Kalahari Tracker Project 2006: IPACC tracking workshop, Tsumkwe

2006: IPACC tracking workshop, Tsumkwe

25 May 2022

The Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC) worked with regional San organisations, the Nyae Nyae Conservancy, Cybertracker Conservation, WWF Namibia and traditional San trackers to organise a week-long advocacy training workshop on the assessment and certification of traditional knowledge of tracking.

The workshop was part of the IPACC plan to promote awareness of clauses 8J and 10C in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and to help regional indigenous peoples’ organisations focus on how traditional knowledge can be formally recognised and used as a resource in both livelihoods and inter-generational transmission of knowledge.

Traditional knowledge of biodiversity, which is gained from tracking, hunting and gathering wild food, is reducing across Southern Africa, yet this knowledge is very important in the labour market. Formal schooling is contributing to the loss of skills and knowledge about nature. With the policy makers waking up to the impact of climate change and the need to monitor biodiversity and environmental changes and patterns, traditional knowledge of biodiversity has become substantially more important at national and international levels. All SADC countries have protected areas which require expert knowledge to fight poaching, monitor biodiversity and assist both researchers and tourists. Tracking is the core skill which feeds all of these efforts.

IPACC Secretariat designed the workshop in consultation with regional San leaders and in cooperation with the major San organisations of the region, Trust for Okavango Culture and Development Initiative (TOCADI), Letloa, Kuru Family of Organisations, Komku Trust, the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities of Southern Africa (WIMSA), SA San Council, !Xun and Khwe Councils, Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC – Namibia) and the SouthAfrican San Institute (SASI).

We received excellent logistical and other support from the team at WWF Namibia and Ms Stacey Main working for a local mining concession, Mount Burgess Mining. Mr Louis Liebenberg of Cybertracker Conservation helped co-facilitate the workshop and ran orientation sessions on tracking assessment and accreditation. The workshop was primarily funded by the Finnish Foreign Ministry. We extend our thanks to the Finnish Embassy in Cape Town.

San participated in the workshop from the following communities:

  • !Kung from Omaheke, Namibia
  • !Xun from Platfontein, SouthAfrica
  • ‡Khomani fromAndriesvale, SouthAfrica
  • Hai||om youth from the Outjo area, Namibia
  • Ju|’hoansi from Tsumkwe East and Tsumkwe West areas
  • Khwe from Platfontein, SouthAfrica
  • Khwe from Rundu / Caprivi, Namibia
  • Khwe and ||Anikhwe from Shakawe and Shaikarawe, Botswana
  • Naro from D’Kar, Botswana

The workshop took place from 25 – 29 September 2006 in the Klein Dobe camp, north of Tsumkwe, Namibia. Tsumkwe is the main town of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy, the first community based Conservancy in Namibia and home to the Ju|’hoansi people, the largest San community in SouthernAfrica. N||oq’àn!’àè is the original name of the Conservancy, meaning ‘a stoney open piece of ground’. The workshop took place on the traditional n!ore territory of Mr. Bo Kga-Xha. His family hosted us during the 5 day workshop for which we are deeply grateful.

An important component of the Tsumkwe workshop was a dialogue between representatives of different levels of government and the San knowledge-holders. We were particularly fortunate to host the Deputy Minister of the Environment for Namibia at our remote location at Klein Dobe
in the Nyae Nyae Reserve. The speech by the Honourable Leon Jooste is reproduced with his permission here.

The workshop was opened by the Tsumkwe East Councillor, Mr Kxao Moses ‡Oma, previous manager of Nyae Nyae Conservancy and previous Chairperson of the WIMSA Board.
We had active participation by the staff of the Ministry of the Environment and Tourism and staff of Nyae Nyae Conservancy. There were 32 principal participants: 25 men and 7 women. The local Ju|’hoansi community participated in the workshop with many of the women and youth receiving translation on the edges of the workshop and in the report-backs in the Ju|’hoan language.

The workshop was facilitated by Nigel Crawhall (IPACC), Annetta Bok (‡Khomani San representative on the IPACC Executive Committee) and Louis Liebenberg (Cybertracker). The workshop was conducted in English and Afrikaans, with interpretation to and from Naro, Khwedam and Ju|’hoansi.

This report follows the programme with notes from contributions and speeches given by the various delegates. The workshop alternated between discussions / workshop format and practical activities. Themes included:

  • Namibia’s strategy of using Conservancies to protect biological diversity and fight poverty in rural areas; How tracking knowledge can be assessed, how certification operates regionally, and how communities can develop their own curricula and certification capacity;
  • Threats to inter-generational transmission of knowledge of biological diversity and the causality of this;
  • Job creation related to tracking qualifications;
  • How to lobby NGOs to better understand San culture and knowledge and use this as a resource;
  • Women and traditional knowledge – a hidden resource in San communities;
  • Cybertracker – using technology to strengthen the role and function of traditional trackers in scientific research and conservation.

Practical components of the workshop included going out into bush sites (we were camping at a remote bush camp) and learning how tracks are graded for difficulty of identification. Participants enjoyed this aspect and were sometimes surprised by their abilities. There was some confusion at the start about whether this was an official assessment. Despite previous emails and letters, some delegates thought they would receive a full grading and get certified at the IPACC workshop. Louis Liebenberg, a world expert in tracking and the most senior assessor in southernAfrica, explained that it takes up to 10 days to do a high level tracking assessment and the maximum team of people is eight. It sometimes takes a full day to track animals like lions and identify their precise details (number, sex, age, health) without putting the tracking team at risk.

In this section, we have provided a review of the main discussions which took place during the four day workshop.

Louis Liebenberg introduced the workshop to the Cybertracker. He explained that he studied tracking with old masters in Lone Tree, Botswana. N!ate and other !Xõó people taught him how to hunt and track. The !Xõó people are bow hunters. This is the highest form of tracking. Tracking with dogs is much easier as they follow the scent. If you have no dogs, you only
have your own eyes, ears and nose to guide you.

Louis developed a small computer which you can carry with you. It allows you to capture information about what you see in the bush. This information becomes data when you apply it to study nature or animals. It allows you to use the satellites above the planet to record where you are and where you are moving. Technology provides a bridge between what good trackers know and what conservation managers need to know.