Adventures with PCU PhD Candidate Wesley Bell in Namaqualand

5 Sep 2017 - 12:45

In August, Plant Conservation Unit PhD student, Wesley Bell, and Timm Hoffman spent a few days in Namaqualand. Timm is contributing to an initiative by the Wilderness Foundation to develop grazing guidelines for the region and, since Wesley is conducting his PhD on Land Degradation in Namaqualand, he tagged along to learn more about how the vegetation is managed and to meet some of the people working in the region.

The two spent a day, organised by Ben-Jon Dreyer of Wilderness Foundation, with conservation officers and farmers from Namaqualand. The morning started with a presentation by Christiaan Harmse of the Department of Agriculture in the Northern Cape on the use of drone technology in detecting vegetation change and the phenomenal potential that future development in this technology has for conservation and veld management. Our hosts for the day, private farmers de Graff Genis and Corrie, then explained the history of farming in the region as they understood it from their own experience and from the experience of their fathers and grandfathers.

Matthew Norval, Kerry Purnell, Ben-Jon Dreyer (all Wilderness Foundation), de Graff Genis (farmer), and Wesley Bell looking at the veld in Bushmanland.

The rest of the day was then spent driving around Namaqualand with the group to look at the veld in different conditions and under different grazing intensities. The last stop was in Bushmanland, where some Namaqualand farmers own additional properties on which to move their herds during the summer. These transhumance patterns somewhat mimic what the historical movement of Khoe-khoen herders is believed to have been some 2000 years ago. It was a very enjoyable and thought-provoking day that ended with a delicious meal in Kamieskroon before a well-deserved rest.

Left: You don't need to get the wording right to get your message across! Right: Sampling a potential site near Slooitjiesdam, Paulshoek.

For the next couple of days, Wesley and Timm located and sampled potential sites for Wesley's PhD. His research will map the nature and extent of land degradation across the majority of Namaqualand. Wesley will be back in Namaqualand for most of October while Timm will also be back towards the end of October to attend a final Wilderness Foundation workshop to develop the Namaqualand grazing guidelines.

~ Article by Wesley Bell and images by Timm Hoffman