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Landscapes as libraries: a history of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg from 1818 to 2009

Monique Salomon
Victor Bangamwabo
Terry Everson
Nicky Allsopp
Onisimo Mutanga
Robert Fincham


A review of the history of Okhombe, a rural village in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Mountain Region, was undertaken to explore a possible causal link between cattle grazing and soil erosion. Secondary data, digitized maps of aerial photographs, rainfall data, and cattle numbers were analysed. Four historical episodes were identified in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Mountain Region since the 1800s, while changes in land use, rainfall, and cattle numbers in Okhombe were tracked. The research examines the dominant view of many government staff and scientists, that overstocking and overgrazing of cattle on communal lands has resulted in soil erosion. However, the landscapes of Okhombe and the wider uKhahlamba Drakensberg region were shaped by multiple factors, with legislated disenfranchisement and territorial segregation since the 1800s onwards leaving a lasting imprint.
“Landscapes are libraries whose information is ignored by most academics. Approaching the history and future of a place through its landscape provides unique perspectives and opportunities” (Showers 2005: 1).

Innovation, No.44, June 2012