Over the last five years the Nyae Nyae Conservancy and Community Forest has actively managed and recorded fire in their area. They took this step as a result of discovering that fire was causing more damage to the environment than over-grazing. Fire was found to be having a major impact and in 2010 50% on the 8,992km² area was devastated and burnt. They realised it wasn’t a once-off, but part of a worrying trend threatening livelihoods, lives and wildlife.
The current fires in Australia are a stark reminder of the damage that fires can cause and the danger of uncontrolled hot fires. As climate change takes a hold across the globe, events that used to be rare, now become an annual or seasonal occurrence.
As funds start to flow from the Green Climate Fund (GCF)/Environmental Investment Fund (EIF)project, the SAN community in Nyae Nyae have used the funds to protect their village water points from elephants. The much needed funds that were awarded by GCF/EIF are immediately benefitting the community.
The San community in Nyae Nyae have relatively little Human Wildlife conflict in the area, even though there are an estimated 1000-1500 elephants in the area. There’s little conflict as innovative arrangement between the conservancy and Trophy Hunters have ensured there are more than over 18 functioning game water points in the area. Despite this, the drought that has impacted the whole of Namibia has obviously put greater strain on wildlife looking for water. This search for water has meant that elephants are more likely to stray into the Conservancy area inhabited by people. This means there’s a greater likelihood of village water points being attacked and damaged. The protection of the water points will mean that the community can hopefully avoid distress in the village and also the inevitable failure of gardens and other projects dependent on water.
The harvesting and sale of Devil’s Claw in both the Nyae Nyae Conservancy & Community Forest and the N#a Jaqna Conservancy & Community Forest offer on a yearly basis a substantial supplementary income for their members who undertake this activity. However, the increase in illegal grazing in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy and Community Forest as well as the illegal erection of fences in the N#a Jaqna Conservancy and Community forest (NJCCF) now threaten the income generating opportunities.
With the 2019 Devil’s Claw harvesting now over, harvesters from both conservancies & community forests supplied just over 20 tons of dried Devil’s Claw. Thereby generating a direct income of just over N$ 1 million for about 500 harvesters. This income is substantial considering that in many cases this is one of the only potential sources of income for their members and especially bearing in mind the extreme drought conditions of 2019.
In September, Chief Tsamkxao ≠Oma of the Ju/’hoansi San Traditional Authority from Nyae Nyae, visited London to participate in the Flourishing Diversity Summit. Along with representatives from indigenous communities around the world including the Maori from New Zealand, the Sioux from America, Okiek from Kenya, to name a few. The San Chief told the story of his life and the changes he has been witness to over the last 70-80 years.
The summit brought together indigenous leaders who shared their history and their approaches to environmental conservation. Conservation and the changes to the environment around the world was a major topic, especially as the indigenous see the impact that climate change is having globally every day in their communities.
The N≠a Jaqna Conservancy recently held their most successful Annual General Meeting to date. At the meeting held in Windhoek, the community showed the results of their commitment to resolving their own problems, rather than waiting for others to help.
The community decided to invest over N$250,000 of their own funds rectifying long-term water problems that the authorities have failed to address for many years. Children, have for the last five years been forced to walk several kilometres to functioning water points to collect water on a daily basis, this was an untenable situation. This has put added pressure on the few village water points still functioning, distracted and kept children from school and made daily living an ongoing challenge in the area.
Even in the dry and arid regions of Namibia, trees can survive; provide shade and improved food security for people. The San in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy have found that trees are more resilient to drought than other plants and once established are very easily maintained.
The Environmental Investment Fund (EIF) of Namibia has made more than N$1,9 million available to the Nyae Nyae Conservancy to help manage fire and water within the conservancy. Thereby protecting and safeguarding the livelihoods of the residents of this Conservancy in the Otjozondjupa region. This grant and the projects which it will facilitate are part of a bigger scheme to create climate resilient livelihoods through Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBRM) in Namibia.
Benefit distribution in the Communal Conservancies comes in different form, but often in cash. There has been criticism of this, and of the Namibian’s communal conservancies in general, but the Nyae Nyae Conservancy has benefitted significantly from the distribution of cash. People in this day and age simply need cash to pay for certain goods and services, the people in the conservancy are no different.
There’s has been much criticism of Namibian’s communal conservancies recently and their lack of ability to deliver benefits to our community. However, in N≠a Jaqna Conservancy, the largest conservancy in Namibia and one of only 2 that are San run they take benefit distribution very seriously. This month food benefit has been distributed to schools throughout the area. During times of food-insecurity and drought any form of assistance is welcome, especially for the most vulnerable, the children of the conservancy. Food supplies, including staples worth N$96,000 have been distributed to 16 schools in the area during March 2019.
Nyae Nyae and N≠a Jaqna Conservancies, both run by the indigenous San communities resident there, have formally requested the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) Minister, the Hon Pohamba Shifeta to visit and support them in addressing issues that threaten the conservancies.
In August 2016, the Minister said he would not tolerate abuse of communities in conservancies by invaders who want to cheat them out of their land and vital and scarce natural resources.
OrigiNations is an organisation focused on indigenous communities around the world and how these communities, especially the youth, deal with the challenge of reconciling their cultural heritage with the demands and radical transformation brought about by modernity. During a recent visit to Namibia, they went to the Nyae Nyae Conservancy in and around Tsumkwe, which is managed by the indigenous Ju/’hoansi San community, met with elders, the conservancy, community and the Nyae Nyae Foundation, one of the supporting NGOs in the area.
The Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) as well as the new National Development Plan 5 (NDP 5) that was launched at the end of May this year speaks of working together, but also becoming self-sustainable as a nation. The San have been working towards this goal for years. Within the last month alone the community is seeing the fruits of years of support and investment in the San communities in Nyae Nyae and Na Jaqna Conservancies paying off. This is a testament to their hard work and a clear outcome of the consistent dedicated work of the San to improve their livelihoods and situation.
Water Development in Nyae Nyae Conservancy has taken many years. The Conservancy is responsible for approximately half the village and game water points in the area, which means over 20 water points spread throughout the nearly 9,000km² of the area.
The first priority was to ensure that boreholes functioned and solar submersible pumps were slowing introduced. However, with over 1000 elephants in the area water points were often destroyed by elephants looking for water, so water point had to be protected from the elephants as well as the maintenance of game water points to ensure they have access to water and keep elephants away from villages.
What started out as a micro-project 30 years ago, has evovled into a viable way of generating income for the community at Nyae Nyae. The truly artisanal craft makers of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy produce traditional jewellery using ostrich egg shells. This jewellery is of such an exceptional quality that it is now being exported and sold in Europe.
In April 2009, cattle farmers from outside Nyae Nyae Conservancy and Community Forest unlawfully and without authority, entered our area. The Chief has never given any of them permission to settle or graze here, but many refuse to leave and are still grazing their livestock illegally every day on our lands.
The Nyae Nyae Conservancy and Community Forest II Project have taken an pro-active approach to dealing with fires in their communal areas with tangible visible positive results.
In 2012, 50% of the whole Nyae Nyae area burnt, resulting in the loss of life as well as damage to rangeland, wildlife and the environment through CO² emissions. The late hot fires of September and October are particularly damaging and uncontrollable, causing widespread devastation. The new approach taken in Nyae Nyae fits with the San cultural tradition of selective burning in the cooler months of May-July. This allows the fires to be better controlled and the fuel load reduced to prevent the later and more damaging hot fires.
Recently seven San agricultural and livestock champions from Nyae Nyae and N≠a Jaqna Conservancy visited the “collective style” commercial farm, Krumhuk, just outside Windhoek. Krumhuk operates on bio-dynamic, organic and holistic management principles that the champions are introducing in their villages in the Otjozondjupa Region.