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OrigiNations visits the indigenous San of Nyae Nyae Conservancy


OrigiNations is an organisation focused on indigenous communities around the world and how these communities, especially the youth, deal with the challenge of reconciling their cultural heritage with the demands and radical transformation brought about by modernity. During a recent visit to Namibia, they went to the Nyae Nyae Conservancy in and around Tsumkwe, which is managed by the indigenous Ju/’hoansi San community, met with elders, the conservancy, community and the Nyae Nyae Foundation, one of the supporting NGOs in the area.

OrigiNations was founded to support indigenous peoples and local communities to become active protagonists in the protection, promotion, governance and management of their natural and cultural heritage and in the defence of their rights. OrigiNations’ work approach is based on a decade-long experience with communities in the most varied environments in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Namibian and region’s San communities are going through these challenges as we speak.  

The inhabitants of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy community are undergoing this transition from a nomadic, hunter/gatherer lifestyle to a settled existence in established villages, called !nore locally, at this moment. A major shift in social organisation patterns and subsistence strategies can cause a disconnect between the older generations who grew up immersed in their cultural traditions and the youth who have only experienced the new way of life and are exposed to new technologies and experiences. This situation can lead some youth to become estranged from their culture and develop a conflictive relationship with their elders. Meeting the San, the representatives of OrigiNations were able to hear how much cultural, climate and socio-economic change has impacted the San.

OrigiNations is interested in how different indigenous groups deal with this situation and how they are tackling these challenges and uphold their rich cultural heritage for the benefit of future generations. A member of the local community at Nyae Nyae, Sabina Riem Bolina, said: "I would like my children to have both a modern education and learn about our culture. It is my dream that my children succeed at school and keep up our culture at the same time."
Striking a balance between the old and new is challenging, but it is essential to preserving the valuable cultural history of Namibia’s indigenous peoples as well as allowing the people themselves to define how they want to address the challenges.

In Namibia, the transition is being further complicated by the impacts of climate change which affect the resources that communities, like those in Nyae Nyae,  depend on for their survival. The Nyae Nyae Foundation, with EU Climate Change Adaptation funds, is working with the San to develop the skills necessary to adapt to the new challenges that climate change is bringing. There is a lot for these communities to deal with, but support is essential to ensure that these communities continue to exist and ultimately thrive in the future.

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