By Staff Reporter
WINDHOEK, April 20 — Namibia’s Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Program is a Western-backed initiative that allows rural and Indigenous communities to manage and profit from their natural resources. However, research shows that the benefits from natural resources are mostly felt by unscrupulous traders, cattle herders, and trophy-hunting safari operators, rather than the Indigenous communities, such as the San people.
The Ju/hoansi San people living in the Nyae-Nyae Conservancy and the !Kung San in the N#a Jaqna Conservancy are designated two of Namibia’s six Indigenous populations. Unfortunately, they are facing threats to their traditional subsistence way of life due to the loss of access to land and natural resources.
In the N#a Jaqna Conservancy, the !Kung San people are witnessing their historical lands being overrun by cattle herders from Namibia’s ruling ethnic groups. This encroachment is tacitly sanctioned by central and local government authorities, who are thought to be accepting illegal bribes by non-San settlers in return for grazing rights on San traditional land. This has resulted in the destruction of crop fields and bush fruit, which reduces the !Kung San people’s access to food.
Additionally, non-San settlers have been encroaching on the conservancy land as early as 2002, with the influx intensifying from 2012 onwards. Recent research indicates that there are over 65 illegal settlers in the conservancy as of February 2021. Despite an ongoing lawsuit by the conservancy seeking the removal of the fences, they have not been removed, and many more illegal settlers have arrived since.
In the Nyae-Nyae Conservancy, the Ju/hoansi San people face similar discrepancies over access to land, with the government granting the area one of the highest trophy hunting quotas in the country. While trophy hunting may generate economic benefits for conservancies, local communities have made allegations against trophy hunting operators regarding access to natural resources.
The San people, the oldest inhabitants of southern Africa, are one of Namibia’s six Indigenous populations. Today, they comprise less than 2% of the national population and have faced generations of marginalization and land eviction under South African apartheid rule prior to independence in 1990. The two conservancies mentioned (Nyae Nyae and N#a Jaqna) are two of the last strongholds for Indigenous San communities in southern Africa.
The loss of access to land is particularly devastating to Indigenous communities who rely on natural resources for their self-sufficiency. If this maltreatment continues, it may lead to the annihilation of one of the world’s oldest cultures as we know it. The San people’s health status has declined since independence, and their livelihoods will likely continue to decline unless their land rights are guaranteed.
As policy-level conversations about the future of trophy hunting intensify, it’s important to consider the social dynamics that such policies bring and the perspectives of Indigenous communities on the ground. These conversations must include the voices of the Indigenous San communities, as much is at stake for the survival of their culture and way of life.
– Namibia Daily News