The immense challenges facing the indigenous San people in NyaeNyae and N≠aJaqna Conservancies, due to the impact of climate change, came to light on Tuesday when the director of the Nyae Nyae Development Foundation of
Namibia (NNDFN), Lara Diez, announced a unique project on adapting land-use to reduce the impact of climate change.
Speaking at the 19th Rangeland Forum in Otjiwarongo, Diez stressed that the San are among the most marginalised and impoverished groups in Namibia and are most at risk from the impacts of climate change, given their remote rural location and utter dependence on the natural environment.
She says the overall objective is to adapt land-use to reduce the vulnerability to climate change of San people in NyaeNyae and N≠aJaqna Conservancies. The project aims to integrate conservancy, community forestry and agricultural/rangeland, to manage plans and activities to maximise food security.
It also aims to improve agricultural yields from crops through conservation agriculture, improve yields from livestock, prevent over-grazing and land degradation, and reduce destructive fires that degrade land in the said conservancies and community forest of Otjozondjupa, north of the Veterinary Cordon Fence.
It transpired from her presentation that illegal grazing in the NNCCF is a nightmare, with several criminal charges laid under the Forest Act, but no action has yet been taken by the police. The charges are now being followed up by the NNDFN and the Legal Assistance Centre with a local magistrate – and on a national level with Nampol.
Diez sited widespread illegal fencing and settlement in the conservancies as another threat. She says eviction cases against 30 illegal settlers in the wildlife zone are now going through the courts, “but judgment has repeatedly been postponed, as the Land Board awaits judgment to act on a further 77 illegal fences.”
The project encourages San communities to address their own challenges and increase their knowledge of global warming and the potential impacts thereof in order to motivate behavioural change.
“We also want to build on existing rangeland management activities, build on existing agricultural activities, especially sweet potato gardens and use existing sites for training… We focus on villages that have already shown some potential and nurture them to develop into role model villages,” she explained.
Local herders and farmers will be identified as ‘champions’ to train others and to engage conservancy and local ministry staff. The project has to date printed and distributed to stakeholders a booklet on climate change in three languages, and will produce a six-monthly newsletter that includes plans for the coming period and climate change advice and tips.
Villages have been identified for planned agricultural and rangeland activities, while planned grazing and herding have also been introduced. The project also developed a Directorate of Forestry-approved Fire Management Manual, complimented by a week-long training course for conservancy rangers and management committees.
To measure climate change and its impact, the project is working with EU grant recipients to agree on data collection priorities, and with support of Agra Provision established stick measurement sites, collected baseline data, as well as collecting rainfall, livestock productivity and health data at village level on an ongoing basis. Output from gardens and fields is also closely monitored. Fire data is collected daily to assess the impact of activities.
The project was made possible with assistance from the EU Rangeland Monitoring Project, Meatco Foundation, CAN, NamParks, Community Forest II Projects, and the Ministry of Agriculture Water and Forestry.