river
Okavango facts

The Cubango-Okavango Catchment is 413,550 square km, plus the Delta, an additional 15,844 km, which is part of the surrounding dry Makgadikgadi Basin of 725,293 square km.

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Okavango Peoples

There is wide ethnic diversity among the peoples of the Cubango-Okavango Basin, including Bantu and non-Bantu ethnic groups.
Peoples of the Okavango
The Cubango-Okavango River Basin is home to approximately 921,890 people. By 2025, this is projected to increase to more than 1.28 million people, with 62 percent living in Angola, 16 percent in Botswana and 22 percent in Namibia.

Angola

There are five major ethno-linguistic groups within the population of the Angolan basin.

  • The Umbundo occupy the upper reaches of the Cubango in fairly dense settlements (about 16 percent of the basin’s population) and mainly use the olonaka farming methods (traditional form of recessional agriculture practised in Angola).
  • The Ganguela (nearly 50 percent) are mainly traditional farmers in the east, and cattle breeders in the west.
  • The Lunda-Tchokwe (nearly 33 percent) are farmers who occupy most of the centre of the basin.
  • The Ambó live on the Namibian border to the west, with a strong reliance on cattle breeding. There are a few Xindonga people living on the Namibian border to the east, between the river courses of the Cubango and Cuando, who are cattle farmers. There are also small enclaves of the original, non-Bantu Khoisan populations in the province of Cuando Cubango.
  • There are a few Xindonga people living on the Namibian border to the east, between the river courses of the Cubango and Cuando, who are cattle farmers.

 

    Botswana

    The ethnic groups in Ngamiland are dominated by:

    • The Bahambukushu in the panhandle area
    • The Bayeyi in the western, central, and south-eastern delta
    • The Batawana in the southern and eastern parts of the delta.

     

      Namibia

      Five ethnic groups occupy the Namibian part of the basin from west to east along the river – the Kwangali, Mbunza, Shambyu, Gciriku, and Mbukushu. The first two groups, who represent almost half the population in the basin, speak Rukangwali. The Shambyu and Gciriku speak Rumanyo, and the Mbukushu speak Thimbukushu. About 33 percent of Rundu residents and 15 percent of rural inhabitants speak an Angolan national language, mainly Nyemba, Ombundu, Ngangela or Chokwe. Other groups include:

      • The Dxeriku, living in the panhandle
      • The Bugakwe and Xanekwe – Khoisan who have traditionally practised fishing, hunting, and the collection of wild plant foods.
      • The Bugakwe use both forest and riverine resources while the Xanekwe mostly focus on riverine resources.
      • The Bahambukushu, Dxeriku, and Bugakwe are also present along the Cubango River in Angola.
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