Namibia's bountiful coasts, unique landscapes and biodiversity contribute greatly to its wealth. Although these resources are under threat, Namibia's strong commitment to poverty reduction through conservation is advancing the sustainable development agenda.
Namibia is located in the south-western Atlantic coast of the African continent and is covered by two of Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest deserts: the Namib and the Kalahari. Namibia has been well endowed with natural resources, including a diversity of wild fauna and flora, diamonds, uranium, lead, copper, zinc, natural gas as well as fisheries. These resources have significant socio-economic development potential attached to them, especially through the agriculture, fisheries, tourism and mining sectors. These resources contribute to a significant part of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and are increasingly under threat from unsustainable practices such as overgrazing, land degradation, desertification, population pressures, overfishing and inefficient use of water resources. Climate change has also had a significant impact on the nation’s resources, leaving many vulnerable to the effects of droughts and floods. Many people in Namibia fall below the poverty line but sustainable, green development that makes use of the nation’s resources could better the lives for thousands.
Namibia is a large and sparsely populated country, bordering Angola, Botswana, South Africa and the Atlantic. Most of the almost 1 million square kilometers of land is composed of unique deserts, where dunes take on different shapes and colors from their interactions with the elements. Namibia’s deserts host various wildlife and plants that have adapted to the dry environment. The Namib Desert, for which Namibia is best known, is one of the oldest deserts in the world where little or no rain falls in parts. In this deserted area the oryx, the symbol of Namibia, can be found. These famous deserts met the country’s hostile yet fascinating shoreline in the west where the ocean contrasts the dunes. Namibia’s coasts are highly productive with over 20 commercial species such as pike, tuna and lobster being harvested through the country’s 200 nautical miles of fishing grounds.
Beyond Namibia’s prosperity in striking landscapes, wildlife and fisheries, the country is also rich in minerals. In 1908 Namibia experienced a diamond rush when it was discovered that the precious stones could just be simply picked up off the sands of the Namib Desert. Since then Namibia has remained one of the most important countries for diamond mining, both onshore and offshore. Other minerals are commonly mined in Namibia including uranium, copper, zinc, lead, magnesium, cadmium, arsenic, pyrites, silver and gold. One resource that is lacking in Namibia though is water due to Namibia’s arid nature. Water scarcity has challenged development in the country. Namibia has been successful in establishing strong public awareness and water conservation practices.
Namibia has seen modest economic growth in the past but the country remains vulnerable to short and long-term environmental shocks since the sources of this growth are dependent on Namibia’s fragile ecosystems. All major production sectors—mining, tourism, livestock and fisheries are subject to environmental variation. Due to the growth of the economy Namibia has made significant progress in addressing many development challenges such as access to basic education, primary health care and safe water. Along with this development progress Namibia has become a leader on the continent in natural resource conservation, with 44% of the total land now protected as well as the country’s entire coastline.
Namibia and the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa
The Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa will continue to assist the Government of Namibia in developing its national plans for conserving natural capital and implementing its community-based approaches to conservation. The Gaborone Declaration Secretariat intends to support Namibia on its execution of the UN’s Systems of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA) for the country’s natural capital accounts. Namibia’s participation in the Gaborone Declaration will continue the progress made with the environmental information service and scale up resource mobilization for conservation projects and private sector conservation initiatives.
National Strategies and Poverty Eradication
Namibia was the first African country to incorporate the protection of the environment in its national constitution. Since then the nation has conducted various natural resource assessments, such as the State of Environment Reports (SER) which are designed to inform and support sustainable development and improved natural resource management. The state of Namibia’s resources is also assessed in the Fifth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity (2010-2014) and has indicated an increase in the areas of biomes and vegetation under conservation. Community-based natural resource management initiatives have been a driving force behind the increase in conservation areas. Historically the government of Namibia has given communities the ability to protect their own lands through communal conservancies. These conservancies, through initiatives like eco-tourism, have protected local resources and brought sustainable livelihoods to communities. Namibia is also party to several United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) among others. The nation’s Ministry of Environment (MET) has also launched a Namibian Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (2013-2020) looking to incorporate sustainability into national planning and a green economy. Many of these national strategies lay the groundwork for Namibia to implement the Gaborone Declaration to achieve sustainable development.
Natural Capital Accounting
With around 30% of its population living under the poverty line and dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, the Government of Namibia is cognizant of the links between natural capital and poverty eradication. Namibia’s Vision 2030 and the five-year National Development Plans (NDP) work to realize the importance of protecting natural capital to eradicate poverty. These plans have identified 9 key economic sectors to focus on for poverty alleviation and their links to critical natural capital: agriculture; forestry; fisheries; water; lands; mining; energy; wildlife; and tourism. Namibia has been engaged in measuring the importance of its natural capital through the UN’s SEEA and, with the support of the Gaborone Declaration Secretariat, will continue to build capacity on this initiative.
Private Sector Partnerships
With the 9 identified target sectors for natural capital accounting, there is room for collaboration between the Government of Namibia and the private sector on poverty alleviation and natural resource conservation. Very little is actualized currently between private-public partnerships in the context of natural resource conservation, but this is expected to change.
Image credits, top to bottom: © Eric Montfort/ Flickr Creative Commons; © Aftab Uzzaman/ Flickr Creative Commons; © Dave Clift
Namibia Quick Facts
A leader in natural resource conservation, 44% of Namibia's land is protected, as well as the country's entire coastline.
Namibia was the first African country to incorporate the protection of the environment in its national constitution.
Approximately 30% of Namibia's population is living under the poverty line and dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods.
Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa Focal Point for Botswana
Mr. Olimpio Nhuleipo