Land degradation affects people and ecosystems worldwide and is both affected by climate change and contributes to it. Land-use changes and unsustainable land management are direct human causes of land degradation, with agriculture being a dominant sector driving degradation. This phenomenon is one of the main driving forces of land degradation in Namibia, and the people of Nyae Nyae conservancy can testify to that, but in this case, they are not the cause.
Home to the Ju|'hoansi, a sub-tribe of the indigenous San people, it is the second largest and one of the oldest and conservancies in the country. The San people are largely hunter-gatherers with immense knowledge about nature conservation and management. Nature is and has been their main source of livelihood for as long as they lived. Up until 2009, most of their land was intact, when the problem of cattle encroaching started.
According to the Daily Maverick, pastoralists have been moving into Tsumkwe and their cattle and goats are invading and destroying the surrounding conservancy. The National Programme to implement the UN Convention to Combat Desertification sees conservancies and community forests as an ideal local entry point for an integrated sustainable land management programme. This may be the case, but the reality is that it has but it has proven to be difficult in action, especially in Nyae Nyae conservancy where the people have been struggling with the same issue for so long.
What more can be done when even the law seems to fail them. The people of Nyae Nyae have in the past won a court case against invading cattle owners from neighbouring communities but the police have failed to enforce the court order.
The questions remain. With the continuous land invasion and cattle encroachment, what will remain of their livelihood? Will cattle encroachment accelerate land degradation in Nyae Nyae Conservancy? Only time will tell but one thing is for sure, their hope for the future is diminishing.
“They will start with land-grabbing… that’s what I’m seeing already. There will be illegal farming taking place within the conservancy. I think the conservancy will die out as well.” The manager of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy, Erastus Heinrich, predicts that if the cattle aren’t removed. Read the full story on Daily Maverick.