The Tswalu Foundation stemmed from the vision that Jonathan and Jennifer Oppenheimer had to provide a means of both encouraging and facilitating environmental research at Tswalu Kalahari. In 2009 this vision became a reality when the Foundation was created with seed money from the family being used as initial capital to fund various research projects on Tswalu. From its humble beginnings the Tswalu Foundation has grown into a world leader in the field of environmental research within the southern Kalahari and attracts research teams from across the globe. In order to generate income for research, a core objective of the Foundation has always been to stimulate interest amongst our staff and guests through ongoing interaction with both researchers and Foundation staff while visiting Tswalu.


Research teams are accommodated at the Dedeben Research Centre, a complex of repurposed buildings that originally dates back to to the late 1880s when a remote outpost of the Cape Mounted Rifles was built on this site. At the time of its inception, this police outpost was the most northerly police station in the old Gordonia province of South Africa, and camels were used for mounted patrols. The original buildings on the site were replaced in the early 1970s, creating more modern facilities that remained active until its closure in 1990.


Dedeben stood empty and derelict until taken over by Tswalu in 2000,  when the main office block became a primary health care centre and the station houses used for staff accommodation. With the increased interest in research on Tswalu and the formation of the Tswalu Foundation, the decision was taken to repurpose Dedeben once again by converting it into a research centre while still maintaining the integrity of the facility in terms of its historic value. Its role as a ‘home away from home’ for visiting researchers and as a base for the Tswalu Foundation will continue to be valued for years to come.



Research teams at Tswalu are accommodated at the Dedeben Research Centre, a facility that can currently hold 21 researchers in the repurposed police station. Set in a beautiful and safe location, the centre lies within the folds of the Korannaberg hills and is within easy striking distance of our main staff complex with its workshop, fuel depot, primary health care clinic and other logistical support facilities.


Conservation research from Tswalu Foundation


Thanks to its central location, Dedeben offers convenient access to the wide range of habitats across the reserve – from rolling dune fields to rocky hills and calcrete pans – thereby encouraging research teams to spend time in the field collecting data while having the security of a well-maintained base for operations. The duration of stay at Dedeben is unlimited, and some teams having had students on the ground for more than 10 years. Other researchers stay for short stints, but return regularly.


The research centre also houses the Artist in Residence (AiR) programme, which recently saw the addition of a dedicated art studio conceived through the Tswalu Foundation’s collaboration with the Everard Read Gallery. Having artists and scientific researchers based in one place generates a fantastic atmosphere of creativity, collaboration and camaraderie and is also a point of interest for guests who have an interest in the work supported by the Foundation.


To get in touch with the research team, please send an email to
[email protected]

Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation (OGRC) is a funder and partner of the Tswalu Foundation, enabling research teams from across the globe to conduct long-term studies on the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve. OGRC is focused on catalysing targeted research and harnessing dialogue between research and practice to create real impact in African landscapes. The work of OGRC and its many partners aims to support human wellbeing, protect important landscapes, and develop better human-nature relationships for the benefit of the African continent. The annual Oppenheimer Research Conference is recognised globally as a platform for showcasing and discussing natural and environmental sciences, conservation, and sustainable development in Africa.