Dr Saskia van Oosterhout

  • Dr. Saskia van Oosterhout has researched peoples connection to land and plants and their associated sacred and material knowledge systems in Southern Africa. She spent nearly 25 years working in Zimbabwe on natural resource management in marginal areas, with a focus on the gendered power relations inherent in traditional and modern seed exchange systems. She has done gender and natural resource management work in several African countries including South Sudan, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda. Currently she is working for FAO in Northern Africa and the Near East on natural resource management and resilience in the face of climate change. Together with Gillian Atherstone, co-author of this presentation, she is currently researching the women survivors of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that continues to sweep southern Africa, and how their deep affinity for natural plant based remedies continues to be passed on to others in a deeply personal and shared spiritual experience. Gillian set up the non-profit organisation Communities Can Do It to assist these women to help alleviate the suffering of the young orphans whose parents have died in the epidemic. Gill’s forthcoming book, ‘Beyond language: symbolism in the traditional arts of Zimbabwe’, illuminates the profound indigenous philosophy of the Shona people in relation to the issues they now face.