The Nanofasa Namibia Trust received a sponsorship of N$190 000 from Bank Windhoek to fund the Barefoot Academy they run with San communities in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy.
Nanofasa, founded in 2011 by Aleksandra Orbeck-Nilssen, is dedicated to protecting, managing and sustaining the cultural and natural integrity of the San, living in Nyae Nyae, and the environment. The Barefoot Academy has three branches: The Hunter, The Gatherer and The Healer.
“In the Hunter department of the academy, older San hunters will pass their traditional knowledge about nature to the students. This includes knowledge on wildlife, superstition and rituals, traditional hunting techniques, ecology, topography, orthography, storytelling and the making of tools and shoes. The students will also learn the art of tracking and reading nature signs and will have to pass practical traditional and tracking exams to gain a certificate,” says Orbeck-Nilssen
The certificate will enable the students to become trackers and guides that can assist with wildlife conservation, hunting and research. Nanofasa will add the names of the graduates to a database so that potential employers in these fields can easily find the right candidate for the position they want to fill.
The Gathering Academy will be run by the oldest of the San women and they will teach students the art of gathering traditional food, the uses of plants, trees and roots, cooking, the sustainable usage and management of resources, crafting, superstitions and rituals and storytelling. After completion of a practical examination, the students will be qualified as bush scientists, vegetation assessors, craft makers and research assistants.
“The Healer Academy will teach students the indigenous method of healing individuals. In this department older healers and medicine women will pass on their knowledge, not only about the medicinal usage of trees, plants and roots, but also about saving and the sustainable usage of these resources,” says Orbeck-Nilssen.
The Barefoot Academy will also teach students how to grow indigenous plants in greenhouses built from recycled cool drink bottles. “Too much plastic is produced in this world, so we want the construction to be as environmentally friendly as possible. Wood poles and grass will be used in addition to the plastic bottles,” says Orbeck-Nilssen.
“These greenhouses will ensure that the village has backup indigenous food storage during the dry and harsh times of the year. Malnutrition is a huge problem and the only way we can solve the problem is to ensure access,” she said. “The combination of preserving the heritage of the San communities along with the skill transfer and potential for job creation and nature conservation from this project, is phenomenal,” says Riaan van Rooyen, head of corporate communication and social investment at Bank Windhoek.
“The main focus areas of the Bank Windhoek Social Investment Fund are education and training and job creation and entrepreneurship. This project focusses on all these areas. With the database they create, it will be easier for employers to find skilled workers in the fields on nature conservation, research and sustainable usage of the land,” Van Rooyen says.
Nanofasa has started with the manufacturing of traditional hunting shoes made from Eland skin. These shoes will be marketed and sold under the VivoBarefoot brand, whose aim it is to revive the ancient shoemaking skills of the San.
To create further awareness of the San living in Namibia and their fast knowledge and understanding of nature and the land, Orbeck-Nilssen plans to walk from the Skeleton Coast to the village of a hunter and young San boy, that will accompany her. They will cover a distance of 1 200 km and will be followed by a film crew who will document the ancient survival skills of the San.