By Joseph Bushby – Winelands Echo*
DURBAN, Dec 2 — (TerraViva) Isak and Toppies Kruiper have made their way across the country with a message, travelling all the way from their home in the Kalahari Desert of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province to the United Nations Climate Conference taking place in the port city of Durban on the eastern coast.
The two men have come to the 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) following in the footsteps of David Kruiper, the late headman of the Bushmen, who worked throughout his life to defend the rights and way of life of his people.
“Jy weet, ek was gebore in die Kalahari,” says Isak Kruiper. “I was born and bred in the Kalahari. I love the Kalahari and would like to someday die in the Kalahari. But what is busy happening now, it looks to me that the Kalahari will die before us. And that is the reason why we are here at COP17.”
The two men spoke to TerraViva outside Durban’s International Convention Centre, slightly awed by their surroundings but determined to get their message across.
“We don’t know all the fancy technology of today we are just ordinary people who wants ordinary things. Look after our kids and the Kalahari,” Kruiper continued.
“The Kalahari, where we stay, is hot and dry and getting increasingly hotter and dryer by the day. The natural resources that we had, like the vegetation, are dying out due to the very little rain and this makes food scarce for the wild (animals), so they move further and further away from us. You know we cannot jump over the fences but they can.”
According to a report from the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, rising temperatures, dune expansion and increased wind speeds results in the loss of vegetation and impacts on traditional cattle and goat farming practices.
The Bushmen are in many cases forced to live near boreholes drilled by the government, dependent on these for water.
Global warming is also causing similar problems elsewhere – in the Namib Desert, indigenous people are struggling to make a living. Far away in Asia, herders in Mongolia are enduring winters with temperatures more than 30 degrees below zero, killing off livestock and driving them to settle in towns.
Back in the Kalahari, Isak Kruiper fears for his way of life. “It becomes impossible to transfer our indigenous knowledge to our kids, because we must always look for something to eat. We want the government and every concerned group to please listen and help us.”
“Met armoede gaan ons te gronde,” said Kruiper. “Any help to the San communities would be welcome and appreciated.”
* Community media coverage of COP 17 is being supported by the Media Development & Diversity Agency of South Africa, which is promoting the participation of local journalists through a programme of training and reporting on climate change.