Global Diversity Foundation launched the Kalahari Garden Project in July 2007 to help San communities living in the Omaheke region of Namibia improve their food security and nutrition through the development of home-gardens. The project also set out to help promote and preserve traditional environmental knowledge, and contribute to building the skills and opportunities necessary for creating a renewed sense of self-reliance within the community.

The project assisted with the development and maintenance of forty-two gardens spread throughout five villages in the Aminuis Corridor for the production of food year round for a population of approximately 550 San. The gardens were collaboratively designed by Ian Martin (Curator of the Dry Tropics Biome at the UK Eden Project), the project team and San beneficiaries.

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Due to gardens requiring a reliable water supply, the project also focused attention and resources on water delivery systems in each of the villages, and GDF facilitated improvements where necessary, with the help of the Rural Water Supply, a governmental agency. The project trained San community members in vegetable gardening, team building and leadership, community-based irrigation management, nutrition and ethnobotanical methods. In 2009, project staff were trained in permaculture with GardenAfrica partners at the Fambidzinai Permaculture Training Centre, Harare, Zimbabwe.

GDF initiated this project in partnership with Namibian NGOs, Komeho Namibia and Working Group for Indigenous Minorities of Southern Africa (WIMSA), with technical support from the Eden Project (UK), and later, GardenAfrica. In November 2009, Komeho assumed full responsibility for the continued management of the project. The long-term goal of the project was to reduce on-site assistance, and empower the beneficiaries to manage the project alone, ultimately making the gardens self-sustainable. Komeho continued to assist the communities with their gardens until 2012.

San in Namibia

Throughout the project, we highlighted the value of traditional plant knowledge and the importance of its continued transmission. We collected information about the use of wild plants and trained project staff to continue this collection. The project aimed to publish a booklet containing this information, with plant names recorded in Taa (!Xoon and ‘N|ohan), and their uses documented in English. We were fortunate to work alongside the DoBeS Linguistic team at the Max Planck Institute, who were in the process of transcribing the language for the first time. There has been a significant delay in the production of this booklet, but it is currently being completed with a view to publish in 2016. The book will be given to the San communities, local schools, NGOs and botanical institutes.

Before the project we had no food and finding food was difficult. Now we can go into the garden and feed ourselves and our children, and we are no longer just sitting and waiting for the government to deliver food aid. [local San lady, Ida Geiamses]

Read more on the Kalahari Garden Project blog.