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Bushmanland - A view from our expert author
This isolated corner of the Kalahari Desert is home to a traditional hunter-gatherer society © David Barrie, Flickr
Explore the history of the traditional hunter-gatherer society in this isolated area of the Kalahari Desert.
To the east of Grootfontein lies the area known as Bushmanland. (This is an old name, but I’ll use it here for clarity; it is still what most people call the area.) This almost rectangular region borders on Botswana and stretches 90km from north to south and about 200km from east to west.
Drive east towards Tsumkwe, and you’re driving straight into the Kalahari. However, on their first trip here, people are often struck by just how green and vegetated it is, generally in contrast to their mental image of a ‘desert’. In fact, the Kalahari isn’t a classic desert at all; it’s a fossil desert. It is an immense sandsheet which was once a desert, but now gets far too much rainfall to be classed as a desert. Look around you and you’ll realise that most of the Kalahari is covered in a thin, mixed bush with a fairly low canopy height, dotted with occasional larger trees. Beneath this is a fairly sparse ground-covering of smaller bushes, grasses and herbs. There are no spectacular sand dunes; you need to return west to the Namib for those!
This is very poor agricultural land, but in the east of the region, especially south of Tsumkwe, there is a sprinkling of seasonal pans. Straddling the border itself are the Aha Hills, which rise abruptly from the gently rolling desert. This region, and especially the eastern side of it, is home to a large number of scattered Bushman villages of the Ju/’hoansi !Kung.