Situated in the heart of Namibia’s NamibRand Nature Reserve, Wolwedans is surrounded by arid Namib desert, which at times can be harsh and unforgiving. Yet thanks to the abundant availability of underground water, our “Heart & Home” of Wolwedans Village has become an island of green amidst the shades of ochre, brown, and red desert hues over the years. Trees provide shade, hedges shelter from the hot desert winds and dust, and vegetable gardens in the heart of the village exude a sense of… well, “Eden”. With more trees planted every year, Wolwedans is gradually turning into a desert oasis, attracting more birds and hopefully one day even bees.
The AridEden Project is not about the green gardens and the profoundly beautiful landscapes, as such, though. In that sense, the whole of western Namibia is an arid Eden. More so, it is about the ‘energy’ of a place, the happiness of the people who live there and of the guests they host, and the well-being of nature. It describes a "new way" – of building better, more sustainable, and equitable tourism/ conservation economies. AridEden, therefore, does not refer to a location, but rather describes a holistic vision for a better world. It is a world in which we live in harmony: with ourselves, with each other, and with nature.
Cynics will undoubtedly feel compelled to place the idea in the drawer of “just another utopian dream”, but this will not deter Wolwedans and our supporters from giving it our best shot – for the sake of Mother Earth, our children and business in balance, and for the happiness of people.
A personal note from Stephan Brückner:
After brainstorming a suitable title for the Wolwedans Vision 2030 for many months, without much success, the concept of “The AridEden Project” unexpectedly came to me during a long drive from Windhoek to Wolwedans. As I reached the open plains of the pro-Namib and felt a sense of joy and happiness to be out of the city, it just appeared – AridEden. This is what it was. It was a true ‘aha!’ moment and by the time I arrived at Wolwedans, the name stuck: The AridEden Project. I registered the domain www.arideden.org – surprised, yet relieved, that it had not been taken – and was pleased to have come up with a great theme for the vision.
Some weeks later while ‘Googling’, I discovered to my utter dismay that there was a book entitled “An Arid EDEN”, written by Namibian conservation legend Garth Owen-Smith who passed on in April 2020. The book, which I subsequently read and highly recommend, is a personal account of Garth’s many years in conservation, much of it spent in the Kaokoland – the heart of his “Arid Eden”.
With this new knowledge, I pondered the ethics of using ‘Arid Eden’ for our mission ahead, while also being clear about their complementarity: Garth’s Arid Eden is a place – a region and a landscape – whereas The AridEden Project is a broader concept and sustainability movement. Reaching out to Dr Margaret Jacobsohn (Garth’s life partner) about the matter, thankfully put my concerns to rest. She indicated that she believed, “Garth would be happy with [our] plan to go deeper into the new circular economy.” Her unreserved support for The Arid Eden Project and sense that Garth would likely have shared this feeling were received with a great sense of relief. It was, after all, Garth's firm belief based on years working in the trenches of conservation that you cannot conserve land without local people deriving a benefit from taking care of it. Thank you for this vision, Garth, one which we at Wolwedans share whole-heartedly.