News - December 10, 2009

Free and busy in Namibia

For months, Hannes Hotz, MSc. student in Environmental Science, slept in a little tent in the heat of Namibia. He investigated how inhabitants of the village community Onkani adapt their agriculture and animal rearing practices to climate variations.

'In Namibia, there are years with more rainfall, and years with very little rainfall. This difference has always been big, but climate change now brings up the possibility that this will become even bigger. The farmers in Onkani have adapted to this by having agriculture, animal rearing and forest cultivation. They therefore spread out their risks, these being no work during times of water shortage, and nothing to eat during droughts.
Rusty 4x4
'As I don't work within a research project, I had to make all the arrangements and bear all the costs myself. In the first two months of my research, I was engaged in making contacts, as well as arranging travel from the capital city Windhoek to Onkani, 800 kilometres away. The village is not accessible by public transport. To reach it, one of the things I did was to drive two hours over sandy paths. For this reason, I bought a rusty 4x4. All the knowledge I have about car repair was culled there.
'As I wanted to be independent, I slept in a tent in the village, together with my interpreter. We cooked on a camping gas stove and washed ourselves with water from a pail. That was rather charming! My car stood me in good stead. Every time the water tap stopped working, I had to drive for an hour to the nearest working water tap.
Some village children were a little frightened of me. I think they have never set eyes on a white man before. They might have thought that I was sick and started to cry whenever I stepped foot into their homes.
The villagers live in hut-like dwellings with a roof of grass. Although they don't have many possessions, they are very friendly and hospitable. Once, when visiting a woman in the village to drink traditional self-brewed beer, she asked if I would like some chicken. She then went outside and returned with a live chicken. I walked away with chicken under my arm. Together with my interpreter and the woman next door, we slaughtered and ate it by a campfire.