By: Hannah Stack | First Peoples Worldwide Communications Correspondent
For the Basarwa/San Indigenous People living on the Central Kalahari Game Reseerve (CKGR)
within Botswana, culture and lifestyle have been threatened in the name of conservation. For the
group, which relies heavily on hunting and gathering for sustenance, a hunting ban has declared
its sustainable practices to be “poaching” in the eyes of the law. While diamond mining persists
within the reserve, the government has chosen to evict the Indigenous Peoples from their land,
declaring their practices to be inconsistent with the conservational intent. Despite a 2006 court
ruling proclaiming the relocation of the Basarwa/San unconstitutional, the government has not
ceased in its efforts, and has used hunger – through the perpetuation of the hunting ban and the
removal of smaller livestock– to keep the Indigenous Peoples off of their ancestral lands.
DITSHWANELO, or the Botswana Centre for Human Rights, is a human rights advocacy group
that has come to the aid of the Basarwa/San Peoples in their time of need. Founded in 1993, it
seeks to “affirm human dignity and equality irrespective of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual
orientation, social status or political convictions”. While the organization looks to be
comprehensive in its scope of work, special attention is given to particularly vulnerable groups –
such as the Basarwa/San– that are generally unsupported by other advocacy organizations.
Through education, research, counseling, and mediation, DITSHWANELO hopes to create a
society in which human rights are strongly reinforced and every citizen is equal before the law.
As a member of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve NGO Coalition, DITSHWANELO
maintains its human rights-based mission by working to alleviate the tensions between the
CKGR authorities and members of the Basarwa/San Indigenous group. With help from First
Peoples Worldwide’s Keeper of the Earth Fund, the organization has implemented an innovative
mapping project aimed at protecting the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the Basarwa/San and
countering their forced migration from the CKGR area. Through the initiative, the first of its
kind for the region, DITSHWANELO is measuring land usage and creating a new plan for
sustainable management, one that will allow the CKGR authorities and the Indigenous group to
live in greater harmony. The project, which also seeks to determine alternate food sources within
the region, will support the Basarwa/San lifestyle by giving the natives a larger role in the
conservation process. Enabled to work with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in its
anti-poaching endeavors, the members of the Indigenous group will be able to protect their
native lands from the generally tourism-based hunting practices.
While the involuntary relocation of the Basarwa/San Indigenous Peoples has been detrimental to
the group’s traditional lifestyle, DITSHWANELO’s initiative is enabling the natives to reconnect
with their ancestral lands. Looking forward, the organization hopes its efforts will not only aid in
the cessation of the relocation movement, but also empowering the Indigenous Peoples with a
renewed sense of hope and steadfast resilience.
“Survival International: The Bushmen”