The 160,000 ha Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape of dramatic mountainous desert in north-western South Africa constitutes a cultural landscape communally owned and managed. This site sustains the semi-nomadic pastoral livelihood of the Nama people, reflecting seasonal patterns that may have persisted for as much as two millennia in southern Africa. It is the only area where the Nama still construct portable rush-mat houses (haru om ) and includes seasonal migrations and grazing grounds, together with stock posts. The pastoralists collect medicinal and other plants and have a strong oral tradition associated with different places and attributes of the landscape.
Outstanding Universal Value
The extensive communal grazed lands of the Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape are a testimony to land management processes which have ensured the protection of the succulent Karoo vegetation and thus demonstrates a harmonious interaction between people and nature. Furthermore, the seasonal migrations of graziers between stockposts with traditional demountable mat-roofed houses, |haru oms, reflect a practice that was once much more widespread over Southern Africa, and which has persisted for at least two millennia; the Nama are now its last practitioners.
Criterion (iv): The rich diverse botanical landscape of the Richtersveld, shaped by the pastoral grazing of the Nama, represents and demonstrates a way of life that persisted for many millennia over a considerable part of southern Africa and was a significant stage in the history of this area.
Criterion (v): The Richtersveld is one of the few areas in southern Africa where transhumance pastoralism is still practised; as a cultural landscape it reflects long-standing and persistent traditions of the Nama, the indigenous community. Their seasonal pastoral grazing regimes, which sustain the extensive bio-diversity of the area, were once much more widespread and are now vulnerable.
The cultural landscape comprises all the elements linked to the transhumance lifestyle of the Nama pastoralists. The authenticity of the grazing areas and stockposts is incontrovertible. The authenticity of the traditional domed houses is mainly intact, despite the incorporation of some new materials along with the finely braided traditional mats. There are increasing numbers of young people interested in continuing the traditions.
The Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape has full legal protection. The process of declaring the property as a Heritage Area was completed in early 2007. The traditional land-use system of the Nama should be seen as part of the protection system. A buffer zone has been established. The two key areas for conservation measures are sustaining the grazing areas and sustaining the tradition of building portable mat-roofed houses. The Richtersveld Community Conservancy (RCC) is managed by a Communal Property Association (CPA) with a Management Committee (company without profit) and a participative Management Plan is in place to manage the identified Heritage Area. The Management Plan, addresses management structures, infrastructure development, awareness raising, tourism development and monitoring and evaluation. It should provide support to the traditional management system rather than replacing it.
The Khoi-Khoi people, ancestors of the Nama, once occupied lands across southern Namibia and most of the present-day Western and Northern Cape Provinces of South Africa. Over a century or more, those in the south were pushed north by the spread of European farms north from the Cape. This influx of refugees into the middle reaches of the Orange River in the 18th century led to turmoil in the area with predatory bands of brigands at large. In the 19th century, missionaries moved into the area. The mix of peoples together with the influence of outsiders led to a rapid dilution of traditional Khoi-Khoi culture. In the 1940s another group of people, the Boslius Basters were moved into the Richtersveld by the Apartheid regime: there they joined the Nama and after an initial uneasy relationship they have formed a partnership for land ownership in the Conservancy. Since 2003 the farmers have held the title to their lands.
The Khoi-Khoi and the San are considered to be the original indigenous inhabitants of southern Africa and thus custodians of ancient cultures. The Khoi-Khoi migrated with herds of sheep and cattle on a seasonal basis and lived in portable houses. Their legacy is, like the San, manifest in rock art. The earliest written records for the Khoi-Khoi were set down by explorers from Europe in the late 15th century, and from the late 17th century to the late 19th century many other missionaries and officials added to the record. During the 20th century the Khoi-Khoi have been written about extensively.
At the time of the first description, the Khoi-Khoi lived in clans, each with their own territory. Early Dutch settlers in the Cape began to buy livestock from the Khoi-Khoi in order to supply meat for the Dutch fleet. This led to stock shortages amongst the Khoi-Khoi and resulted in conflicts between the Europeans and the local communities. Within only a few years of the establishment of Cape Town, the Khoi-Khoi began to migrate north and in order to fill the gap of cattle supplies, the settlers created a system of freehold farms. Environmental conditions did not permit intensive agriculture; and extensive agriculture, meant that vast areas of land were taken over by the colonists as the frontiers of the colony spread rapidly to the east and north, often out of official control. The Khoi-Khoi were forced into military or mission service, or became labourers on settler farms. Many also succumbed to newly introduced diseases. Within a few generations the Khoi-Khoi had all but disappeared from many parts of their ancient homeland.
In the 20th century the existence of the Khoi-Khoi was denied under the Apartheid policy and they were subsumed into the coloured racial category. Since 1994 and liberation there has been a re-emergence of Khoi-Khoi identity and the emergence of the Nama, the last of the Khoi-Khoi to still practice traditional pastoralism. The Richtersveld, due to its remoteness, now remains the only place that reflects this way of life. Elsewhere, for instance in Namibia and other parts of South Africa, the Nama have mostly abandoned transhumance and the skills of traditional house building have almost disappeared.
The Richtersveld Community Conservancy was established in 2002, evolving out of the Richtersveld Community Heritage Area that was set up in 2000 to protect both the environment and culture of the area.
Source: Advisory Body Evaluation