Friday, November 26, 2010

10 San Bushman Tips For Survival In The Kalahari Desert.

 For my MatadorU first assignment, I have posted the following blog up over on my Assignment blog called 'Resoled Holes In My Soles'. It's an issue I have been following for 2 years now and sadly, no resolution. I hope you enjoy the post. It's a very sad situation when one's own Government chucks you off your land, and denies the very basics of life to it's people. The last link to the Africa Geographic report gives a balanced view of the situation.

Survival in a desert environment may depend on a little bit of knowledge, and how ingenious you are or what you are prepared to do.

1.You will know when you stumble across the Hoodia Gordonii plant by the masses of prickles you will need to carefully remove. Slice the flesh and chew. Sour and unappetising but your hunger pangs will disappear. San Bushman chewed this when undertaking long journeys between food sources. Now being farmed extensively in South Africa as the basis for a new wave of diet pills to combat obesity. Protein compounds of Hoodia Gordonii are reputed to block our hunger reflex.

Hoodia Gordonii

2. Look for termite mounds. A fungus (Termitomyces reticulatus) growing at the base is edible, and mixed with a few termites provides valuable protein. Generally found just after the rainy season. And yes it does rain in the Kalahari, but the soil being so sandy will not retain rainfall, and water drains right through it like a sieve leaving the ground totally dry.

3. Snakes are not to be killed except in a survival situation. Good flesh eaten raw, rather like juicy fresh raw chicken.

4. Slice off the snake head, be careful with those fangs, then peel the skin down, turning it inside out ( the way you’re not supposed to remove a condom ever! ) then reverse the process so you have an empty skin which will provide a handy container for any water you find. Easily draped around your neck to cool you down.

5. Look for water in the morning. Dew, or condensation may be found in plant or rock cavities. Plants such as Tsama melons and Gemsbok cucumbers are a vital Bushman source of water.

San on the hunt.

6. Don’t waste your pee: save it in your snakeskin. Your first pee can be drunk in a survival situation.
Another vital use -The noonday sun can fry your brains when it hits 50 Celsius in the sandy desert with no cover to find shade to shelter in. Find the lowest spot in any dune valley. Scoop out a trench and lie within it. Cover yourself with the cooler sand excavated from the bottom layers. Then mix sand and your pee together, and plaster your face and head with this cooling mix. The pee evaporating from this mix will keep you survivably cool. Stay covered in your pee mix until the hottest time of the day is over. Move on only during the cooler times, early morning, evening or night.

7. If you have the means to hunt, take the suckling babies. A baby antelope, or baboon that has freshly suckled will have a stomach full of curdled milk supplying life saving liquid and nutritious food. The squeezed stomach contents of a dead antelope or other ruminant will yield water, not appetising, but not too unsafe in a desperate situation.

This tusker was 3 metres away from us when we spotted him behind the bush.

8. Converging animal tracks usually lead to water, diverging, away from water. Elephants requiring 200 litres of water a day will move from water point to water point. They dig seep holes in depressions in dried up riverbeds. You may need to dig these out further and suck moisture up through a hollow reed. Fill your snakeskin also.

Animal tracks may lead to water.

9. Knowing how to survive an elephant charge may save your life. An elephant charging with its trunk held high is making a mock charge, sending you a warning to back off. Calmly walk slowly backwards, being careful to avoid slipping in that mess on the ground behind you.

10. An elephant charging with its trunk curled back low and tucked out of harm’s way behind its tusks is serious, and they are not stopping. Should you survive this charge please let me know so I can complete my 10 tips for survival.

Far from being submitted in jest, many of the ‘tips’ given above are possibly a true indication of how many Bushman ( also called San or Baswara ) are now having to survive in this modern day, when their own Government denies them basic access to water. There is an appalling situation in Botswana where Bushmen have been evicted from their ancestral lands within the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Reserves are created to protect and maintain the environment. Bushmen have been living in harmony with nature for over 30,000 years, and are as much a part of this environment as any animal or plant within that protected Reserve.

Water rights of Indigenous People is enshrined in Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, and reaffirmed by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in November 2002 by this statement-

“Water is a fundamental for life and health. The human right to water is indispensable for leading a healthy life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite to the realisation of all other human rights.“

On July 30 2010, the United Nations General Assembly declared that safe and clean drinking water is a human right, calling it a “landmark resolution” that sends an important signal to the world.

Is the Government of Botswana failing to meet its obligations as a member of the United Nations?

Could it be that the government views the Baswara's occupation of their ancestral lands as giving them ‘title’ to the diamonds now being mined there, and that their dispossession off the land ensures the Government gets the royalties?

What other reasons could there be to evict Bushmen from their ancestral lands, but at the same time allow diamond mining companies to despoil that land within the Reserve?

Below is an extract from this website-

‘The Bushmen launched further litigation against the government in a bid to gain access to their borehole. The case was heard in Botswana’s High Court in June 2010 but the judge later dismissed their application.’

Further reading here-



Cez of eTramping said...

Well, I hope to never find myself lost in the Kalahari, but these are fascinating nonetheless! Loved reading your post.

Poonam Rana said...

A Unique Idea to travel with a theme, I really love this idea and planning to start my journey.