Ovambanderu’s pride

Francinah Baaitse
AGE OLD SKILL: Ovambanderu women making ongondivi oil

Tribe told to make the most of their traditional talents

The Ovambanderu tribe in Ngamiland has been encouraged to take advantage of their traditional pastoral farming skills especially cattle ranching and venture into more value added cattle production.

Speaking at the tribe’s cultural festival on Saturday in Sehithwa near Lake Ngami, Batawana Paramount Chief, Kgosi Tawana Moremi (Tawana II) noted Ovambanderu pride themselves on cattle ranching.

However, he advised young people to apply new technology to the traditional skills in order to reap meaningful profit.

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“We acknowledge your lifestyle as pastoral farmers but it is also important to take note of a vision called a ‘knowledge-based economy’. We are encouraging you to add value in the use of cattle, take it to stage two so that you do not only produce ongondivi (cooking oil made from milk), downstream and make use of the value chain. Research and find out about many other products you can get from a cow, buttons from horns, leather products, handbags and many more,” said Moremi, whose regiment, Matsaakgang donated P5, 000 to Ovambanderu Youth Society which organised the event.

The chief further challenged the youth to make use of the free internet available in many government facilities to research and come up with ideas on improving this agricultural production.

Another elder at the event, Moses Hikuama, who sits as Chairperson for Lake Ngami Development Trust, shared the history of his tribe’s people as having always revolved around cattle.

“A life of a Banderu centres around cattle wherever they are: no cow, no life for Mbanderu, it has always been like that. It was the truth then and it is the truth now,” explained Hikuama, before sharing the historical events that led to the tribe fleeing neighbouring Zambia in 1904 during a bloody war with Germany.

During the war, close to eighty percent of the tribe were wiped out by the Germans. Only a few made it into Botswana and settled in Ngamiland, near Lake Ngami where Sehithwa village stands today.

“We have a rich culture, we don’t believe in traditional herbalists but rather in a seer (Ovambuke),” continued Hikuama, who added that a holy cow and secret fire rituals are the way of life for his tribe’s men.

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With the cattle playing an economic and spiritual role for the Ovambaderu, Hikuama equally called on young people to keep up with the evolving culture to avoid being excluded from mainstream society.

“Understand that there are realities of life, we are members of a global village and no longer traditional Banderu, so we should not be left behind,” warned Hikuama.

He pleaded with government not to frustrate their pastoral lifestyle and allow the people to stay near their cattle as that is their custom.

The Banderu traditional attire depicts that of German soldiers and their women: the men adorn old German army uniform while women wear layered dresses with a head gear showing the tribe’s pride of cattle horns.

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