How we work

Our mission

Open Channels works to ensure a voice for dispossessed communities seeking to define their lands, resources and rights, to build their strength and secure a just place in today’s world. We do this according to the requirements and input of the communities and representative organizations that invite us to work with them.

Believing that communication and empowerment are inseparably linked, we make expertise and other resources available so that the community can define and argue their case with government bodies, in courts of law, in the media and among the general public at local, national and international level.

In 2005, UNESCO recognised Open Channels’ work with the San of South Africa as a global model for culturally-based eco-tourism.

Our strategies

  • to work with partners in southern Africa that support the San to reach into their own culture and knowledge systems to find the solutions to their dilemmas and vulnerability;
  • to draw out the knowledge of elders and to ensure that young people receive training and support;
  • to use mapping and other tools to make cultural resources visible and available to help San create economic development projects that have ongoing stability;
  • to acknowledge and recognize San identity, self-esteem and resources;
  • to take account of the high and growing levels of HIV/AIDS among the San.


Working with communitiesThe securing of 45,000 hectares of land for the San was a major achievement. It was part of a comprehensive settlement between the San and the government of South Africa and was the first indigenous people’s land claim in Africa. Thabo Mbeki, president-elect, is pictured here with Petrus Vaalboi (right) and Dawid Kruiper (left), two of the leading figures of the claim, during the celebrations in the southern Kalahari in 1999. To the far left is former land affairs minister Derek Hanekom.

Open Channels has now documented the lessons learned from the South Africa land claim in an educational DVD that tells the story of the claim, its impact on the San and its potential for the future. For more information, please click here.

Photo credit: South African San Institute

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