This monumental publication was authored by Sigrid Leger, a German Volunteer Forestry Officer, working under the auspices of the Directorate of Forestry and the German Development Service. Her duty station was Kanovlei Forestry Research Station in the Western Part of Tsumkwe; formerly known as 'West Bushmanland'.
This book has described the enormous number of uses of virtually every single plant species in this area. It is important to recognize that the flora of this region is important for the traditional lifestyle of the San people who reside in this region. It is also important to reemphasise the fact that this unique traditional lifestyle revolving around natural resources is under several threats. These can be summarized as modernity, the immigration of pastoralists and cultivators into the area and the local depletion of resources.
The pressures on the land area have restricted free movement for food collection, a traditional norm of the San and consequently, the collection of natural resources upon which these people depend, takes place more or less on the same localities year after year. Even worse still, the traditional use of fire to improve the range for hunting has several drawbacks since some of the plant's resources are degraded through the repeated and unplanned use of fire. This is because in the earlier days, one particular area would burn every four to five years instead of every year. This produced a mosaic of burned and unburned patches which enabled a sustainable supply of food for the San. Unfortunately this is no longer possible and in the long run, if the management of the plant life in this area is not taken up carefully, the San people will lose their traditional lifestyle.
This area in Western Tsumkwe on which the flora is found is characterized by fixed sand dunes and valleys or bottom lands; also known as 'Omurambas'. The soils here are mostly arenosolic sands. The area falls within the Mega Kalahari known for its thick deposits of Kalahari Sand, derived from parent material of Aeolian sands. If exposed, the soils are quite vulnerable to wind erosion.
This book is written in such a way that it gives a message that virtually every plant life in this area is important for one thing or another. The trees or shrubs which are well known in other parts of Namibia and the Kalahari Sand regions of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Angola and Zambia as only suitable for firewood, timer or charcoal have important medical values for the San. This is not often obvious to the immigrant who settles there and cuts every tree in sight and to the pastoralist inexperienced in the ways of the San, who will burn a particular range every year to improve grazing.
The book is not meant to be a taxonomic treatise on the flora in the Tsumkwe region, but a practical field guide to the amateur and professional scientist, the forester and the ardent student interested in the local flora and the economic uses in the region. Together with the general description of each species the family to which each and every plant belongs is indicated. The names of the species are arranged in alphabetical order, hence the names of the plants from the same family are not necessarily grouped together. The fact that such an area of Bushmanland or Western Tsumkwe region, receives an average of 300 millimeters of rain per year and has over one hundred and three plant species occurring across forty plant families, in these deep Kalahari sands is remarkable. It further makes a powerful case why this area has got a great potential for scientific research, management of natural resources and ecotourism. To policy makers, it should be a tool to solicit funds for the protection of the woodlands from the destructive effects of wild fires and unplanned use.
We believe that the Directorate of Forestry and Ministry's policy to support Community Based Management of the natural Woodlands has been given a further 'shot in the arm' by this exciting publication.
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism congratulates Ms Sigrid Leger for such an important exercise of painstakingly describing each of the species, starting from huge trees such as Kiaat (Pterocarpus angolensis) down to a mushroom, the Kalahari truffle. In between there are lots of trees, shrubs, fruit trees, medical herbs and sedges. It is sure to entertain the curious tourist, the ardent student of botany, the forester, the geographer, the ecotourist and all those who are interested in the management of natural resources.
Dr. H. O. Kojwang
Director of Forestry, Government or the Republic of Namibia