The semi-arid landscape of the Kalahari eco-region in Namibia is characterized by a remarkable diversity of migratory birds and large mammals and a wide variety of plant species that provide an important source of food and water for both humans and animals. Flora and fauna synonymous with the region include the camelthorn (Acacia erioloba), gemsbok (Oryx gazella), sociable weaver (Philetairus socius) and the Kalahari lion (Panthera leo).
A considerable amount of the Kalahari is protected (18%) and the xeric savanna is recognised by the WWF as one of the world’s 200 ecoregions prioritised for conservation. Where not protected, overgrazing is degrading the natural habitat and fencing obstructs migratory routes and threatens the biodiversity of the region.
The Kalahari is home to the San, Africa’s oldest human inhabitants and other ethnic groups that include the Nama, Bakgalagadi, Herero and Tswana. In the past, these people´s understanding of the natural environment and associated skills enabled them to hunt and gather, engage in agropastoral activities and sustainably manage their natural resources.
Dispossession and displacement have resulted in former means of subsistence becoming increasingly unsustainable. Increased competition for natural resources has led to poor land management and these groups are some of the poorest and most marginalised in southern Africa today.
GDF’s regional programme in Southern Africa ran from 2006 to 2010. Here we worked principally with San communities in the Omaheke region of Namibia to create home gardens, and promote San use of wild food and medicinal plants to promote healthy lifestyles in sedentary settlements. Through the programme, we implemented an integrative approach to conservation and development, balancing the need for increased livelihood opportunities, food security and education with the ecological considerations of the Kalahari eco-region.