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The perfect San storm

The perfect San storm

By Nyae Nyae Development Foundation.

The year 2021 has not brought any respite to Namibia from the tragedy and hardship that befell the nation through the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, things have gotten worse and everyone is just battling to stay alive and trying to manage with the assets, resources and infrastructure that is available.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made life more difficult than usual for the San-people living in the conservancies. In fact sometimes conditions are just right to create the ‘perfect’ devastating storm, with conditions so perfect that they inflict as much damage on the San people and the conservancies.

For years programmes, projects and activities have been geared towards creating a self-sufficiency for the members of the conservancies. Through various opportunities like hunting, crafts, tourism, Devil’s Claw harvesting and agriculture projects the San were increasingly able to stand on their own feet. However, their existence is a precariously balanced one at best.

A long suffering drought or veld-fires have an even greater impact on their communities than in the rest of Namibia. The pandemic which really started to impact the nation in 2020, has meant that the San are more dependent on assistance from within Namibia.

With the COVID Delta-variant starting to have an impact in Namibia, just take a moment to appreciate the position the San are in. Within urban areas it is already difficult enough to get sanitizers, access to healthcare and stimulate the population to get their vaccines. Never mind getting access to oxygen, expensive medication or even knowing what the symptoms of COVID-19 are. Together with a harsh, cold winter, which lowers the immune system, the impact for the Nyae Nyae, N≠a Jaqna and other conservancies is catastrophic. Add to that the fact that there are much less tourists coming to hunt, or just to visit the conservancies and spend money, which the San so desperately need for their basic needs. It really has become a perfect storm.

On top of that, issues relating to the illegal fencing, settling, grazing and use of other resources by outsiders have also still not been resolved. Everyone in Namibia is fighting to survive and as so often it would seem ‘might is right’, and the voiceless are not heard and their rights are certainly not being respected. So, allowing their own cattle to graze, being able to grow their own vegetables in a time when it is essential for their survival becomes even harder. It is an impossible situation as other farmers in the neigbhouring areas don’t respect the fencing, or allow their cattle to graze on conservancy land, not only eating other cattle’s fodder, but also trampling resources like bush food, medicinal plants, and Devil’s Claw.

Food security is always a precarious issue as drought, winter, heat or countless other factors can impact food supply. With COVID-19 continuing to rage, we ask Namibians to remember the San in the Nyae Nyae and N≠a Jaqna conservancies as well as those across the nation. The most vulnerable who are trying to stand on their own feet, are having an even more difficult time than usual, in what truly seems like a ‘perfect storm’ for them.


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A Guest Contributor is any of a number of experts who contribute articles and columns under their own respective names. They are regarded as authorities in their disciplines, and their work is usually published with limited editing only. They may also contribute to other publications. - Ed.