The impact of nature conservation on the San: A case study of Etosha National Park

Publication Year:

In Southern Africa, sizeable portions of land have been declared national parks or game reserves during the last century. The national park concept includes the idea that people do not live within the protected area, nor consume its resources. Under the illusion of being natural systems apart from, and not at all influenced by the political, social or cultural developments around them, national parks have become important tourist attractions. But appearances are deceptive: those areas have become off-limits to local people who have been living on that land for centuries. In Southern Africa, areas of far more than 100,000 km² are now restricted for use by local people. During the colonial era, national parks were often established in arid areas not suitable for farming. For a long time, those areas served as refuges or niches for (former) hunter and gatherer groups before nature reserves were established and people were resettled. Thus, San belong to the people most affected in Southern Africa by the establishment of those parks or by nature conservation legislation in general. In Namibia, about 13.6% of the total land area is designated as national parks and game reserves. One can only estimate how many people have been affected by the establishment of these parks, either by relocation or by grave restrictions on the use of natural resources within the reserves. The fact that exact data about the consequences for the resident people are missing for most of the reserve areas can be viewed as a sign of the lack of relevance taken for the local people in the planning and realisation of these parks. Compensation for lost land or lost resources has never been paid to the people who were forced to abandon their areas for the sake of national parks or game reserves. This article outlines the development of Etosha National Park as one example of the impact nature conservation has had on local people. Whereas other articles in this volume deal with more recent approaches of nature conservation (Hohmann, and Taylor, this volume), which are thought to combine the protection of natural resources with community development, and therefore begin to include local people in the planning and realisation of conservancy areas, this chapter will - with its focus on Etosha - explore the more 'traditional' approach. It has pretended that nature conservation is a goal in itself (which it in fact never was) and mostly disregarded the people affected by the establishment of national parks, game reserves and conservation areas.

Publication Title:

San and the State: Contesting Land, Development, Identity and Representation

Hohmann T
Rüdiger Köppe Verlag
Item Type:
Book Section
ISBN 978-3-89645-357-0