetic and like to tell stories, dance, and sing.     
In an effort to record their unique "music" a volunteer project was initiated called the Bushman Music Initiative. You can find more information about this initiative here. Following are an excerpt from the website that illustrates the uniqueness of their culture: Popular musician Dave Matthews, a native South African, reports that during a visit to a Bushman village he asked a Bushman what the words to a certain song meant. "There are no words," the man said, "because these songs all come from before we had words." Songs from different communities were recorded and are available on a CD that can be ordered online. One can also listen to track samples online.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Identification of Indigenous Peoples

Photo Credit: Arthur Krasilnikoff (IWGIA)

"Indigenous peoples are the disadvantaged descendants of those peoples who inhabited a territory prior to colonisation or formation of the present state. The term indigenous is defined by characteristics that relate to the identity of a particular people in a particular area, and that distinguish them culturally from other people or peoples. 

When, for example, immigrants from Europe settled in the Americas and Oceania, or when new states were created after colonialism was abolished in Africa and Asia, certain peoples became marginalised and discriminated against, because their language, their religion, their culture and their whole way of life were different and perceived by the dominant society as being inferior. Insisting on their right to self-determination is indigenous peoples' way of overcoming these obstacles.

Today many indigenous peoples are still excluded from society and often even deprived of their rights as equal citizens of a state. Nevertheless they are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories and their ethnic identity. Self-identification as an indigenous individual and acceptance as such by the group is an essential component of indigenous peoples' sense of identity. Their continued existence as peoples is closely connected to their possibility to influence their own fate and to live in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal systems.

At least 350 million people worldwide are considered to be indigenous. Most of them live in remote areas in the world. Indigenous peoples are divided into at least 5000 peoples ranging from the forest peoples of the Amazon to the tribal peoples of India and from the Inuit of the Arctic to the Aborigines in Australia. Very often they inhabit land, which is rich in minerals and natural resources.

Indigenous peoples have prior rights to their territories, lands and resources, but often these have been taken from them or are threatened. They have distinct cultures and economies compared to those of the dominant society. Indigenous peoples' self-identification as indigenous is a crucial part of their identity.

Indigenous peoples face serious difficulties such as the constant threat of territorial invasion and murder, the plundering of their resources, cultural and legal discrimination, as well as a lack of recognition of their own institutions."

Resettlement of the Bushmen - Botswana

During 1997 several Bushmen communities were resettled from The Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana to various settlements in the Southern and Eastern Part of Botswana. Although legitimate reasons were presented by the Botswana Government is was largely done so against the will of the Bushmen. It resulted in a famous international court case that restored the rights of the Bushmen in their ancient hunting ground. Efforts soon ensued to reverse this court decision and even today the future of the Bushmen still looks grim without clarity where they stand, or sit in regard to all these decisions. The result of the resettlement impacted the traditional hunterer-gatherer lifestyle of Bushmen dramatically. They had to adapt to a much less passive lifestyle in which the traditional roles of men and women were severely altered. Wherever Bushmen communities were resettle social problems soon ensued. 

Following in this post and other future posts is a collage of photos that was taken by Christian Erni from the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) during 1997. The photos below were taken from Bushmen in the New Xade Settlement. Their facial expressions at that time told a story about misery and hardship.

Where is New Xade?
Xade was the traditional home to a Bushmen community and is located within the Western section of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The group of Bushmen were resettled from there to New Xade, a community outside and to the west of the Park. As can be seen on the map below it is literally in the middle of nowhere! 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The road to the Bushmen - Tsumke (Namibia)

Taking the road from Grootfontein to Rundu and turning East towards Tsumke one come across Roy's Rest Camp. The 300 km's between Grootfontein en Tsumke can take the best part of a day to cover, so any rest camp on this road should be a welcome sight. A long stretch of road to Tsumke is dirt road. Roy's Rest Camp is situated on the B8, 55 km north of Grootfontein on the road to Rundu. It seems to be rustic but in the absence of any other conveniences this should be a good stop over. We do not know the guys at Roy's but they most probably will appreciate some free publicity. You can visit their website here for more info and photos.

Photo Credits:

Friday, 18 April 2014

The Hadza Tribe of Northern Tanzania

Africa's ancient hunter-gatherers struggle for survival

Apart from the Bushmen the Hadza Tribe of Northern Tanzania is most probably the last remaining hunter-gatherer tribe that actively pursue this lifestyle as a way of making a living. Their way of living closely resembles those of the Bushmen and their language also include click consonants, giving clues about their ancient heritage. Their language is classified by Linguists as part of the Khoisan Language Group. Like the Bushmen they also face a daily struggle for survival with other ethnic tribes infringing on their traditional hunting grounds.

As part of their Inside Africa coverage CNN is giving a rare glimpse into the life of the Hadza. You  can read their article here 

Until 30 years ago, the Hadza frequently hunted large animals like zebra, giraffe and buffalo. Most large mammals have now decreased in number, leaving them to depend on smaller animals, such as local antelope and birds.
Photo Credit CNN

Olduvai George Northern Tanzania
Photo Credit:

Monday, 14 April 2014

Changing the Life of a Bushmen in Botswana

Education is one of the keys for alleviating people out of the grip of poverty. Empowering people, especially young people to read and write in a native language, enables them to discover the wealth of knowledge locked up inside the covers of books. This is that kind of story.  

" By the fall of 2015, a young man from the San (Bushman) tribe of Botswana, the first of his people to graduate from high school at the top of his class, will be ready to pursue an undergraduate degree in engineering at any university in the world. His tuition will be covered by a national award, granted by the Botswana Ministry of Education for excellence in academics. Ketelelo Moapare is the first San to win this prestigious award and it is all because a library came to his village when he was thirteen years old." - Naomi Krueger. You can read the full story here 

Changing the Life of a Bushman in Botswana

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Khwe/!Xho San of Platfontein

Platfontein is a community located in an arid region of the Northern Cape Province, 15km outside the town Kimberley  The community consists of two San tribes, the !Xun and the Khwe who have endure much hardship as the result of being relocated during the 70's from Angola to Schmidsdrift also near Kimberley, and from there to Platfontein. The community of Platfontein also consists of other ethnic groups that complicates the San’s struggle for recognition and self determination. They found themselves between a rock and a hard place so to speak.

Young people are caught up in their struggle to come to terms with their past while at the same time facing integration into a society that do not suit them ideally, or maybe not at all. They have to face abuse, be it when they speak their language or dress in a more traditional manner. This pressure forces young people to fit in rather than to embrace their own culture. Alcohol abuse amongst young people are a growing problem. Teenagers with no job prospects or aspirations turn to alcohol to pass the time. Many spend their days idling and drinking to keep amused. Due to a lack of educational activities many young people are left with little to do. Government social services are inadequate and the quality of housing is substandard. As a result, many houses inside Platfontein are left abandoned. With very few job prospects for young Bushmen, being able to grow and provide for a family is proving harder than ever before. Their situation is not much different from other San communities in Southern Africa.

The photos below are taken from the website of Daniel Cathbert who is a documentary photographer. He managed by his photos to accurately capture the hardship these people are facing on a daily basis. We have also included some of his captions with his photos.

"Teenagers with no job prospects or aspirations turn to alcohol to pass the time. This has led to a heavy drink culture in the youth, with many spending their days idling and drinking to keep amused. ‘Why not, I love being drunk. It’s better than sitting around doing nothing. We have nothing to look forward to’".

Young Khwe Bushmen in Platfontein prefer western fashion for inspiration, over more traditional ways of dressing. Often the abuse they receive as Bushmen, be it when they speak their language or dress in a more traditional manner, pushes the youngsters to fit in rather than embrace their culture.

Teenagers showing how they still try and keep in touch with their past, with a painting done by a friend depicting a more traditional way of Bushman life. ‘We can’t live the old way anymore but having images like this reminds us what our ancestors lived like’


“I want to work. I want to see outside of Platfontein but I can’t. I’ve tried to work away but feel the city is too big sometimes. I have my schooling but it is no use.” With very few job prospects for young Bushmen, being able to grow and provide for a family is proving harder than ever before.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Living Museum of the Ju/'Hoansi-San

The Museum is an open-air facility where visitors can learn more about the traditional culture of the San. It is managed and operated by the Ju/'Hoansi San that takes visitors on an interactive tour where they can participate in some of the cultural activities. Although this is just what it says it is, a museum, and the San do not follow this lifestyle any more in Namibia, it has valuable educational value for both foreigners and the San themselves. The museum provides a much needed source of income to the impoverished local San community and goes along way to help them to restore pride in their ancient way of living. 

The museum is situated on the C44 that links the national road between Grootfontein and Rundu with Tsumke in the remote aastern part of Namibia. It includes about 80km of gravel road of which a section is very sandy. The photos below comes from a travel blog. Follow the link to get more info or visit the official Museum website

Access Road

Museum Sign

One of the Guides

Illustration of Fire Making Technique

Traditional Hunting Equipment

"Water" from the Soil

How the Ju/'Hoansi-San Lives Today

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Discrimination and dependence - the plight of the San in Angola

"The end of Angola's civil war allowed the researchers to cover 2,500 km in the southern provinces of Huila, Cunene and Kuando Kubango in 2003. They braved landmines, destroyed bridges and impassable dirt tracks to interview 43 San communities. Another 28 were unreachable by road. In some areas, sympathetic soldiers alerted the researchers to tiny San settlements and the safe routes to reach them. The size of groups varied between family units of 6 to 10 individuals and larger villages of 230 people. Since colonial times and throughout Angola's 27-year civil war, the Angolan San have been invisible, forgotten and abused. No longer. For the first time since independence in 1975, a study tracks their numbers (roughly 3,600), describes their situation and offers recommendations for a better future.'' 
 This study was undertaken by the commissioned by the Irish Catholic Agency for World Development (TROCAIRE/Angola), the Namibia-based Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA) and the Angolan NGO, Organizacao Crista de Apoio ao Desenvolvimento Comunitario (OCADEC). It is now almost 10 years since the study and a lot of water has run into the Okovango Delta since then. We can assume that a lot has changed but also that a lot most probably is still the same. Nevertheless the study has established that the San communities in Angola still exists, that the communities are dispersed over a large area and like elsewhere they are facing extreme hardship. A copy of the report can be requested from DLIST