BY Stephen Nartey, 3:30pm January 05, 2023,

Khoisan: here is why the once-largest group of humans on earth must be saved

Sandance OneTime Films the Kuru Dance Festival at Dqae Qare Lodge Botswana. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/SanDanceVR

The Khoisan people of Southern Africa were the largest ethnic group on earth some 150,000 years ago. What accounted for this population growth among them was the fact that they married among themselves and had a good diet.

They have maintained these customs and traditions for hundreds of generations but in recent times their dominance seems to be waning, according to a genetic study published in Science Daily.

There are some scientists who have argued that there is no cause to worry because comparing the world’s population of 7 billion to 100,000 tribesmen will obviously make the Khoisan community appear like a fraction in the subset.

But a professor at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Stephan C. Schuster, disagrees. In his research published in the Nature journal about the Khoisan tribe, Schuster attributed the decline in their numbers to changes in the climate.

Some 22, 000 years ago, the Khoisan tribesmen settled in parts of Southern Africa where the vegetative cover was green and there were freshwater sources at their disposal. This was contrary to the Western and Central parts of Africa where the weather was scorching and the land wasn’t very fertile.

What seemed to be the situation in the Western and Central geographical locations at the time is playing out in the traditional settlements of the Khoisan people. They no longer have regular access to wild game and fresh food as used to be the case. The poor diet in effect has influenced their rate of fertility.

They were further impacted by the changes brought by the ice age where climatic changes swept across all parts of the world. Whereas other African populations adapted and witnessed a growth in their numbers, the Khoisan tribesmen, for reasons yet to be explained, experienced a significant dip in their numbers.

Schuster explained that genome sequencing showed a paradigm shift in the whole population cycle. Whereas the Khoisan tribe was doing so well in population compared to non-Khoisan, it is the other way around now.

This is also influencing the tribe’s hunter-gathering tradition, with scientists fearing they might go extinct. This is mainly because the tribesmen will be compelled to rely on agriculture and herding for their sustenance than what they have been accustomed to for ages.

The Khoisan in Botswana are abandoning the ways of their fathers because of laws passed by the government prohibiting hunting in the wild. Land disputes with other indigenes have further worsened their plight. This, therefore, means, the hunter-gathering lifestyle of tribesmen in Botswana is dead.

The poor political participation has given them little voice in policies that affect their survival. There is evidence elsewhere like in North America where the native hunter-gathering customs have died with time.

To overturn this looming danger that faces the Khoisan community, there must be deliberate policies that address deforestation while designating sacred forest reserves for them.

The Khoisan tribesmen are a unique set of inhabitants whose gift of animal behavior and knowledge about plants for medicinal purposes make it expedient for governments in Southern parts of Africa to ensure they live for the next generation.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 5, 2023


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