Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Plants, Livelihoods and Community Conservation in the Kalahari

D’Kar, Botswana

I am camping in the Kalahari under one of the clearest, starriest skies I have seen in many years. We are in Dqae Qare Game Farm, which is owned by the D’Kar community. Covering more than 7500 hectares in the Ghanzi District given by the Dutch government and Netherlands Development Organisation to San Bushman people, it is a community run place that has a lodge, huts and a campsite. The aim of the game farm is to generate employment and income while preserving Ncoakhoe indigenous knowledge through tourism.

We are here to facilitate a workshop on ‘Plants, Livelihoods and Community Conservation in the Kalahari’. The 30 participants, converging from various parts of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, have been arriving throughout the day and into the night. Over the next few days, we will be hearing about their experiences of working with plant resources – including harvesting of medicinal plants, mapping useful plants in conservancies, and cultivating domesticated and semi-domesticated plants in home gardens. Our goal is to reinforce these diverse ways of sustainably using plants by setting up a learning network that will allow representatives of community organisations to exchange ideas and knowledge. If all goes according to plan, we will engage in an extended dialogue on how to design and implement the network, culminating in a proposal to the UK Darwin Initiative and other funding agencies. If successful, we will launch the project in August 2010. This long timeline – which sometimes tests our patience and that of our collaborators – is necessary not only to line up funding but also to ensure that the entire process is fully participatory.