The !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park – managed by a joint management board comprising representatives of the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities and South African National Parks (SANParks) – aims to preserve the cultural and traditional knowledge of these indigenous communities, while improving their opportunities to earn a sustainable livelihood.
The historic !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park land settlement agreement with the government of South Africa saw six farms (totalling around 35 000ha) to the south of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, and nearly 60 000ha of land within the park, restored to the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities in 2002.
As part of its agreement with the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities, SANParks donated and translocated wildlife to stock one of the six ‡Khomani San farms, Erin Game Ranch, that had been identified as a suitable location for the development of nature-based tourism activities. Even though the first wildlife were translocation to Erin in 2012, the further development of the farms was non-existent due to severe poverty and lack of resources.
In 2013, Peace Parks worked with the Helderberg Sunrise Rotary Club to generate donations from more than 50 Rotary clubs in Germany in aid of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Funds raised were matched by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development which enabled the establishment of a committee which would oversee development in the area, including Erin Game Ranch.
A portion of the funds raised through Peace Parks was utilised to develop Erin Game Ranch, and construct the Erin Tented Camp that consists of six safari tents with wooden decks, ablution blocks and a central kitchen. This camp has since become an essential source of income for the ‡Khomani San communities surrounding the park.
The Heritage Park in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park also boasts a fully catered luxury lodge, !Xaus, owned by the two communities.
Conservation at scale
Erin Game Ranch operates on the sustainable use of wildlife (the responsible hunting of selected animals) and, more recently, an increase in ecotourism, especially during those seasons in which the animals breed. Decisions around hunting quotas are based on principles of conservation, always keeping in mind what would benefit the ranch, its animal populations and the people who rely on it over the long-term. The land also plays a big part in decision-making: populations must never outgrow what the land can support. What makes Erin so unique is how a the experience is executed. The ranch is deeply rooted in the values and traditions of the ‡Khomani San who are legendary trackers and hunters.
“We strongly motivate the sustainable use of natural resources, which in Erin’s case is wildlife. This provides an alternative livelihood, which requires community members to be trained in various areas of the tourism industry. We also aim to provide the community with alternative energy sources, reproductive health programmes and business opportunities arising from conservation and tourism-related projects. Erin’s successes achieved through partnership-based initiatives have provided income, food security and other tangible benefits to the community.”
Dr Moscow Marumo, PPF Community Development Manager
At last game count (2017) the Ranch was home to 200 gemsbok, 310 springbok, 14 eland, 109 red hartebeest, 74 blue wildebeest, seven giraffe and 19 zebra. So as to enhance the management of the Game Ranch, Wildlife Ranching South Africa provided expert advice on setting resource use quotas and determining market-related prices, as well as extensive training to community members to work as guides. They also donated equipment and closed in the cold-storage area.
One of the key objectives of the communities is to expose Bushman children, youth and adults to the traditional lifestyles of their ancestors. This is realised through the implementation of traditional veld schools held at the Imbewu Camp in the heritage park. A workshop was held to identify custodians of traditional culture to ensure its survival and to plan the structure and functioning of the veld school. A veld school curriculum was developed, covering subjects such as plant identification and usage, traditional healing practices, tracking and track interpretation, hunting and weapon making, and language (Nama and N/uu, the last original indigenous South African San languages).
The South African Department of Environmental Affairs identified the ‡Khomani San’s farms as a showcase for community empowerment and for the development of a wildlife-based economy.
World Heritage Site
On 8 July 2017, the ‡Khomani Cultural Landscape in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, was recognised as the 9th South African World Heritage Site. The large expanse of sand contains evidence of human occupation from the Stone Age and is associated with the culture of the formally nomadic ‡Khomani San and the strategies that allowed them to adapt to harsh desert conditions. They developed a specific ethnobotanical knowledge, cultural practices and a worldview related to the geographical features of their environment. The ‡Khomani Cultural Landscape bears testimony to the way of life that prevailed in the region and shaped the site over thousands of years.
The Helderberg Sunrise Rotary Club supports community development projects in the !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park as part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The project was also supported previously by Rotary Deutschland Gemeindienst, Rotary Club Northcliff and Rotary Club Nienburg-Neustadt