Sunday, November 7, 2010


In countries like the US, we forget that there are still people in the world who don't get their food the way we do. They don't grow it or buy much. I was reminded of this today when I googled myself and found, to my surprise, a rather obscure piece of field research I had done decades ago on food security among the "Remote Area Dwellers" (RADs - a politically correct way of referring to "bushmen") of Botswana.

Basarwa and other ethnic minorities living in the Remote Area Dweller (RAD) settlements - sometimes called "bushmen" - are the poorest of the poor in Botswana -a generally prosperous country. Most live in planned settlements in the Kalahari desert, which are truly desolate places. I will never forget the drive there, those glowing eyes of the Kalahari desert lions and cheetah surrounding the jeep as we changed a flat tire at dusk (our fourth), the sounds in the nights I slept in the settlements, the incredible heat and thirst. I still see the RAD people themselves - an apathy which beats description, a lost cultural pride.

Most were hungry, not just part of the year, but all the time. The reason: they were losing the sources of food supply that they knew and had always depended on as hunter-gatherers - wild meat and veld foods. Men have the main role in hunting although women also go along and help. Walking for miles in the bush and gathering veld foods and products is women's job. They do not grow any food. It is just not in their culture and programs to try to get them to do it fail. Their lack of water and good soil are other constraints. The hunting and water stories are too complex to explain here, but in brief, more powerful outsiders such as urban recreational hunters (and tourists) are depleting wildlife and cattlemen are capturing the RAD wells. This not ony results in hunger, but destroys the RAD social structure, which is interwoven with the hunting process and sharing the kill.

Veld foods were also becoming depleted around the settlements. Here are some of the "veld" foods they were eating when I was there - when they could find them (I remember those delicious phane worms....):

•tubers, which is the staple of the Basarwa;
•various veld fruits, such as marula and milo;
•phane worms;
•mahupo (truffle);
•grewia (a type of berry bush, which is used as a cereal);
•nuts, such as mogongo and moramo; and
•herbs used for medicinal purposes and teas.

On this gourmet note...For more details, go to:


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