The climate in Donkerbos is characterized by high temperatures, low rainfall and long dry seasons. In recent years, this region has started to have extreme weather events more often than in the past. Last year two of the boreholes in this community have run dry. This is due to climate change, which has caused very bad droughts. Climate change is most worrying for local communities who depend on agriculture for food security and income diversification. The environmental conditions in Donkerbos are desert like, the water table is very deep (mostly deeper than 110m) and groundwater provides the only sources of water. Rainfall is erratic and often unreliable. The climate is harsh, with low soil productivity and overgrazed pastures.
In the Kalahari Desert; climate change adversely effects the lives of marginalized San people struggling for survival. Life in the desert demands a symbiotic relationship with nature that city dwellers and privileged farmers are unable to understand. Environmental issues are an intimate part of everyday life in Donkerbos. Living in corrugated iron homes, adapting to increasing temperatures in summer and bone chilling cold in the winter, the people of Donkerbos may not have academic knowledge of environmental issues but they understand adaptation and scarcity with reliable certainty. Although they may not use the language of conservation they employ conservation strategies, avoiding waste and maximizing the useful life of every sip of water, food source and consumer good they handle. As their communal lands shrink and suffer overgrazing largely in competition with encroaching Herero farmers, the San people have few possessions and rely on donkey carts and bare feet for transportation. With this land they must find a way into the future. Donkerbos provides an excellent opportunity to test and support living examples of environment techniques that conserve resources, increase sustainability and elevate the status of grass roots environmentalists.
The San community of Donkerbos-Sonneblom recently had the opportunity to test out various energy efficient stoves, as an alternative to their traditional practices of cooking over the open fire. This was done as part of on-going efforts to create awareness around climate change whilst also exposing the community to various adaptive measures. In addition to the traditional cooking method, the community also tested out the following products: the solar cooker box, the parabolic stove as well as the locally acclaimed tsotso stove by preparing various meals for the community. This cooking event created a lot of hype and interest especially among those community members who were not convinced that energy from the sun alone, could cook a meal. Thus, as the saying goes: the proof of the pudding is in the eating! At the end the community did an evaluation of the four options, and the tsotso stove emerged as their favorite due to the fact that the stove is is portable, uses less wood, does not have that much smoke or burn the cooker if you stand too close to the fire (when compared to the traditional fire) cooks fast and can accommodate various pot sizes.
Often people are not in a position to make informed decision, due to the lack of information to guide their decisions and through similar exercises for work that we undertake, the DRFN is confident that such efforts will lead to rural development practices that will address climate change adaptation.