"Garth Owen-Smith has spent almost his entire working life fighting - not against a conventional enemy but against official ignorance, harsh climatic conditions, poachers and other enemies of Africa's fast-diminishing wildlife. In the process he has lived and worked in a number of countries but his chosen battlefield has always been the most challenging place of all: the harsh, beautiful and almost unknown Kaokoveld in north-western Namibia, his 'Arid Eden'. He chose sides early on, when he spent two youthful years in the Kaokoveld and not only developed a deep affinity with the indigenous Himba, Herero and Damara pastoralists but realised that they had developed the ideal form of nature conservation, a situation in which humans and their livestock could live in equilibrium with wild game, so that there was room for all. In 1970 he was thrown out of the Kaokoveld as an alleged security risk, then spent a year looking into conservation and the treatment of indigenous peoples in Australia, farmed for two years in Rhodesia, and did pioneering work in conservation education for black youths in South Africa. He finally managed to get back to South West Africa in 1978, and from there embarked on his life's work, to save the remnants of the Kaokoveld's rich wildlife, devastated by a variety of illegal hunters. And he succeeded, although it took him and his partner, Dr Margaret Jacobsohn, 27 years. They have won some of the world's major conservation awards, north-western Namibia is a popular tourism destination and the Kaokoveld's wildlife has come back from the brink of virtual extinction, and thousands of people have benefitted from the links they have forged between community development and natural resource management. "
An Arid Eden by Garth Owen-Smith is a very interesting personal account of conservation in the Kaokoveld area of Namibia in Africa. Once a verdant, lush area which abounded in wildlife, this beautiful Eden became a sparse, arid area on the brink of becoming a desert because of poor use of the land by people of the early twentieth century of the former South African regime, which raped the land with disregard for its natural inhabitants of people and animals. In a unique experiment by determined people who cared enough to nurture this land back to its natural, thriving green potential and save the wildlife habitation before it was too late, the Kaokoveld gradually became one of the conservation successes of the century. Garth visited there in 1967 and became inspired to help make it what it used to be. He worked with the local and NGO's who realized the old ways of using the land preserved it so they returned to helping nature through the old African ways. Now animals are carefully guarded against poaching as their herds rebuild from near extinction, especially the black rhinos. It is a success story that should be studied, but the book is a very enjoyable read as Garth's memoirs of four decades of loving work by amazing people. A terrific read for anyone interested in saving our wonderful planet.