Saturday, 10 May 2014

A day in the life of an elephant

The sun rises early in the Kalahari desert. Every morning as soon as it gets light we check out for each other in the herd. We pretty much know each other even in the dark but we just check anyway. This will be another long day so we better get moving. Life is not easy in the desert. Okay, it is not really a desert as there is plenty of food around but the problem is the water, that is why the humans called it a desert. You have to dig for water and we need plenty of water every day. It help us to digest our food. You know our food doesn't come with any sauce, especially in the dry season when grass and leaves are dry and dusty. We have to walk very long distances in the heat of day to find water. We are very dependant on humans for water, especially in the dry season. They have this very big machines that makes a lot of noise and that has a very large trunk it sticks into the ground. It goes down deep into the belly of the earth until it reaches the water. We cannot do that, our trunks are too short. When the machine takes the trunk back from the belly of the earth the water comes out. We can smell water from great distances especially when there is little around and when we are thirsty. When the water  comes out the humans collect it in a big plastic bag. Then they put a wire around it and more branches to hide it away but we can still smell it. But when we are thirsty we must get water, especially for our babies in the herd. We will do anything to get to water. But first we have to get everything out of the way so that the rest of the herd can see the water. 

It happened the other day at a place where the small people live. They talk a funny language not like the other humans and sometimes they wear skins. Our parents told us many stories about these people how they lived in the bush and shared the food from the veld with us. They ate many of the plants we ate and they keep their water in the egg of an ostrich. But they don't do that anymore. They were very angry when they saw the water was not in the container anymore. We were so happy but they could not understand why we were so happy. They talked very fast, was running around and they made a big noise with their sticks. They even throw stones at us. Our parents told us  the small people never chased us those years. But now it is different. We don't live in peace anymore with them. They can have their water in the plastic bag but they can also allow us some of the water in a ditch so that we can stand in it, and drink it. Then we can have peace with the small people again.

Elephants at //ari!nagho village borehole Botswana
Photo Credit: l
Damaged borehole
Photo Credit: l
Borehole at Labala, BotswanaPhoto Credit:

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The fate of indigenous peoples

Indigenous Peoples all over the world suffers the same fate. They are the most marginalized and disenfranchised peoples in the world. This is a situation not unique to the Bushmen but it applies to them even more so. First Peoples Worldwide, an organization that campaign for the rights of these peoples, describe the threats to indigenous  peoples in no uncertain terms. Following is an abstract from their briefing defining active threats to Indigenous Peoples: 

● State discrimination, such as withholding citizenship or rights afforded other citizens, the tactical use of violence to intimidate and control, and legislation that defines basic Indigenous activities as illegal and punishable by imprisonment, torture and death.
Eviction from our native lands, carried out by governments, so that our assets can be exploited by outside interests.
● The physical removal or “stripping” of our natural assets, including mineral resources, timber, water, and agricultural lands for business interests. Not only does this process impoverish the land on which we depend for sustenance, it also destroys our sacred sites and upsets the ecological balance that forms the foundation of our cultures.
Eviction from our native territories in the name of conservation. Despite the fact that our lands remain intact and healthy because of our continued stewardship, outside conservation efforts have led to the eviction of millions of Indigenous people in order to create “pristine,” human-free protected areas.
Exploitation of intellectual property, such as our stories, traditional ways and artwork, without compensation because we do not have access to patents or other legal framework for ownership.

All these threats in one or more ways applies to the Bushmen and threatens their survival indeed. These threats provides good direction for interventions by organizations rendering support and services to the Bushmen. 

Bushmen Contemporary Art : Kuru Art Project

Is Fracking coming to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve?

Media reports have recently speculated wildly about the prospects of shale gas exploration and mining coming to the CKGR. The Government of Botswana has in response to these speculations released a press statement of which an abstract follows:

“ We would wish to here emphasize that while concessions for energy prospecting have indeed been granted over wide areas of the country there are currently no mining licenses for gas extraction in the country, and thus no commercial production involving so-called fracking or any other fracturing techniques. With respect to prospecting, no current operations have been given permission to conduct hydraulic fracking, i.e. fracturing procedures involving fluids in our country. If such a process were to be carried out without authorisation it would be a violation of the Mines and Minerals Act of 1999 and the Environmental Assessment Act of 2011. This restriction is in recognition by Government of the fact that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) does indeed pose potential environmental risks.” One can read the whole press release here.

From the press statement it is clear that exploration rights were granted in the area but no mining rights. Fracking is a very controversial mining practice worldwide due to the dangers it  poses to environmental and human health. This is not only a threat but a reality as proved in the contamination of groundwater elsewhere in the world as a result of shale gas mining. Fortunately the Botswana Government seems to be transparent in its approach and awareness of the dangers it poses. One can only hope that they will upheld the well being of not only the Central Kalahari Bushmen, but of all the peoples living in the Kalahari.

A simplified illustration of the dangers of Fracking
Image Credit: Mark Parnell