Living on Faith in a Changing Climate

Aug 6, 2021 | General News, Inspiration

Leliefontein livestock herding

The Leliefontein communal area is one of five communal areas in Namaqualand where livestock herding is still a common practice in a vast unfenced grazing lands. In these communal areas you will find many Nama herders with their dogs, flocks of boergoat and sheep, following ancient grazing routes to take advantage of the seasonal rainfall variability in this Succulent Karoo landscape. Apart from geology, aspect and elevation, rainfall is the key driver of the of the diverse and unique vegetation of this region.  In these communal areas they farm without fences and certain rainfall events are the cues for herders to move with livestock to fresh grazing pastures. 

Community adaptation to climate change and drought

Like the rest of South Africa, the livestock owners in communal areas were also hard hit by the recent mega-drought and lost livestock, as well as large areas of grazing land which is now dominated by dead shrubs. Many of the palatable shrubs simply never recovered due to the lack of rain.

The Agricultural Research Council’s Animal Production unit, based at the University of the Western Cape, has done studies on the community adaptation to climate change in the Succulent Karoo biome, which included Leliefontein, Steinkopf, and the community of Khuboes in the Richtersveld.

PhD candidate, Khululiwe Ntombela, completed her MSc while working in the Leliefontein and Steinkopf communal areas. Her findings are similar to what is being portrayed in the short film below, titled ‘Living on faith in a changing climate’, which was shot in the Paulshoek village. She found that the perceptions of herders throughout the region, are to a large extent based on their deep spiritual belief. Many believe that the change in climate we are observing is a ‘punishment from God’ for a disobedient human race.  Many older herders and livestock owners used the so-called ‘agt-dae reën’ (eight-day rain) as prompt to move with the livestock, but this environmental cue has disappeared with the changing climate. Unpredictable rain resulted in uncertainty in their livestock management and prolonged drought has put their livelihood at risk. 

Living on Faith in a Changing Climate short film

This short film portrays the impact of the recent drought on the livelihood of Namaqualand pastoralists living in Paulshoek. It also aims to give a balanced view between perception of herders (Rosie and Dirkie Cloete) and scientific findings (Prof. Timm Hoffman and Dr. Igshaan Samuels) with regards to climate change. It ends with a message from Sors Cloete, who is considered a local climate change activist, who calls on the world to stop polluting our atmosphere and to stop climatic change so everyone can benefit from a healthy climate.  

Video and article courtesy of Clement Cupido

Clement Cupido - Director - Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve

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