To survive in the African wilderness, the need to have an fire is not only important for cooking your food, but more importantly for safety and warmth.

Africa has many predators, such as lions, leopards and hyenas. Any of these animals will try and make an meal of you at night. Than there is the elephants, rhino and little pesky jackals.

San family making fire with two sticks in the traditional way

There are two prime things you need to survive in Africa: water and fire. Without these two it would be extremely difficult.

How to make fire with two sticks, the San / Bushmen way

Making fire by friction is as old as the human race, and is still used today by some tribes in Africa, such as the San / Bushmen of Namibia and Botswana's Kalahari region. Each San hunter will carry his fire-sticks with him in his quiver and will never be without it.

San / Bushmen bow, arrows, quiver and his fire-sticks.

Firstly, you need certain materials, all of which could be reasonably easily found in most regions in Africa. Making an fire need patience and planning your whole process, so that it could be done in an systematic way, and you not spending all your energy. Belief me, it is not as easy as it looks, you need to think of how and what you are going to do.

1: Two straight sticks of about 40 cm in length, and about 1 cm thick. They need to be really dry and preferably from wood of mid-hardness. Wood that is ideally suited for this purpose must have a large, soft inner core. The trees commonly used are the Sycamore Fig (Ficus sycomorus), the Knobbly combretum (Combretum mossambicenses), and the Confetti tree (Maytenus senegalensis).

2: An bundle of very dry thin grass and kindling + small twigs and bigger twigs, all to keep your flame going, once you created it. The drier your fire-starter material, the better.

3: You need patience and perseverance.

4: One of your fire-sticks (called "driver" stick) need to have an sharp point. You could sharpen it by rubbing it against a rock or stone.

5: You second fire-stick (called the "kindle" stick) need to have an off-centre indentation for your "driver" stick to rest in.

Try and see the picture in your mind of what your fire-sticks have to do: The one need to make an hole into the other, and this friction hole need to cut an open groove on the side of the "kindle" stick, for the ember-dust to fall on the fine grass directly below it. The whole idea is, to use the fine friction generated ember-dust of the "kindle" stick igniting the dry grass. Once the grass start to smoulder, blow on it in a slow steady manner, to ignite the grass. Once the flame started, feed the flame with the small dry thin twigs, to build your flame up into an fire.

There are two ways of twirling your "driver" stick:

By twirling the "driver" stick between the hand palms while applying an down-ward pressure. This method generally need two people, one taking over from the other without interrupting the twirling process.

Another way of doing this, and definitely an easier way if you on your own: make an small bow from an flexible green branch (about 50 cm long). Normally the Bushmen will use an leather string for the bow (shoe lace work well). Loop the slightly tight bow-string around your "driver" stick, and use that to generate the twirling of the "driver" stick. You will also need to find another piece hard wood, with an hole in it, or small stone with an hole in it. The Bushmen often use an old land-snail shell which they carry with them, or a piece of bone prepared for this, and they will spit in it to prevent it from getting to hot from the friction.

The reason for this "cap" is, that you need to hold your "driver" stick in place with a slight down-ward pressure, while twirling it with your bow. Again you need to do the twirling of your "driver stick in an steady continuous manner till it create the red-hot wood dust embers for starting your flame.