Our morning was spent in the traditional village again (we visited here our very first day to act as "tourists" for the group that has been working to establish this project to test it out on us) interviewing Thaddeus. We had met Thaddeus back in June but didn't have enough time to interview him then as we only were in the park for a day. As an elder Khwe, the knowledge he has and the stories he shares are incredible. Many of the younger generations are losing this traditional knowledge about their ancestors and how they live. To combat this, Thaddeus spends much of his time with the younger generations teaching them about what it means to be Khwe. He has lived in Bwabwata since he was born, so his insight about how the livelihoods of the Khwe people have changed gave us great perspective. His passion for the Khwe traditions were obvious as his face lit up when talking about the ways of the past. Thaddeus has also served as a leader in the community for many years and is highly regarded by the members of the community.
After our interview, we made an unplanned stop at a government funded agricultural research project that lies just inside the park boundary. We were curious how the initiative benefited the community members, if it did at all, and what the purpose of the research was. We learned that much of the research is looking into what sorts of crops and strains of crops grow best in the Zambezi region (previously known as the Caprivi region). We were lucky to have a worker there show us around a bit and we got to see the fields and hear about the crops that are being planted. She told us that the research that is done there is then transmitted to the field offices who are supposed to advise and assist the community with best practices. We weren't sure if this actually happens or not as we weren't able to get out to a field office, but we hope that it does. Given the issues with food security in the community though, we tended to doubt that the local people were benefitting from this research.
On that note, a common theme throughout our time in BNP has emerged, which refuted much of the previous research we had done prior to traveling. On paper and on the web, the government has some wonderful policies, initiatives, and plans in place to address the issues with food security that people throughout Namibia are experiencing. In execution though, at least from what we have heard from the local people here and seen ourselves, those policies and initiatives are not as effective as they are made out to be. An example lies in one of our previous posts about the promise of tractors and supplies to farmers in the park. While the intention is great, the government doesn't take into account many of the logistical details that the local people know best, making for a detrimental situation. It's so challenging to find a balance between policies and people, and its so simple to place the blame on someone else. If there is anything we learned during our time in Bwabwata, it's that in order for change to occur, one must fight and be proactive. It's ironic that we discovered such a sentiment on the same day that our very own nation was undergoing its own challenging situation.