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date: 21 February 2019

Kalahari, Desert Kalahari Desert

Encyclopedia of Africa

Robert Fay

Kalahari, Desert Kalahari Desert Semi-arid region in southern Africa inhabited by the Khoikhoi peoples. 

Covering an area of approximately 260,000 sq km (about 100,000 sq mi), the Kalahari Desert spans southern Botswana, eastern Namibia, and northern South Africa. Although it is not actually a desert (it is classified as a “thirstland”), the Kalahari is an arid region covered by grasses and brush, although tubers and bulbous plants grow there. Except for the Boteti River, the region is fed with no surface water; thus Kalahari wildlife, which includes wildebeest, zebra, eland, giraffe, and elephant, must rely on waterholes.

Largely unsuitable for agriculture, the Kalahari was long inhabited only by the Khoikhoi and San peoples (often referred to as Bushmen), who lived by hunting, foraging, and raising livestock. But parts of the Kalahari have now been turned into national parks and game reserves. These have provided some employment for the desert’s longtime residents, but have also restricted access to their former hunting territory.

See also Biogeography of Africa; Tourism in Africa; Wildlife Management in Africa.


Main, Michael. Kalahari: Life’s Variety in Dune and Delta. Southern Book Publishers, 1987.Find this resource:

Thomas, David S. G. The Kalahari Environment. Cambridge University Press, 1991.Find this resource:

Robert Fay