In the process he has lived and worked in a number of countries but his chosen battlefield has always been the most challenging place of all: the harsh, beautiful and almost unknown Kaokoveld in north-western Namibia, his 'Arid Eden'.
He chose sides early on, when he spent two youthful years in the Kaokoveld and not only developed a deep affinity with the indigenous Himba, Herero and Damara pastoralists but realised that they had developed the ideal form of nature conservation, a situation in which humans and their livestock could live in equilibrium with wild game, so that there was room for all.
In 1970 he was thrown out of the Kaokoveld as an alleged security risk, then spent a year looking into conservation and the treatment of indigenous peoples in Australia, farmed for two years in Rhodesia, and did pioneering work in conservation education for black youths in South Africa. He finally managed to get back to South West Africa in 1978, and from there embarked on his life's work, to save the remnants of the Kaokoveld's rich wildlife, devastated by a variety of illegal hunters.
And he succeeded, although it took him and his partner, Dr Margaret Jacobsohn, 27 years. They have won some of the world's major conservation awards, north-western Namibia is a popular tourism destination and the Kaokoveld's wildlife has come back from the brink of virtual extinction, and thousands of people have benefitted from the links they have forged between community development and natural resource management.
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About the Author
GARTH OWEN-SMITH first worked in the Kaokoveld in north-western Namibia in the 1960s - as the region's agricultural extension officer. He developed a deep affinity with the Himba, Herero and Damara people living in this remote and starkly beautiful land. In 1970 he was transferred out of the area as a ‘security risk’. After a year in Australia he carried out an ethno-botanical study in the Kaokoveld for the Windhoek Museum and was then appointed to head the first conservation diploma course for black students in South Africa. Because of petty apartheid restrictions he resigned and started an environmental education project aimed at Zulu students and teachers for the Wildlife Society. This was followed by two years cattle ranching in Zimbabwe under the internationally renowned rangeland ecologist, Allan Savory. In 1978 after Namibia’s first multiracial elections he returned to his adopted country to work as a nature conservator in the south and in Etosha National Park. When he went back to the Kaokoveld in 1982 it was to find that its rich wildlife, including black rhino and desert adapted elephant, had been devastated by illegal hunting. Owen-Smith has spent the last 27 years working to reverse this, starting a non-government organization with his partner, Dr Margaret Jacobsohn, and pioneering one of the most successful community based conservation programmes in Africa. Together they have won some of the world’s major conservation awards including the Goldman Grassroots Environmental Prize for Africa and the United Nations Global 500. Today north-western Namibia is a popular tourism destination and wildlife is once again plentiful. In an African success story, tens of thousands of rural Namibians are directly benefiting from the link that has been forged between development and improved natural resource management.
Table of Contents
Abbreviations and Acronyms xii
1 Basalt Mountains 1
2 Dust and Stones 6
3 An Arid Eden 13
4 The White Man's Game 25
5 Working for BAD 45
6 The Clash of Cultures 67
7 A Wild Life 92
8 A New Decade 121
9 The Kaokoveld Controversy 145
10 Looking for Answers 164
11 A Stitch in Time 191
12 When it is Late Afternoon 210
13 A Rhodesian Ranch 238
14 Zimbabwe Rising 264
15 South-west of South West 288
16 Etosha: The Burning Question 313
17 The End of the World 339
18 'Desert Elephants' 367
19 Rhinos on the Brink 389
20 Involving the Local People 407
21 Conservation and Politics 427
22 A Degraded Ecosystem 455
23 The Purros Project and More Poaching 483
24 Independence 511
25 Communal Conservancies 540
26 Looking Back and Forward 569