San turn to UNESCO for help

18 February 2021 | Environment

Windhoek • Frank Steffen

The Canadian gas and oil exploration company Reconnaissance Energy Africa (ReconAfrica) has threatened The Namibian newspaper and the internationally renowned National Geographic magazine, with a lawsuit for “untrue and misleading reporting”. However, it will soon also have to deal with the Q7environmental activist group that works with the indigenous peoples of southern Africa for the preservation of the environment, and that have now turned to UNESCO for help.
A petition, which is supported by the indigenous peoples in Namibia as well as Botswana and South Africa, is addressed to the Namibian and Botswana governments as well as the National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia. NamCor is Namibia's state fuel distributor and a 10% shareholder in the drilling project in the Kavango regions.
Furthermore, the petition is addressed to UNESCO, the cross-border Okavango River Basin Commission (ORBC) and the Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resources Management Support Organisation (NACSO) and the Namibian Chamber for the Environmental (NCE), which is highly praised by the Namibian government.
“We, the undersigned representatives of the indigenous San in southern Africa, reject plans to search for and possibly extract oil and gas in the Kavango Basin between Namibia and Botswana,” the letter said.
The area on and around the Okavango River and the delta includes numerous areas of international importance: “But for us as San indigenous people, it is our holiest homeland. We find that as curators of this land for thousands of years and as lawful current residents, we have never been consulted or given permission to any company to explore for oil and gas in this area. "

Development not beneficial
This newspaper has gained insight into a study by the African Centre for Biodiversity (UN), which contained partially damning judgments. “We were looking for the common denominator that exists between climate change, deforestation, industrial agriculture and general use of mineral resources on the one hand, and the promotion of social and political instability and food insecurity on the continent on the other.”
Development interventions often increase indebtedness, inequality and social exclusion in Africa, thereby deepening dependence on destructive, short-sighted and short-lived projects. Fossil fuels and capital-intensive projects as well as global value chains for agriculture and forestry would rarely result in sustainable value creation for the countries concerned.
The World Bank made a significant contribution to securing huge tracts of land for the agricultural industry, especially companies from the USA, Great Britain, France and China. “The expropriated smallholders and the traditional livelihood had to give way to mining, clearing and industrial agriculture - even pipelines,” the research centre says.
“The power and influence of global finance is evident. In the past, the expansion of the plantations for the agricultural industry and monoculture was accompanied by loans from financial institutions. The pace and scope of financial capitalism have reached new heights in agriculture and pushed the expropriation of land and communal territories with devastating results,” the study notes.