The end of cattle's paradise: How land diversion for ranches eroded food security in the Gambos, Angola
This report documents how over the past two decades after the civil war, the encroachment of commercial cattle ranchers on the traditional grazing land of Tunda dos Gambos and Vale de Chimbolela has eroded economic, social, and cultural resilience, most notably food security, among the Vanyaneka and Ovaherero people in the Gambos, Angola.
In the southernmost end of Angola’s southern province of Huila lies the Gambos municipality, the home of Tunda and Chimbolela, the customary grazing commons for the region’s pastoralists. Traditional cattle breeders from all the three provinces that comprise southern Angola – Cunene, Huila, and Namibe – can be found grazing their livestock here, particularly in dry and drought seasons. These traditional cattle breeders are part of two major ethnic groups: The Vanyaneka whose branches include Vangambwe, Vakwankhwa, Vatyilenge, Vahanda, Vatyipungu, Vandongwena, Vamwila, and Vankhumbi; and the Ovaherero whose branches include Vakuvale, Vandzimba, Vahakavona, Vahimba, Vakavikwa, and Vakwandu.
The Gambos municipality in Huila province is part of the milk region – so described owing to the local practices of harvesting, processing, and consuming milk and its derivatives (butter, cheese, milk fat, and yoghurt). The word Gambos means land of the Vangambwe people.
Dubbed the cradle of cattle by the traditional cattle breeders of southern Angola, Chimbolela has been the backbone of pastoralism as a means and a way of life. The meaning of the name Chimbolela itself speaks to the life-sustaining ecological services that accrue to the pastoralists as they interact with their cattle and the local ecosystem. In Ngambwe language, Chimbolela is “the place where food goes bad in our possession because of abundance,” “the valley of miracles,” “the cradle of cattle” or “the mother of cattle,” which for generations was a sanctuary that shielded Vanyaneka and Ovaherero herders and their cattle from the cycles of droughts.