By Sven-Eric Kanzler
“Now I really know how precious a shower and clean clothes are,” Margreth Nuuyunifrom, a student at Khomas High School, says with a grin.
“During our expedition into the Kalahari we had to do with very little water for days: we had just 2 litres each per day, for washing, brushing your teeth, cooking and cleaning.” Margreth adds proudly: “Just like the Bushman in earlier times, they often also had only one ostrich egg filled with water to last for the day, that is about 1.5 litres.”
Learning to handle precious resources like water with care is just as much part of EduVentures’ list of successes as the gathering of plants and small animals. This became clear recently when participants presented the results of the 10th EduVentures expedition. The excursion into the Kalahari east of Tsumkwe took place from April 27 to May 12. Eighteen students and six adults from Windhoek, Otavi and Tsumkwe partcipated in the excursion.
EduVentures is an initiative of the National Museum of Namibia aimed at getting young people enthusiastic about nature’s diversity, to introduce them to scientific work and to collect valuable material for the museum.
The initiative, which promotes interaction between youngsters from different cultural backgrounds, also aims at raising awareness of man’s co-existence with nature. Such awareness is easily suppressed by urban lifestyles: water wastes away with the tap running while we brush our teeth and the shower is kept on while we lather ourselves.
In natural surroundings, however, water is a scarce and vitally important resource. Therefore EduVentures’ number 1 rule (‘water policy’) is: use water sparingly, everyone is given no more than 2 litres per day. If you squander it, you will have to go thirsty for the rest of the day. But expedition leaders see to it, of course, that nobody dehydrates.
The first stop of the journey was Muramba Bushman Trails, 6 km from Tsintsabis north of Tsumeb. Reinhard Friederich explained the former way of life of the Hai//om San, including how to light a fire without matches and carrying water in an ostrich egg. The students were particularly fascinated by the ‘Veld Newspaper’, reading animal tracks.
Then it was off into the Kalahari. The first base camp was Makuri, 30 km southeast of Tsumkwe, to gather specimens at the water pans. Later the group hiked to the Aha Mountains on the border with Botswana. The area is home to the Ju/’hoansi San, who have established the Nyae Nyae Conservancy there. Three of the learners were Ju/’hoansi from Nyae Nyae Conservancy and one was !Kung from the N?a-Jaqna Conservancy – and the well experienced guide Sao Twi, of course.
There were other rules apart from the one on water usage. A fire was permitted only when it was absolutely necessary, e.g. for keeping wild animals like elephants away. And then it was just a small fire. The reason: wood is precious, too. Even dead wood is important for plants, mushrooms,
termites and other insects. Furthermore, it belongs to the local people.
Rule number 3: do not leave any litter behind; every little scrap was picked up and taken away in plastic bags.
“Back in Tsumkwe we really noticed how much litter there is everywhere,” Whitney !Owoses of the Combretum Trust School says.
“Plastic bags stuck in bushes, bits of paper on the streets, empty bottles at the roadside.”
The elephants made quite an impression on the students.
“One evening we heard a deep rumbling sound and crowded around the adults. Later Boo Kxao from Tsumkwe Junior Secondary School said that it had been an elephant, watching our camp.”
The pachyderms play a key role in nature as they provide dead wood and spread the seeds of plants with their dung. At the same time, they are a big problem for the local people: they topple water tanks, dig up pipes, ruin gardens and can be dangerous for those who come too close.
But also from a scientific perspective the expedition was yet another success. Especially exciting are the scorpions with a potential new species and valuable new distribution data of interest to international experts.