Monday, April 25, 2011

Massive Expansion of Angola's Conservation Areas

The Angolan minister of Environment, Fátima Jardim, recently announced the expansion of Angola's environmental conservation areas, currently at 6.6%, to 18%  by the year 2017.

Angola presently has 13 zones of integral protection. Some 82,000 square kilometres of protected lands totally 6,6% of the country’s territory; hosting six national parks, one regional park, two integrated natural reserves and four partial ones.

An increase to 18% of Angolan land usage would protect some 188,650 square kilometres of green zones in the national territory, potentially protecting existing 18 forest reserves and various game reserves.

In common with other African countries, Angola has a large number of environmental issues: the overuse of pastures and subsequent soil erosion; desertification; deforestation of tropical rain forest; and the inadequate supplies of drinking water.

Although Angola has a number of designated National Parks and Reserves, the previous civil war has had a devasting impact on conservation and most protected areas are without wardens.  On the positive side, soldiers are being trained as park wardens through a IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) / Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Project.  In addition, there are extensive protected areas that remain relatively undisturbed and which adequately protect some vegetation and habitats for Angola's unique bird populations.

The IUCN currently lists six national parks in Angola; Bicauri, Cameia, Kissama, Cangandala, Iona, and Mupa. The wildlife in all the parks have been severely reduced after the devastation wrough by decades of war.

Environment Minister Jardim announced that a new system of national conservation areas will start to be created soon, seeking to meet the goals agreed upon at the Nagoya (Japan) meeting held last year. The Nagoya meeting recommended the expansion to 20 percent the national conservation areas in the territory of each country of the world. (Angop)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Angola's Tribes: The Historic Khoisan People

The Khoisan are known as the first inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa, are commonly given the pejorative name of bushmen (men of the bush) and southern Angola is part of their habitat.  Khoisan is the name given to a family of ethnic groups, the Khoikhoi and the San, as they share similar physical and language characteristics. They use click consonants when they speak, and their history is thought to go back thousands of years. They are currently at risk of extinction, as only a few populations still survive in southwest Africa.

Recent estimates reveal that of the estimated 100,000 Khoisan in Africa,  some 5000 live in southern Angola; the largest majority of the populations live in Botswana (50,000), Namibia (35,000), South Africa  (5000), and the remaining populations scattered across Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Khoisan were traditionally hunter-gatherers, but have been forced to switch to herdsmen and farming as a result of government-mandated moderization programs as well as the increased risks of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the face of technological development.

The name Khoisan comes from Khuá-San, which in general terms means ‘Men’ both in Khoikhoi and in San. But in the Khoikhoi language, the word has another connotation and actually means ‘Men of Men’.

Khoisan have short frames with long legs when compared with other African peoples, they have copper brown skin and eye folds similar to Asian peoples. But in contrast with Asian women, Khoisan women tend to have rounder, broader hips, more characteristic in African women.

Khoisan languages, known for their use of clicking sounds, are not spoken very widely across Africa, and are to all intents and purposes limited to the Kalahari region spanning Angola, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. The most spoken Khoisan group languages are Kwadi and Sandawe.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ovimbundu Wisdom! No.6

Here are more Ovimbundu wisdom proverbs.  Enjoy!

Proverb 1:  Epungu liwa konendela; omola sole kununulu.

Translation:  Early corn is best, so the firstborn is the one to delight in.


Proverb 2: Esalamiho liulume ka li enda no posi.

Translation: Labor has sure reward.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Angola Traditional Medicine: An Age-Old Cure

The use of 'traditional', 'alternative' or 'complementary' medicine is now a multi-billion dollar industry around the world. This type of medicine, when adopted by non-indigenous populations, is often labeled as the ‘medicine of the poor' and still an estimated 80% of the populations in some African and Asian countries depend on this traditional medicine for basic health care.

In Angola, the use of traditional medicine goes back around 4000 years, according to Rosário Fernandes, a traditional medicine researcher. She discovered that most of the practices originated in the primitive culture of the tribal communities called Sam (Hottentots) and the Bantu.

Some examples of traditional medicine: the tea from the Mbrututu root does not need boiling water, and is ideal as a cure for hepatitis;  a mix of honey and lemon is recommended for the flu and sore throats; other local-gathered herbal products have 'power' to cure, like tea from Caxinde, Chandala, Gipepe, and Ngandiadia; all initially labeled in the local people's languages.

For recent mothers, the Angolan pharmacist recommends “closing the wounds from the birth” with a bath made from a lukewarm infusion of the plant called capim de Deus ('God's grass'). For the new-born, drinking Mukumbi is good for colic. It is also a remedy for anemia and blood loss. Additionally, the bark of the ‘Timba-Timba’ tree is apparently the African version of Viagara.

Traditional medicine is defined as, 'the sum total of knowledge, skills and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures that are used to maintain health, as well as to prevent, diagnose, improve or treat physical and mental illnesses.”
The basic theory underlying traditional medicine in Angola  “arose from the empirical observation of how man reacted with the environment. Primitive man watched natural phenomena and managed to create a conceptual structure that could be transposed to the human body."

According to the researcher, before the arrival of the Europeans who disembarked on Angolan shores, the local peoples (Hottentots, Bantu, and others), solved their own health problems, including the plague, epidemics, spiritual and emotional illnesses, by recourse to traditional medicine. “The Imbanda (practitioners), could diagnose, prevent, treat and cure illnesses that occurred in their times, whether hereditary or otherwise. (adapted from TAAG Austral Magazine)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

African Folklore: The Day Baboon Outwitted Leopard

(A Zulu Folk Tale) Long, long ago, Baboon and Leopard were friends.  One day, Leopard had chased Hare until Hare had taken refuge in an anthill.  Leopard called her friend Baboon and asked him to stand guard over the anthill while she went down to the river for a drink.

Baboon agreed and settled down with his back to the side of the anthill, next to the hole where Hare had disappeared. It was a warm day and fairly close to noon. After a while, Baboon started to doze off and was soon snoring gently.

Hare heard the snores and crept quietly out.  As he was leaping away to safety, Leopard came back.  She saw Hare disappearing over the hill and, in a rage, she charged up to sleeping Baboon and slapped him awake.

"O worthless monkey!" she roared. (This is a terrible insult, as baboons just hate being called 'monkey.') "You have let that fine fat Hare escape. That's my lunch you have lost, you foolish ape!" And her eyes blazed in anger.

Now an angry, hungry leopard is not a very reassuring sight and Baboon started to back away in fear. Leopard however, had not finished with him. She grabbed the frightened Baboon and was about to scold him even harder, when the warm flesh between her paws suddenly made her stop in mid-sentence. Her eyes gleamed, and she licked her lips.  "Hmm... As you have lost me my meal, I think that you will do very nicely instead!"  And, forgetting their past friendship, she opened her jaws to take a bite.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Momentous Goals Reached in Mine Clearance

Angola has long been known as having a significant number of residue landmines as a result of the 27 year-long civil war.   United Nations estimates in 2008 listed the number of Angolan landmines range between 10 and 20 million, which equates to at least 1 to 2 land mines for every person in the country.  The U.N. estimates put the number of Angolan amputees resulting from the silent killers at over 100,000. Land mines have a devastating effect upon the environment by restricting the movement of people, deterring farming, disrupting economies, and killing and mutilating many innocent men, women, and children .

Active landmine clearance is continuing and in 2010 a total of 5,512 landmines, 4989 of which were anti-personnel and 523 anti-tank mines, were cleared and destroyed in Angola's 17 provinces.

In conjunction with the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, Monday, April 4th, The HALO Trust, the world's oldest and largest humanitarian landmine clearance organization, has released the results of a study it conducted on how previously mined land is used after HALO has cleared it. The study verified the tremendous impact that mine clearance has on food security in rural communities in Angola: 100% of HALO-demined land was put back into productive use: the vast majority for agriculture (72%) followed by animal grazing (16%). The release of former minefields to some of the world's most vulnerable people enables communities to become food self-sufficient and less reliant on aid . 

Other key findings include the fact that cleared land is normally put into productive use in about three months as well as the fact that 32% of beneficiaries interviewed reported selling crops (most commonly beans, maize and potatoes) they have grown on cleared land. 

In addition to making arable land safe for cultivation, HALO's mine clearance has opened over 3,250 miles of roads in Angola. This has enabled aid and development projects to occur in previously inaccessible areas and has helped farmers get their goods to market.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Angola Humor 4

See another example of a daily comic page from Journal de Angola, a daily Angolan newspaper.  This comic strip highlights the daily challenges that Angolan's have with the developing electrical grid, which is routinely out of service.

Translation: "Are you without electrical power?"

                                        "On the contrary.  I can't habituate myself with having it! (electrical service)"