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Etosha-Kunene Histories Special Report

Elsemi Olwage, with Sian Sullivan, Ute Dieckmann and Selma Lendelvo

Etosha-Kunene Histories: a weave of prior work

Entangled and contested pasts, lands and ‘natures’ in post-colonial Namibia 
 

Etosha Kunene Histories Special Report June 2022, ISBN: 978-1-911126-21-8

AbstractThis report presents a weave of prior work produced by the principal investigators of the Etosha-Kunene Histories project, funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council and the German Research Foundation. It brings together key points of convergence and thematic overlaps between their work and creates a generative and interdisciplinary dialogue on Etosha-Kunene’s complex and entangled pasts, lands and ‘natures’. Broadly speaking, this report explores the contributions of the three authors to understanding Etosha-Kunene’s overlapping colonial and social histories of settlement, land, conservation and indigeneity. In doing so it considers changing livelihoods and land-relations, and the diversity of resource use, management and knowledge practices which co-constitute the past and present of Etosha-Kunene’s ‘cultures’ and ‘natures’. The report thus reads across their work to provide insight into the historical processes, changing policy and legal mechanisms, and colonial and global discourses which have shaped Etosha-Kunene’s emerging socio-materialities, and contributed to hegemonic ways of imagining, valuing, and knowing ‘nature’. A focus here is on ‘African landscapes’ and dryland ecologies, and the ongoing and dialectical construction of cultural identities, ethnicity, and indigeneity. Their work argues for learning from locally-rooted and culturally-inflected land-relations, diverse tenure institutions, and indigenous and gendered knowledge systems and values: both for conservation praxis and for informing environmental and land management debates. Lastly, the report explores their contribution to decolonising environmental knowledge and heritage management practices through an ongoing engagement with and mapping of what is termed ‘relational ontologies’ and occluded social and cultural landscape histories.

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Policy Report

Sian Sullivan

Cultural heritage and histories of the Northern Namib:

historical and oral history observations for the Draft Management Plan, Skeleton Coast National Park 2021/2022-2030/2031

Future Pasts Working Paper Series 12, October 2021. ISBN: 978-1-911126-17-1

AbstractThis report shares documented information for indigenous cultural heritage and histories associated with the Northern Namib, designated since 1971 as the Skeleton Coast National Park. The paper draws on two principal sources of information: 1) historical documents stretching back to the late 1800s; and 2) oral history research with now elderly people who have direct and familial memories of using and living in areas now within the Park boundary. The research shared herein affirms that localities and resources now included within the Park were used by local people in historical times, their access linked with the availability of valued foods, especially !nara (Acanthosicyos horridus) melons and marine foods such as mussels. Memories about these localities, resources and heritage concerns such as graves of family members remain alive for some individuals and their families today. These concerns retain cultural resonance in the contemporary moment, despite significant access constraints over the last several decades. Some suggestions are made for foregrounding an understanding of the Northern Namib as a remembered cultural landscape as well as an area of high conservation value, and for protecting and perhaps restoring some access to sites that may be considered of significant cultural heritage value. Such sites include graves of known ancestors and named and remembered former dwelling places. The material shared here may contribute to a diversified recognition of values for the Skeleton Coast National Park for the new Management Plan that will shape ecological and heritage conservation practice and visitor experiences over the next 10 years.

Key words: Northern Namib; on-site oral history; cultural landscapes; Khoekhoegowab; !nara (Acanthosicyos horridus); Skeleton Coast National Park; Namibia

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Edited Book + Book Section + 6 Chapters by Etosha-Kunene-Histories Principal Investigators

Sian Sullivan, Selma Lendelvo and Ute Dieckmann, April 2021

Negotiating Climate Change in Crisis, edited by Steffen Böhm and Sian Sullivan (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2021) is a fully open access volume, published in the lead up to the 26th United Nations Conference on the Framework Convention to Climate Change (COP26) which took place in Glasgow, UK, November 2021. The collection shares perspectives by leading and emerging social science and humanities scholars and climate activists from around the world on what has gone wrong in climate change management, and what is to be done to create more decisive action.

"This book presents perspectives from the Global South, highlighting voices from communities and sharing their daily lived experiences of climate change. These voices are often missing from international platforms such as COPs. The contributions included in the book are valuable for countries such as Namibia and others where the impacts of climate change are severe. Namibia strongly advocates for knowledge production regarding climate change and its impact on livelihoods, the coping mechanisms of vulnerable communities and their capacity to adapt."

Hon. Heather Mwiza Sibungo, Deputy Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Namibia

Etosha-Kunene Histories Principal Investigators contribute six chapters in total in the volume (of 29). They each author a chapter a section of the book focusing on Namibia as a global south state that is vulnerable to small changes in temperature and precipitation. ‘Dispatches From a Climate Change Frontline Country – Namibia, southern Africa’ thus draws together three chapters regarding local, indigenous and historical perspectives on climate

change, as follows: 

Selma Lendelvo, Romie Nghitevelekwa and Mechtilde Pinto, ch. 12: Gendered Climate Change-Induced Human-Wildlife Conflicts (HWC) amidst COVID-19 in the Erongo Region, Namibia.

Abstract: The risks of climate change for drier countries have become more pronounced. Small increments in temperature changes are considered to pose serious consequences for dry countries such as Namibia and Botswana, both of which have also experienced significant drought in recent years. In this chapter, we discuss climate change-induced human-wildlife conflicts (HWC) as they relate to gender, for communities in Erongo Region, west Namibia. We draw attention to the experiences of women as a vulnerable social group that is bearing climate change-induced HWC, and foreground how they are adapting to these pressures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rick Rohde, M. Timm Hoffman and Sian Sullivan, ch. 13: Environmental Change in Namibia: Land-Use Impacts and Climate Change as Revealed by Repeat Photography.

Abstract: This essay draws on repeat landscape photography to explore and juxtapose different cultural and scientific understandings of environmental change and sustainability in west Namibia. Change in the landscape ecology of western and central Namibia over the last 140 years has been investigated using archival landscape photographs located and re-photographed, or ‘matched’, with recent photographs. Each set of matched images for a site provides a powerful visual statement of change and/or stability that can assist with understanding present circumstances at specific places. The chapter shows in a practical way an innovative possibility for documenting and analysing environmental and social change, helping us to contextualise projected and predicted environmental futures, and sometimes offering complexity with regard to modelled climate change projections and scenarios.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ute Dieckmann, ch. 14. On Climate and the Risk of Onto-Epistemological Chainsaw Massacres: A Study on Climate Change and Indigenous People in Namibia Revisited.

Abstract: On behalf of a Danish organisation (Charapa Consult), in 2012 the Legal Assistance Centre in Windhoek undertook a research study on climate change and indigenous people in Namibia. Charapa Consult had itself been commissioned by the World Bank Trust Fund for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development to undertake a regional research project in Africa, and parallel studies for Asia and Latin America had also been commissioned. As a researcher involved in the Namibia study, in this essay I critically assess its methodological challenges and dilemmas in relation to the global framework within which it was conducted. I place special emphasis on the predicament of short-term ‘participatory’ research with indigenous communities on climate change. I also outline the challenges arising from the necessity of squeezing indigenous environmental knowledge and experience into internationally acknowledged scientific frameworks, an approach which implies a subordination of indigenous peoples’ ontologies to western ontologies. The compartmentalising necessitated by such a methodology risks the loss of the most important aspects of indigenous ecological knowledge related to climate change.

 

Editor Sian Sullivan also has an authoring role in three further chapters in the volume:

Steffen Böhm and Sian Sullivan, Introduction: Climate Crisis? What Climate Crisis?
 

Sian Sullivan, ch. 3. On Climate Change Ontologies and the Spirit(s) of Oil 

Abstract: The last major UNFCCC COP Agreement—the so-called Paris Agreement of COP21 in 2015—emphasised international cooperation through market-based instruments. International carbon trading was insisted on, so as to (seemingly) allow mitigation, rather than reduction/cessation, of emissions from industrial production. Repeated utterances of the positive impacts of carbon markets in terms of reducing emissions and speeding the transition to a low-carbon economy, however, were also met with equally repetitive and forceful claims that carbon markets have failed. The polarised disagreement between these positions and the numbers supporting them demonstrates that climate management and carbon markets are not merely technical problems that can be fixed by measurement, modelling and technocratic solutions. They are political problems representing highly divergent values and worldviews. This essay asks questions about how anthropogenic climate change is understood, and which responses are promoted as appropriate for this systemic predicament. It argues that ontological dimensions are at play here, arising from different ways of seeing and knowing the world.

Sian Sullivan, ch. 11. I’m Sian, and I’m a Fossil Fuel Addict: On Paradox, Disavowal and (Im)Possibility in Changing Climate Change 

Abstract: In recent years I have returned to west Namibia to work with elders of families I have known for more than two decades. Oral histories, recorded as we find and revisit places my companions knew as home, have increasingly struck a chord as a record of lives lived largely untouched by fossil fuels. As the complexity of these pasts has come further into focus, it has become impossible to avoid the gulf between this kind of attunement to environmental contexts and my own life, especially the reality that I am completely dependent on fossil fuels and the products they make possible. This essay is an attempt to fully face this paradox of maintaining hope for binding international climate agreements that have teeth, whilst being aware of my dependence on the fossil fuel extracting and emissions-spewing juggernaut that permeates all our lives. Drawing critically on twelve-step thinking and psychoanalysis literatures I reflect on fossil fuel addiction, and the destructive paradox of not being able to live up to internalised but unreachable values regarding environmental care in a fossil-fuelled world.
 

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Edited Book & Book Section

Ute Dieckmann and Sian Sullivan, April 2021

A new volume, edited by Ute Dieckmann and including partner chapters by Ute Dieckmann and Sian Sullivan has been published. Mapping the Ummappable? Cartographic Explorations with Indigenous Peoples in Africa (Bielefeld: Transcript, April 2021), asks how differing perceptions of the living environment might be mapped? It explores the potential of cartography to communicate the relations of Africa's indigenous peoples with other human and non-human actors within their environments. These relations transcend Western dichotomies such as culture-nature, human-animal, natural-supernatural. The volume brings two strands of research – cartography and "relational" anthropology – into a closer dialogue.
 

The book includes the following chapters that contribute to Etosha-Kunene Histories:
 

1. Introduction: Cartographic explorations with indigenous peoples
in Africa
(pp. 9-48), by Ute Dieckmann


2. Haiǁom in Etosha: Cultural maps and being-in-relations (pp. 93-137), by Ute Dieckmann
This chapter introduces a cultural mapping project in the Etosha National Park in Namibia. It was undertaken with a group of (former) hunter-gatherers, Haiǁom, who have lived in the area of the Etosha National Park for time immemorial. millennium. The Haiǁom have been evicted from their ancestral land (including the famous Etosha National Park). The Haiǁom maps were developed for the documentation of cultural heritage of the Haiǁom within the National Park, and for use in tourism, as the existence and history of the former inhabitants had been erased for the sake of Etosha as an African “untamed wilderness”. This chapter critically assesses the Haiǁom maps in retrospect with regard to both academic discussions on relational ontologies and loosely connected fields of enquiry, and to prior research on Haiǁom-being-in-relations and being-in-Etosha. The concerns raised also pertain to many other (African) cultural mapping projects for which a call is made for researchers working with indigenous communities in mapping projects to continuously reflect on their own ontological bias and stresses the risk of (unintentionally) reinforcing the primacy of western ontology. A new approach is proposed for coming closer to indigenous epistemology and ontology.

3. Densities of meaning in west Namibian landscapes: genealogies, ancestral agencies, and healing (pp. 139-191), by Sian Sullivan
This chapter introduces a historical cultural mapping project in west Namibia documenting childhood memories of former dwelling places, particularly in Sesfontein and Purros conservancies and the Palmwag tourism concession. The research draws into focus past practices of dwelling, mobility, livelihood and environmental perception amongst Khoe-speaking peoples (of ǁKhao-a, !Narenin and ǁUbu !haoti or lineages) who lived as hunter-harvesters and small stock pastoralists throughout the wider west Namibian landscape. A combination of factors cleared people from these lands, causing disruption to cultural, family and individual identities. Using an array of research methods – from recorded oral histories and musics associated with remembered sites, to logging mapped coordinates and associated information on google maps – the project aims to (re)inscribe layers of cultural significance now occluded from maps of the area. The paper focuses on three dimensions that are hard to make visible using conventional cartographic techniques: 1. the rhizomatically interwoven relationships between people, places and ancestors that on-site oral histories draw into focus as densely connected through past mobilities and genealogies; 2. the greeting practice tsē-khom that foregrounds the agentic presence of known ancestors and anonymous spirits of the dead associated with specific places and land areas; and 3. the remembered significance of |gais praise songs and arus healing dances linked with former living sites (ǁan-ǁhuib).

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Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Selma Lendelvo, Mechtilde Pinto and Sian Sullivan

The first months of our project have been dominated by COVID-19 and associated lockdown restrictions and travel bans. We responded with a telephone survey, led by Dr Selma Lendelvo, of people in five communal-area conservancies to find out what their biggest challenges were due to COVID-19. The survey focused on intersections between COVID19 travel restrictions, tourism/trophy-hunting incomes and 'community-based conservation'. The peer-reviewed paper from this research has now been published by the Namibian Journal of Environment:

Lendelvo, S., Mechtilde, P. and Sullivan, S. 2020 A Perfect Storm? COVID-19 and community-based conservation in Namibia. Namibian Journal of Environment 4(B): 1-15


Abstract: We report on a rapid survey of five communal-area conservancies in Namibia to understand initial impacts on community-based conservation of national and international policies for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Namibia’s Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) programme has been growing for over 30 years, with high economic reliance on tourism and conservation hunting. We review the interrelationships between COVID-19, CBNRM, tourism and hunting, and discuss our findings under eight interlocking themes: 1) disruption to management and regular operational processes of conservancies, including 2) effects on conservancy wildlife patrolling and monitoring; 3) losses of revenue and cash flow in conservancy business operations; 4) impacts on Joint-Venture Partnerships; 5) impacts on employment opportunities and local livelihoods; 6) effects on community development projects and social benefits, including 7) disruption to funded projects and programmes; and 8) lack of technical capacity regarding communication technologies and equipment. In our conclusion we discuss tensions between an assumption that normal business can or will be resumed, and calls for the COVID-19 pandemic to create an opportunity for global choices away from ‘business-as-normal’. It is too early to tell what mix of these perspectives will unfold. What is clear is that communal-area conservancies must derive benefits from conservation activities in their areas that are commensurate with their role as key actors in the conservation of Namibia’s valuable wildlife and landscapes.


Keywords: communal-area conservancies, Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM), conservation hunting, COVID-19 pandemic, Namibia, rural livelihoods, tourism, wildlife

A blog summarising our article has also been published by the Conservation Namibia blog of the Namibian Chamber of Environment, see Communal Conservancies Cry for Help to Survive Coronavirus Perfect Storm.

Forthcoming:

Black rhino Diceros bicornis bicornis (p

Book chapter

Sian Sullivan, Simson !Uriǂkhob, Birgit Kötting, Jeff Muntifering and Rob Brett

Historicising black rhino in Namibia: colonial-era hunting, conservation custodianship, and plural values
 

Forthcoming in Bollig, M. and Anderson, A. Conservation in Africa (title tbc). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. First presented at a workshop on 'Conservation in Africa', organised by the University of Cologne, 19-21 April 2021.

Abstract: The black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) is a threatened species of which the south-western subspecies (D. bicornis bicornis, synonym D. bicornis occidentalis) currently thrives on communal land and elsewhere in Namibia. It does so despite its clearance from most of the animal’s former range due to the expansion of colonial hunting with firearms, and the concentration of marginalised Namibians alongside this high-value species in the challenging landscapes of north-west Namibia in particular. We trace what is known about the patterns and impacts of colonial-era hunting of rhino in the territory that is now the modern state of Namibia, introducing an online map of documented historical encounters with rhino in Namibia and the pressures on them from late 1700s. This map of historical encounters is currently complementing baseline information on the past distribution of black rhino in Namibia held by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) in support of its collaborative Black Rhino Custodianship Programme (BRCP). We outline contemporary pressures on black rhino and conservation responses to these circumstances, tracing the emergence of a novel approach to rhino conservation in Namibia that recruits people living under different kinds of land tenure as ‘custodians’ of these animals, so as to support the reintroduction of both black and white rhino throughout their former range. We focus in on proactive rhino conservation work in communal-area conservancies of west Namibia which combines the translocation of black rhino to areas of its former range with an array of endeavours to pluralise the animal’s contemporary value, including rhino tourism, the recruit of local ‘rhino rangers’, and ‘rhino pride’ initiatives. In this context, and differently to custodians on freehold land, a vulnerable, large-bodied, space-requiring and sometimes dangerous mammal with very high international conservation value, simultaneously lives alongside peoples impoverished historically and with their own ambitions towards self-determination. This custodianship model of rhino conservation can be understood in part as a creative species conservation response to the very challenging structural circumstances effected by both past impacts on rhino and present inequality in land distribution and tenure, both of which add heat to questions of access to land and resources, including wildlife.