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3.10 Country paper: Namibia


Realities and perspectives
Namibia country paper
Written by
J.S. Hailwa
Directorate of Forestry
Ministry of Environment and Tourism
Windhoek, Namibia



Reality and perspectives
In collaboration with ICRAF and CIFOR
Nairobi, Kenya, 9-13 December 2002


Forest can be defined as an administrative or legal unit, a land cover or land use (Lund 1999). The Global Forest Resource Assessment 2000 defines forest as land with a minimum area of 0.5 ha, where the tree crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) is more than 10 per cent. Primary forest or virgin forest is defined as an original forest, usually containing large trees that has not been significantly disturbed or influenced by human activities. It is also refer red to as old-growth forest that generally contain trees that are large for their species and site and sometimes decadent (over mature) with broken tops, often a variety of tree sizes, large snags and logs, and developed and often with a patchy understorey. In many cases if the forest is seriously deteriorated it may not be able to regain its original state, both physical and productivity.

However, after such disturbances the forests may recover but may be in a different form with different vegetation characteristics. The new and different forest successional stages are termed secondary forests. Another author refers to the similar type of forests as second-growth forest and defines it as a relatively young forest that has been regenerated naturally or artificially after some drastic interference such as extensive cutting, wildfire, insect or disease attack, or blow down. Secondary forests are categorized based on causes of formation and origin of secondary forests or even land use systems as follows (Chokkalingam and De Jong 2001):

a) Post extraction secondary forests: forests regenerating largely through natural processes after significant reduction in the original forest canopy through tree extraction at single point in time or over extended period.

b) Swidden fallow secondary forests: forests regenerating largely through natural processes in woody fallows of swidden agriculture for the purpose of regenerating the land and providing products and services for farmers and/or communities.

c) Rehabilitated secondary forests: forests regenerating largely through natural processes on degraded lands. Regeneration can be enhanced by protection from chronic disturbance, site stabilisation, water management, and planting to facilitate natural regeneration.

d) Post fire secondary forests: forests regenerating largely through natural processes after significant reduction in the original forest canopy caused by fires at a single point in time or over an extended period, and displaying a major change in forest structure and/or canopy species composition from that of potential primary/natural forests on similar site conditions in the area, given a long time without significant disturbance.

e) Post abandonment secondary forests: forests regenerating largely through natural processes after abandonment of alternative land uses such as agriculture or pasture growing for cattle.

The paper attempts to gather, analyse and make available knowledge on the current status, trends and extent of secondary forests in Namibia as a contribution to an assessment of secondary forests in Africa at large. Given the difficulties to distinguish secondary forests clearly from the primary forests, it makes it almost impossible to describe all the areas covered by the secondary forests. Due to the time limit to cover the large area in the field, the information was based on the existing literature and extensive observation in some parts of the country particularly in the northern regions.


2.1 Biophysical environment

The Republic of Namibia is located in the south-western part of Africa, between 17S and 29S, and between 11.7E and 25.4E. Namibia shares borders with Angola in the north, Zambia and Zimbabwe at the eastern end of the Caprivi Strip, Botswana in the East and South Africa in the south and southeast. To the west the coastline of Namibia extends along the Atlantic Ocean for about 1 600 km. Namibia has a surface area of 824 269 km2.

The combination of low precipitation and high evaporation makes Namibia the most arid country in Sub Saharan Africa (Brown 1996). The annual mean precipitation ranges from less than 20 mm on the west coast to over 600 mm in the extreme northeast. The annual mean precipitation for the whole country is 270 mm and occurs mainly as summer rainfall, which is unpredictable and highly variable (Van der Merwe 1983, Hutchinson 1995). The potential annual mean evaporation varies between 2 600 mm in the northwest and 3 700 mm in the southeast. Perennial rivers are limited to the southern and northern borders, and the Caprivi regions in the northeast. The rivers in the interior are ephemeral, flowing only after intensive rains in their catchment areas (Jacobson et al. 1995).

2.2 General socio-economic situation

The Namibian population is a relatively small 1,8 million (National Census figures, 2001). About 30 per cent of the population live in urban or semi-urban areas, while the remaining 70 per cent of the population live in the rural areas. The majority are found in the northern regions. Mining dominates the Namibian economy. Agriculture, fisheries and Tourism are sectors that also contribute significantly to the national economy. Forests contribute more to the informal and subsistence activities. Although the GDP indicates the well-being of the nation, Namibia has a huge difference between poor and rich people. The country has gained independence in 1990 after being managed for many years by South Africa.

The major development challenges facing Namibian people today are employment generation and poverty alleviation. To overcome these challenges, the government has designed a reform framework incorporating policies and programmes that it is implementing to stimulate sustainable economic growth and thereby lead to reduce poverty and unemployment. The government policy objectives and strategies to meet these challenges are intended to:

2.3. Forestry and land use situation in Namibia

2.3.1 Forestry situation in Namibia

The climate and geology of Namibia has produced an interesting array of dry land vegetation zones and even unique regions of endemism much treasured by ecologists, taxonomists and the ordinary tourist. The Namib Desert lies along the coast and the Kalahari is on the eastern part of the country. The Central Region, which is a plateau, has various types of Acacia -dominated savannahs. The north-eastern parts are occupied by relatively taller semi-open woodlands growing on deep Aeolian Kalahari Sands.

Namibia's forest resources constitute an important national heritage, which provides both economic and environmental benefits. Forestry development in Namibia started at the beginning of the 20th century when the role of woody vegetation in environmental protection was recognised by the German colonial government. The Colonial policy of forest exploitation, especially in the communal areas of Ovambo, Kavango and Caprivi, and commercial areas of Tsumeb and Grootfontein started in the 1930s. In the late 1960s and early 1970s there were definite attempts to improve the sustainable use of the woodland/forest resources of northern Namibia. During that time it was not the practice, as in most parts of Africa and other parts of the world, to involve community participation in forest management. The approach since 1970 was to do representative forest inventories covering large areas of Ovambo (Geldenhuys 1976) and 1,5 million ha of Kavango (Geldenhuys 1975) to develop strategic planning of the woodland/forest resources, and to do a detailed inventory of a 40 000 ha forest reserve as a basis for yield regulation to ensure sustainable resource use, and with guidelines on silvicultural management and research to obtain information on growth rates of tree species and their regeneration (Geldenhuys 1977a).

Veld burning experiments were conducted and analysed for use in the woodlands as part of the management plans (Geldenhuys 1977b). Knowledge was obtained from Zimbabwe to help to implement meaningful management of the resources. An attempt was made to use a wider range of the tree species than the two main species used by that time. The forest/woodland resources were then in a much better condition than those in neighbouring countries. This information was synthesized to help to improve the resource management through the Namibian Forestry Strategic Plan since independence (Geldenhuys 1996). Detailed fire management planning was in place to manage fire and to protect resources against uncontrolled fires. There were also several attempts to establish various woodlots with eucalypt and other species to provide in the needs for poles and construction material to reduce the pressure on the woodlands (Erkkila and Siiskonen 1992).

The country's liberation struggle between the early 1970s and late 1980s prevented the implementation of forestry development activities in large areas of Northern Namibia, which needed attention and still carries the bulk of the forest resources. Since independence in 1990 there were several activities to develop the Namibia Forestry Strategic Plan (1996).

The Forestry Directorate now has presence in all thirteen political regions. The Directorate is divided into the Forest Management and Forestry Research Divisions. Prior to independence, staff members with forestry training were seconded from South Africa to assist in forestry development. Now the entire Directorate is managed by qualified Namibians after the sector has been led since independence by expatriates from the neighbouring African countries assisted by the donor countries such as Finland, Denmark, UK, Australia, etc.

2.3.2 Land use situation in Namibia

Land ownership in Namibia is divided into three types, namely Private owned land (commercial farms and lands in municipal areas), State land in the protected areas such as parks and nature reserves, and Communal land. Strictly speaking, the communal land is also a state land which is entrusted in the custody of the traditional authority for day-to-day use by the people in rural areas. Land in the communal areas seriously suffered due to the great pressure by the people and lack of proper and systematic land use planning. As a result most of the natural resources such as grazing tremendously suffered in the communal areas.

The Communal Lands Act of 2002 ensures that communal land is regulated via a register and it restricts the amount of land that any individual can have access to. The Communal Lands Act is an important legal instrument in terms of the establishment of community forests. The Directorate of Forestry needs to take cognisance of the provisions of the Act and may need to make appropriate adjustments to its community forestry approach whenever necessary.


In 1995 the estimated forest cover was 3454 million ha, 26,6 per cent of the total land area of the world, with Greenland and Antarctica excluded (FAO 1997). Between 1980 and 1995, the extent of the world's forests decreased by some 180 million ha, which represents an annual loss of 12 million ha. During that 15-year period, developing countries lost nearly 200 million ha of natural forests, mainly due to agricultural expansion (especially Africa and Asia) and to development programmes (in Latin America and Asia). Forests in developed countries expanded by some 20 million ha mainly through afforestation and reforestation. Deforestation has been greatest in the tropical zone of the developing countries, where the annual loss of forest cover between 1990 and 1995 was estimated to comprise 12.6 million ha (0.7 per cent annual deforestation rate). During that five-year period the annual loss of forest cover in tropical Africa was 3.7 million ha (annual deforestation rate of 0,7 per cent.

In Namibia most of the forests are located in the north-central and north-eastern parts, although there are also forested areas along the ephemeral rivers in the central and western parts of the country. Open to closed forests are estimated to have comprised 12.4 million ha in 1995, which is 15 per cent of the total land area. During the period 1990 - 1995, the estimated annual loss of forest cover was 42 000 ha, the annual rate of deforestation being 0.3 per cent (FAO 1997). The loss of woody vegetation cover and the consequent environment and socio-economic problems are severe, especially in the north-central regions of Namibia.

The earliest reports concerning degradation of wood resources in Owamboland date back to the 19th century. According to observations of the Swiss botanist Hanz Schinz, who visited the area in 1885-1886, many of the previously well wooded areas had been converted to agriculture and in addition large scale tree felling was practised to supply wood for new domestic constructions and to maintain old ones (Shinz 1891, p 483). A Finnish missionary, Martti Rautanen, reported in 1907 that, due to the extensive felling of trees, households in the southern Owambo communities were compelled to use millet stalks as substitutes for wooden poles in building. The representative of the mandate administration at Oshikango, at the Namibian Angolan border, wrote in 1931 that forest trees were being destroyed at an alarming rate.

Forests in Namibia are found in both privately owned and communal land. The forests in Namibia had been exposed to different destructive forces such as fires, selective cutting by man, or clear cutting for crop production. It is not always properly recorded in all parts of Namibia that a given area was covered with a specific vegetation type before such destruction and that the vegetation has greatly or totally changed after the destructive forces.

Generally the Namibian landscape in areas where forests occur is mainly flat at an altitude of about 1000 m above sea level. In south central Namibia there are individual mountains that some hundreds of kilometres apart.

Forest loss is mainly due to clearing of land for agricultural purposes. Such areas are normally covered with agricultural crops during the rainy season. It is, however, a well-known fact that farmers in communal areas of the north grow agricultural crops together with the indigenous fruit trees. There are crop fields that are having 10 - 20 per cent cover of these trees. These fruit trees include species such as Sclerocaria birrea (Marula), Berchemia discolor (bird plum), Palm trees, Schinziophyton rautanenii, Strychnos cocculoides and S. pungens, fig trees, etc. Hence, in most cases where the original forest types were removed, they were replaced by agricultural land with those different fruit trees (Erkkila 2001). It is not clear whether such areas should be called forests or merely trees outside forests. If such land is abandoned or left to fallow, then they can develop into Swidden fallow secondary forest. This is mainly visible in the north central region where agriculture is one of the main activities for livelihood.

Forests (or deciduous undifferentiated woodland according to White (1983) in Namibia have developed based on the occurrence of fires. With the introduction of grazing management about 100 years ago, fires have been excluded from some farms. Hence, in some commercial farming areas some species became aggressive and filled open spaces in the area after total exclusion of bush fires, coupled with overgrazing. This bush encroachment, a form of Post-fire secondary forest, is a serious problem in Namibia. These types of forests are found in the central towards the mid-northern districts of Otjiwarongo, Otavi, Tsumeb, Grootfontein and Okahandja. Species that form part of this problem are Acacia mellifera, A. hereroensis, Dichrostachys cinerea, Terminalia spp., and Colophospermum mopane to a limited extent. It seems to be more common in the areas with low annual rainfall.

The bush encroachment area can be divided into two main regions and five sub-regions according to vegetation and climate (Erkkila and Siiskonen 1992). The southern region occupies 5.5 million ha and the northern region one 2.5 million ha. The total biomass of shrubs and trees has been estimated to be 100 million tonnes. The average tree was defined as three meters in height with a stem diameter of less than 15 cm and oven weight of about 150 kg. Although a great extent of formal management is found in these areas, forests are not at the centre of management. The prime objective is to have adequate grazing for cattle. The recent interest in game farming generates interest in taking care of the woody vegetation for habitat and fodder for game found on a farm. Furthermore, charcoal production as discussed below also is gaining momentum to guarantee proper management of woody plants.

Another category is the forests that are found in communal land but outside the crop fields. These are the forests where anyone of the local people goes and collect the amount of wood as per his/her needs. Most of the original trees are removed over a long period of time. These forests can be classified as Post-extraction secondary forests. Some of these forests consist up to 90 per cent of the secondary growth. The emphasis in this regard is put on the mopane shrubland (Colophospermum mopane) occurring in large areas of north-western Namibia. C. mopane grows in more or less pure stands. The tree species forms an extremely important resource for the local subsistence farmers, who derive a wide range of products from it (Gelens 1996; Rodin 1985). This area can be estimated as 10 million ha in the northwestern part of the country.

Rehabilitated secondary forests are found but at very limited scale. Man-made forests in Namibia currently cover about 1000 ha. However, the political climate is becoming more and more conducive to increasing tree planting activities. Tree planting activities are an expensive exercise due to dry marginal climate. The adopted Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM), including forests, will allow forests to regenerate naturally without much disturbance. The areas currently under some form of CBNRM are shown in Table 1.


As indicated earlier in this document, in many parts of the country, secondary forests are not easily distinguishably from the old forests. Hence, the discussions in this section will be mainly on the importance of forests in Namibia, which include both old growth and secondary forests. It is assumed that the majority of the old growth has been used already and these days there are mainly secondary forests being utilised by the people. The management of the taller semi-open woodlands occurring in much of the communally owned parts of Namibia is described to give an indication of the way in which a more traditional forestry region has been managed. The role of forests in the livelihood of people is shown in Table 2.

Table 1: Areas under management as Forest Reserves

Name of the area under management

Total area covered, ha

Okongo Community Forest

75 000

Uukwaludhi Community Forest

148 441

Uukolonkadhi Community Forest

110 417

Ongandjera Community Forest

121 826

Oshampula Community Forest

1 070

Ohepi Community Forest

5 180

Caprivi State Forest


Sikandjabuka Community Forest


Ndiyona Community Forest

60 000

Namibia, in the recent past, had substantial quantities of timber in the Ohangwena, Kavango and Caprivi Regions as well as Tsumkwe district of Otjozondjupa region (Erkkila and Siiskonen 1992). As it is generally the case in much of the Tropics, one or just a few principal tree species tend to be in high demand. In Namibia, P. angolensis (Mukwa or Kiaat) is the major joinery timber and B. plurijuga traditionally used for making railway sleepers have been exploited by small-scale pit-sawyers and saw millers owning timber concessions. As a result most trees of these species in the woodland are relatively young that can be classified as secondary growth. The system of management was mainly through protection from fire and the regulation of minimum utilisation diameters of logs.

Table 2: Estimated annual economic value of forest resources exploitation


Main species

Annual value (million N$)

Construction poles






Fences for crop protection




Mopane, Acacia spp



Various species






Various bush invaders


Crafts and implements

Various species


Mahangu baskets



Goat forage

Various species


Fencing poles




Marula oil



Hyphaene spp


Commercial logging

Pterocarpus angolensis, Baikaea plurijuga


Mortar and pestle

Various hardwood



Various species


Ornamental roots




Various species


Mopane worm forage




Mangetti kernels


Total economic value


Source: Namibia's Strategic Plan 1997

Some attempts were made to control and manage timber harvesting from the forests (Geldenhuys 1996). For the harvesting of woody biomass for energy, craft making, construction and timber, the wooded savannahs of the central plateau region and the semi-open woodlands of the north and north-east are important. The savannah is dominated by grasses and several woody species of Acacia and others such as Dichrostachys, Terminalia and Combretum. The savannahs are an important wildlife habitat and provide the valuable grazing and browsing for livestock.

The woodlands harbour several nutritious indigenous fruits such as Sclerocarya birrea (marula), Berchemia discolor (bird plum), Strychnos cocculoides (monkey orange) and species of Grewia (brandy bush), to mention a few. Kernels of S. birrea and Schinziophyton rautanenii (Mangeti, mugongo nut) have potential industrial uses for the production of juice (marula) and oil (marula and mangeti). Tylosema esculentum (marama bean) is a food crop. Honey production is yet another economic activity with potential but which is not traditionally practised to any appreciable scale in Namibia.

Several medicinal plants are also found in these woodlands. A good example is the devil's claw Harpagophytum procumbens with a steady market in Europe and is in danger of overexploitation if not properly assessed and managed.

4.1 Charcoal production (from the wooded Savannah)

The charcoal industry is at the moment confined to the commercial farming regions of the Central Plateau. The commercial farms have traditionally been managed as livestock ranges and recently also as game farms. Farmers incur substantial losses as a result of lowered range quality due to bush encroachment, and this requires new technologies to improve livestock production. There are concentrated efforts on bush control through eradication programmes, despite a rich history all over the world of the inherent high costs of eradication of various pests, diseases and weeds or invasive plant species. Mechanical pulling of bush is expensive and chemical control is also a threat to the environment. Against this background, the option of managing the encroaching bush on a sustainable basis to provide woody biomass has come into the picture. It is however complicated by the fact that this is not a typical forest management model dominated by timber and other benefits incidental to it. The wooded farms have to be managed for livestock, game production and woody biomass.

Charcoal use in Namibia is limited primarily to urban centres: within rural areas its use is negligible (NISER 1992). Charcoal production is taking place in the commercial farming areas, using bush encroachment species, i.e. primarily from the secondary forests. Namibia produces about 2 500 tones of charcoal annually, and the amount is increasing. The main market for the products is South Africa and some European countries. It is estimated that 1 000 people are contracted as charcoal producers who sell their products to the farm owners and eventually marketed locally and exported. These workers are earning N$600 per month (US$60). On one hand this is regarded as exploitation of the workers, but on the other hand farmers are only prepared to pay for that specific amount to keep the business viable. More discussions and debate are continued to find a way of keeping the business flourishing without exploitation of the workers.

4.2 Fuel wood

At present, fuel wood is extensively used for cooking and heating by most of both rural and urban households (IDC 2002). Although the formal records at the Ministry of Environment and Tourism indicates that 58 151 tons of wood were harvested for fuel wood purposes, a far larger quantity is harvested for this purpose. In the densely populated areas of central north Namibia, the old forests have already been utilised and all these essential products are currently harvested from secondary forests. However, the profile of fuel wood consumption in Namibia is based on very little accurate information. Entrepreneurs in Namibia are exploring the viability of converting woody biomass from the unwanted bushes into other sources of energy and heat products. For example, fire logs are produced from especially the finer branches of bushes that are not suitable for the use of charcoal; wood gas that is a possible substitute for imported petroleum fuels and can be used as a source of heat in the industrial sector. Worldwide research institutions and registered companies built prototypes and commercial machines to substitute especially organic fuel driven machines for the generation of power from as low as 5kW to as high as 10mW (IDC 2002).


Forests in Namibia play a significant role as habitat of many organisms. The woodlands as ecosystem also support other life forms such as medium and large game and a number of economically useful plants. Traditionally, the woodlands provided valuable extensive grazing and browsing which is the mainstay of the majority of rural people in Namibia. With increasing human and livestock populations, these woodlands have become more precious for livestock production, to the extent that farmers are beginning to feel the impact of uncontrolled wild fires, which have been largely regarded and accepted as a tool in range management. Today, repeated and unplanned wild fires tend to lower rather than improve grazing or browsing quality. It has to be noted that Namibia's efforts in the management of these unique habitats is for a number of benefits other than woody biomass alone. Namibia's effort to manage its savannah is for both rangelands and forestry principles on a sustainable basis. The emphasis is on the principles of broader rangeland ecosystem management which includes both woody and non-wood forest management.

The dryland habitats in the central south of the country supported over the last 80 years a commercial livestock's industry, but now also support "game farming" or trophy hunting on Guest Farms. Forests provide habitat for wildlife.


Secondary forests are quite visible in and around many settlement areas. There is a mixture of trees outside forests that are mainly found in crop fields. They normally grow after people collect and eat fruits from other areas and drop them in their surroundings. Sometimes they are deliberately planted. They include many fruit trees such as Marula, Berchemia discolor, Strychnos, and small areas of woodlands found in the enclosed areas of the farms that are owned by the farmers. These trees are well managed by the farmers themselves, because of the clear tenure. Fruit trees are regarded as sacred trees. It is rare to find a farmer cutting fruit trees. The sparsely growing trees do not qualify to be classified as forests, but they are the secondary growth after the first trees were removed for agricultural land. Coupled to these there are about 1000 ha of planted woodlots of some exotic species such as eucalyptus found in the northern regions of the former Owambo area and Kavango. These areas are well known and are under clear management of the owners - primarily the government forestry department.

Local people use forests in communal land, but outside the occupied fields, to collect wood for their needs. These forests include limited areas of old growth. It is estimated that the savannah areas include 70 to 90 per cent as secondary forests. Mopane shrubland in the large north-western parts of Namibia grow in more or less pure stands. The tree is an important resource for the local subsistence farmers, who derive a wide range of products from it (Gelens 1996; Rodin 1985). For example, stem wood is used for building-material for huts, homesteads and kraal palisades as well as other fences. The wood is also used for axe and hoe handles, pestles and mortars. They are second to none if it comes to fuel wood because they give fires that are slow-burning and that give off an intense heat. Branches are used for making large baskets for millets/sorghum storage. Bark is stripped for braches and made into rope which is used for tying hut frames, homesteads and kraals. Their leaves provide good fodder for both domestic and wild animals. Caterpillars known as mopane worms are regarded as a delicacy. Furthermore, mopane grows in the prime areas for millet production.

Given all of this importance, the mopane forests found themselves under the extreme pressure. As a result, old growths have literary disappeared in many parts of the mopane areas. Much of the original tall and single-stemmed mopane woodland has been converted into land for settlement and agriculture and now mainly persists as low and multi-stemmed mopane shrubland through continuous harvesting for the wide range of products that are used for locally (Gelens 1996). Although it is noticed that many initiatives have commenced within the SADC region to provide a greater degree of support to the local people whose livelihoods depend on its sustainable management, such efforts have not gone very far. It is however important to inform that the national forestry authority is responsible to ensure that the cutting of wood in large quantity is under control. Hence there is a permit system in place to control excessive harvesting of mopane. The department has also adopted the concept of community forests where the communities are assisted to gain knowledge of the forest management and to use their right to utilise these products.

The similar condition is also found in other ecosystems such as in Kalahari sand forest where there are more several useful species. The important tree species are under pressure and law enforcement agencies are trying their best to save them. In such forests one cannot term them as secondary forests because most of the tree species are still found in their original growth. Although the new forest legislation makes a management plan mandatory for every forest before utilisation, the forestry authority is in an infant stage to introduce proper management.


The government of the independent Republic of Namibia puts mechanisms in place to secure control over utilisation of the forests. Hence, the Forest Act wants every forest to be utilised based on a Management Plan. However difficulties are expected due to the inadequate trained staff to assist all the stakeholders in developing the management plans.

It is expected that the management systems will be based on sustainable management. The consumers will not be allowed to harvest more than what the forest can produce in a given period of time. From 1996, a national forest inventory was initiated and pre-harvesting inventories are now required before any timber concessions are awarded. Unfortunately, there is virtually no data on growth and yield on these species. Hence, allowable cut figures are based on the numbers of utilisable stems occurring within various size classes. In deciding the size of a concession, only a maximum proportion of 50 per cent of the utilisable timber can be awarded, in order to preserve the size structure of the natural stands, and to leave large seed trees for natural regeneration, even if they are suitable for logging. This is a practical application of the precautionary principle in cases where only partial information is available. In the process of the inventory, a system of permanent sample plots has been created. The good thing is that current technology of global positioning systems (GPS) enables the accurate tracing of plot centres for future re-measurements. In addition to the precautionary principle, we recently applied Von Mantel's Formula assuming a rotation age of 90 years for both tree species. Clearly more data for growth modelling for these species are needed. This is mainly applicable to saw log production.

When it comes to the integration of the management of the secondary forests and other land use systems, the following can be stated. The forests are part of many land uses such as rangeland management. Three years ago, Namibia has set up a committee known as Namibia Woodland Management Committee that comprises of farmers and environmentalists to see to it that the woody vegetation on the farms are properly utilised to favour social, economic and environmental aspects. Furthermore, trees on farms are part and parcel of the crop production. The Ministry of Lands is also busy developing land use plans for different regions in Namibia. Through the consultation, it is has been indicated that they will consider the forest areas to be part of land use in all regions.

The management of the secondary forests is linked to the management of the rest of the forests in Namibia because they are all managed through the same rules and regulations and similar policies. The status of their ecological, silvicultural and environmental knowledge and values can be described as follows.

In general, information on the forests and other woody biomass vegetation types is very limited in Namibia. The Namibian Directorate of Forestry (DoF), the main institution directly involved in forestry data collection, analysis and dissemination, only relatively recently came into existence. The Directorate of Forestry, in cooperation with the Finnish government, has initiated a National Forestry project with the goal to produce forest data and information on the woodlands in northern Namibia including the young growth. The National Forest Inventory project is a sub-component of the Namibia-Finland Forestry Program, which aims to support DoF's current efforts to develop its human resource capacity in order to be able to manage and perform scientific research to produce data and information needed for forest management activities.

Current data and information available are disseminated through the Directorate's monthly, quarterly and annual progress reporting system, and include number of seedlings raised, number and revenues from harvesting permits, fines, timber contracts, and exports of forest products. Data from the forest inventory sub-component are published in inventory reports, and to date, there exist four regional inventory reports13 and also a series of inventories carried out in other parts of Namibia. Reports concerning inventories in these other parts of the country are: `Woody Resources of Western Tsumkwe', `Woody Resources of East and South Tsumkwe, Otjinene, and Okakarara Districts', `Forest Inventory Report of Ongadjera Community Forest', `Forest Inventory Report on Uukwaluudhi Community Forest', `Forest Inventory Report on Nkurenkuru Concession Area', and `Inventory Report of the DoF Eucalyptus plantations in Kavango Region'.

All these inventory documents are available at the Dof. They present quantitative estimates of the forests in terms of areas by vegetation structural types, areas by dominant species, distribution of crown cover of dominant species by crown cover classes, total number of stems, stems/ha, tree volume, and mean volume by species and for the whole area. These reports reveal the ecological status of the secondary forests. So far very little is known about silvicultural management of the secondary forests in Namibia. Therefore, there is a need for studies of the environmental roles of secondary forests in the country.

There is a great potential to protect and manage secondary forests in Namibia. Proper description and further quantification of the secondary forests in needed. There are some constraints in the country to run and manage the forestry sector in Namibia. Financial constraints prevent officials to carry out all the necessary activities in the field. Trained staff will continue to pose a threat to the forestry sector in Namibia for some years to come. Furthermore the forestry in Namibia does not attract many investors due to the fact that their economical viability is not properly articulated. They are mainly associated with the subsistence economy and environmental functions as compared to their commercial value. Large part of benefits is under the subsistence part. Its competitors, such as agriculture, will always be favoured by many citizens due the direct and immediate benefits that people obtain from the other sectors, such as food sector.


The current leading institution is the Directorate of Forestry under the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. Forestry and related issues fall under the mandate of that Directorate. It was established in November 1990. The Directorate is divided into two Divisions namely Forest Management and Forest Research Divisions. The country is divided into three subdivisions or Regions. Other sectors in the Ministry are the Parks and wildlife management, Tourism and Environmental sector. All of these are mandated to take care of natural resources including forests that have a direct bearing on these sectors. Furthermore, the Agricultural sector aims at crop and meat production. In some instances the sector contributes to the destruction of the forests. However, the agricultural policy also recommends that taking care of the environment for sustainable agricultural practices is a prerequisite. The national constitution is very clear on the protection of the natural resources. For example, article 95l states that the State has to actively promote the sustainable management of the natural resources for both current and future generations.

There are some non-governmental organisations in the country interested in the environmental and forestry related issues. Among others are Desert Research Foundation of Namibia -DRFN, Centre for Research in Integrated Agriculture - CRIA -SA-DC, Women Action Development, Development Aid from People to People - DAPP, Trees of the World, etc.

The Land Act is one of the burning issues of the country. The communal land is the state land under the custodian of the Traditional Authority. All the citizens have a right to settle anywhere in the country with the guidance of the traditional or political administration's approval. Indigenous people feel that the land that is currently owned by the minority whites belongs to them (black people) hence it has to be fairly distributed. The GRN put mechanisms in place for willing buyer -wiling seller but it is not working very well. The Ministry of Land is in place to deal with the issues. Furthermore, Forests including secondary forests are found in the areas under the jurisdiction of traditional authorities. Hence, Headmen and Chiefs do have a direct input in managing the forests. The Forest Act makes a provision to have a Forestry Council that will function as advisory body to the minister. Together with these above-mentioned people and institutions, there are regional councillors elected at the constituency level. The Town Councils are also responsible for the forest resources that are falling within the boundaries of their borders. Both Regional, Local and Traditional councils are falling under the Ministry of Regional and Local Government and Housing.

8.1 Government policy

The macroeconomic context of the government of the Republic of Namibia is set out in the National Development Plan (NDP). The first five year national plan, NDP I, ended in 2000. The NDP II has been finalized in September 2002. The four long-term objectives, which form the core of the NDP II, are:

A multi-sectoral planning approach, involving all relevant stakeholders, will be employed to implement the NDP II. This will be complemented by approaches to ensure policy support from land use ministries at national level.

A new Forest Act was passed in 2001 to support also the new Namibia Forest Development Policy. The Forest Act grants conditional rights to communities with regards to the management and utilization of natural resources.

8.2 Forestry development policy and related sectoral policies

The Forestry Sector in Namibia has long been neglected. In pre-Independence Namibia, all the legislations that existed concerning forestry resources were very restrictive. This situation denied rural communities the chance to manage and live harmoniously with their natural resources, including forests. The first National Forestry Policy of Namibia was approved by Cabinet in 1992. Forestry Strategic Plan for Namibia that was adopted by Cabinet in 1996 has taken a partnership development strategy with other sectors in the national economy, particularly land-use sectors. The aim of this strategy is to ensure a broader natural resource management perspective. The strategy emphasizes a stakeholder participatory approach towards the development of the sector. Directorate of Forestry as the lead public sector institution in Forestry Development is encouraged to share responsibilities pertaining to management and conservation of forest resources with other government and non-public institutions (farmers local communities organised groups, the private sector and non-governmental organisations). The new thinking of the Forestry sector in Namibia is expressed in the Mission statement as "to practise and promote the sustainable and participatory management of forest resources and other woody vegetation, to enhance socio-economic development and environmental stability".

Given State commitment to improving rural economic welfare, the forest sector will have to become productive in order to serve four basic aims flowing directly from the poverty reduction strategy.

(a) Reconcile rural development with biodiversity conservation by empowering farmers and local communities to manage forest resources on a sustainable basis, i.e. forest resource use.

(b) Increase the yield of benefits of the national woodlands through research and development, application of silvicultural practices, protection and promotion of requisite economic support projects.

(c) Create favourable conditions to attract investment in small and medium industry based on wood and non-wood forest raw materials.

(d) Implement innovative land-use strategies including multiple use conservation areas, protected areas, agro-forestry and a variety of other approaches designed to yield forestry global benefits.

To realize the already stated mission statement, the forest sector will follow the 4 program areas elaborated in the Forestry Strategic Plan of 1996. The Institutional Capacity Building Programme will focus on policy and legislative reforms, development of institutional management systems, human resource development, research and information management. The programme of Community-Based Management of Natural Forests will involve the participation of rural communities in forest management and will entail granting them ownership and tenure rights to forest resources to achieve management objectives. The Farm Forestry Programme will attempt to integrate forestry into existing farming systems to contribute to food security and income generation. The Environmental Forestry Programme will manage designated forest areas for conservation to yield both national and global benefits. These will be achieved through defined midterm strategic objectives, result areas and annual plans, with clear division of responsibilities among staff, backed by a clear performance management system to achieve efficiency and effectiveness.

The Namibian Forest authority has also adopted and nationalises the Criteria and Indictors for Sustainable Forest Management for dry zone Africa as also revised and adapted by SADC FSTCU. Furthermore, FSC guidelines have been considered as a leading guiding document for sustainable forest management. All of these require to be consolidated into National Guidelines for Forest Management taking into consideration that the woodlands in Namibia are for multipurpose, hence they are to be managed to meet all the necessary roles and provide different products as discussed earlier.

8.3 Forest and Nature Conservation Legislation

Until November 2001, the Forestry Sector has been managed under the Forest Act of 1968 and the Forest Ordinance of 1952. Although these pieces of legislation have been reasonably well elaborated with regard to the forest conservation, they were not properly enforced in all parts of the country. This was particularly true in the communal lands. Forest resources were heavily exploited without proper control in areas such as Tsumeb district where tambotie was harvested to be used in the copper mine in Tsumeb as well as to construct farm fences. Other species exploited are kiaat, teak and Burkea africana. These are commercially important tree species in Namibia. Not all forests can be classified as secondary forests, but most of the individual species were harvested and only young trees and regeneration are available in some of the areas.

After independence the GRN through its Directorate of Forestry, implemented the law in the whole country equally. However, it was deemed necessary to improve these legislations to make it more appropriate to the national and international needs such recognition of the right of the communities to identify forests resources they can claim to be theirs and legally declare them as community forests (Forest Act 2001). In addition, there is a provision for local leaders being appointed and recognised as honorary forest officers. These are designed to attract public interest and to confer rights linked to their responsibilities to manage forest resources for their direct and indirect benefits.

The forest legislation is complemented by the Nature Conservation Ordinance of 1975, as far as the conservation of nature and hence biodiversity, are concerned. This legislation is currently under review so that the Directorate of Wildlife and Park management which is the custodian of this law, can come up with the Parks and Wildlife Management Act. Both Forestry and Wildlife and Parks management are falling under the Department of Natural Resources in the same ministry. The ministry has in recent years adopted the policy of wildlife conservancies that enjoys popularity due the fact that it allows people in communal areas to own game and conditionally utilise these resources for their own benefits.

8.4 Other related policies that have direct or indirect influence on the forestry sector

Some of the key policy and legal instruments that have been developed to promote overall development in Namibia and that are particularly relevant to the Forestry Sector are:

The history of their systematic management from a forestry perspective is not impressive and has been dominated by exploitation and some element of fire control. However, in 1996 a new forestry strategic plan adopted by Namibia's independent government has set a new direction for the management of Namibia's woody resources. The strategy encompasses institutional capacity building, generation of resource information and monitoring, community level management of woodlands, trees on farm land and an environmental forestry component for biodiversity conservation, climate change and carbon-fixation purposes.


The objective of the report is to provide information on the secondary forests in Namibia. Literature on Namibian forests was reviewed and personal observation and experience were applied. It appears hat this was not addressed before as part of the recorded work so far in Namibia. It became apparent that there are many parts of the forest areas in Namibia that can be easily classified as secondary forests. This is particularly true when it comes to the mopane savannah of the north-western part of Namibia where the original single taller trees have disappeared and due to its strong resilience the trees are able to re-grow and coppice in the multiple young stems. Clearly this can be easily classified as Post extraction secondary forests.

The second category, which is quite difficult to define, was the secondary growth that is found in the crop fields of the communal farmers and consists of fruit trees in the communal land. It is very clear that this is the secondary growth but they are not enough to form part of forests. Under some assumptions this were categorised as Swidden fallow secondary forests. Once again this is confined in the north-central Namibia. Surely it is quite a challenge to allocate the secondary growth in he appropriate category.

Forest/Bush fires that has been part of the ecology of the forests has a great influence on the secondary growth. The exclusion of the fires from the grazing areas resulted into the regeneration of young but undesirable (in the livestock production perspective) secondary vegetation. Although there are some old growth forests, most of the vegetation found in these areas is secondary. Hence, it is concluded that these forest are Post-fire secondary forests.

Some limited areas of Post-abandonment secondary forest can be found.

Most importantly these secondary forests play major roles in the day-to-day livelihood of the people. Management is not visible yet, but the National Forestry Authority has reasonably good programs and supportive policies to place forests under management. Though forests in Namibia are quite unique as compared to the traditional industrial forestry countries, they have significant economic and environmental values.


A detailed study on this subject is urgently needed. The forestry authority should start looking at the roles of the old growth and secondary forests separately. The country should be encouraged to pursue further the work done so far regarding the policies and strategies developed. Namibia should be technically assisted to realise most if not all of the programmes developed. Even though the area under forest may decrease it is vital to take care of the young regeneration and manage it in a way that makes it useful economically and environmentally. In conclusion, it is recommended that the experts visit the Namibian forestry authority and visit the forests and compare how these forests can be classified as secondary forest categories.


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9. Geldenhuys, C.J. 1977b.  The effect of different regimes of annual burning on two woodland communities in Kavango.  South African Forestry Journal 102, 32-42.

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13 These regions, all the north and northeastern part of the country, are Omasuti, Oshana, Oshikoto, and Caprivi regions

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