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Eighties wildlife conservation lunacy is today's success

Margaret Jacobsohn's story is as gritty and real as Namib sand

28 August 2019 - 14:40 By jacana media
Margaret Jacobsohn's story is as gritty and real as Namib sand.
Margaret Jacobsohn's story is as gritty and real as Namib sand.
Image: Jacana Media

Life is Like a Kudu Horn is a book that will make you reflect and deliberate.

Cape Town journalist-turned-researcher Margaret Jacobsohn swapped city life for a remote Ovahimba settlement on the edge of Namibia’s liberation war.

What she experienced shook her world view and changed the way she thought about people and nature – and highlighted our modern deficiency in ecological intelligence.

Drawn into the warmth and richness of rural community life, and revelling in vast Namibia’s “gloriously unclad geology – a country that wears its skeleton in the outside”, Margaret became a Namibian.

For the past 30 years she has been part of a team that pioneered an African way of doing wildlife conservation, an approach that was regarded as lunatic in the ’80s, but which is today mainstream and demonstrably successful. This work has won some of the world’s top environmental awards.

Her story is both serious and funny – the conflicts and mishaps, the triumphs and breakthroughs, and what it takes to break paradigms while working in remote, inaccessible places, including becoming involved (reluctantly) in a Himba-owned, award-winning safari company.

Passionate about community-based action, Margaret sees the challenges of community conservation work differing only in scale and content from the international challenges we face today – whether this be political corruption, plastic pollution of our oceans or the growing gap between the super-wealthy and the poor. They all require people to reach consensus, manage conflicts, be willing to change their attitudes and then translate plans and decisions into action.