Natural Gas Extraction-RSA-2W-Barbee

The First Farmers Of The Karoo

Natural Gas Extraction-RSA-2W-Barbee
Raymond Claasen, a native San from the people who originally populated the Karoo in Barrydale. “The people that want to come and spoil our water are just after gold, nothing else”. He has farmed inthe Karoo for 23 years and fears for his indigenous nursery if the water is disturbed. The Karoo Desert takes up almost half of South Africa’s land area, and is the latest battleground between large scale industrial natural gas exploitation and local communities and NGOs. In towns from Barrydale to Prieska, these images chart the past and future of the Karoo and it’s people.

This is Raymond Claasons, a Khoi San farmer from Barrydale in the Karoo. Raymond owns a farm near the Barrydale hot springs. This spring, like many in the Karoo Desert is artesian, meaning a well where pressured drives water to the surface. Reliant on this spring as a source of water for his indigenous nursery, Claasons is worried that proposed natural gas development in the area may interfere with how the spring works.

He may not be far wrong, considering that Prof Gerrit Von Tonder, a geo-hydrologist from the University of the Free State, is worried about the effects of hydraulic frackuring for precisely this reason. Because springs like the one that feeds Claason’s farm are often channeling water up from very deep in the shale along dolerite dykes that act like elevator shafts, Von Tonder says fracking could damage the springs that feed the people of this desert.

In this image Raymond stands on the deck of his house in Barrydale while a police van is parked on the road to oversee a demonstration by farm workers for increased pay. The Khoi San people were the first farmers in the Karoo and have been living in this desert for thousands of years.

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