Employing Ecological Knowledge During Foraging Activity : Perception of the Landform among the GÇ ui and GÇ ana (Natural History of Communication among the Central Kalahari San)

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The present study focuses on the GÇ ui and GÇ ana, two neighbouring groups among the San people, who are indigenous to the central region of the Kalahari Desert. In a region of scant rainfall that varies greatly by location and year, the GÇ ui/GÇ ana developed a vast body of ecological knowledge that allowed them to acquire ample bush foods by moving frequently and flexibly within their immense living area, now encompassed by the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). However, since the implementation of Botswanaâ s development program in the 1970s, which encouraged permanent settlement in villages, the lifestyle of the GÇ ui/GÇ ana has been altered. By 1997, most CKGR residents had moved to a new settlement founded outside the reserve. I examined how the GÇ ui/GÇ ana applied their environmental knowledge in this new geographical setting. Given the lack of knowledge of landmarks, the scarcity of traditional foods and the promotion of other subsistence activities, their foraging activities appeared to have declined. However, several GÇ ui/GÇ ana people remained eager to form foraging excursions. These hunters began accumulating knowledge of trees as landmarks, as they had in their previous living area. They also used the trail of Tswana merchants as a frame of reference to ascertain their relative location. The use of the trail is analogous to the GÇ ui/GÇ anaâ s use of Ç qaÌ aÌ (a dry valley)â an important landform for wayfinding in their previous living area. The analysis of conversations recorded during foraging excursions indicates that the GÇ ui/GÇ ana activate their keen sense of the environment through their distinctive use of utterances, gestures, and other signs. This sense is necessary to use both Ç qaÌ aÌ and the Tswana merchant trail as frames of reference in the relatively flat terrain of the Kalahari. Moreover, this sense has motivated the GÇ ui/GÇ ana to transform a new geographical setting into their personal environment.


  • African study monographs. Supplementary issue.

    African study monographs. Supplementary issue. (52), 147-170, 2016-03

    The Research Committee for African Area Studies, Kyoto University


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