Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page


Acronyms used in Namibia


Centre for Research Information Africa Action


Department of Environment Affairs


Desert Research Foundation of Namibia


Division of Specialist Support Services (of the Ministry of Environment)

Country Profile

Land Surface

Land Area: 824 269 sq km

Formally conserved area: 12.4 % or 102 209 sq km

Area transformed by cultivation: 1%


Population: 1 680 000

Urban percentage: 37%

Population growth rate: 3.1%


GDP in 1998: US$ 3 059 million at current prices

GDP Growth rate (1993-1998): 2.85 at constant prices

Contribution to GDP by tourism and hunting: 7%

Contribution to GDP by crop agriculture: 7.8%


Political system: Parliamentary democracy, power largely centralized at national level

Environmental governance: largely at a national level.


Namibia is one of the driest countries in the world. There is a gradient of increasing aridity from east to west (as the cold Benguela ocean current is approached), and from north to south. Only a relatively small area in the north of the country receives sufficient rainfall to support crop agriculture. This is where most of the rural population is concentrated, and where the only permanent rivers occur (except the Orange river, which forms the southern boundary with South Africa).


The natural vegetation ranges from woodlands in the north, through thorn savannas, to shrublands and deserts in the south and west. The biotic diversity is relatively rich, containing both karroid and tropical elements, as well as Namibian endemics.

Major Environmental Issues

Pollution and toxicity

Air pollution is not currently considered and important issue in Namibia. There are few industrial sources (those that exist are connected to mining and smelting activities, and are generally remote from populated areas). Vehicle density and use in the urban areas is not currently sufficient to lead to major problems. The north of the country does experience high background ozone levels due to vegetation burning, and aerosols from this source and mineral dust can be high elsewhere as well. Water pollution is a concern, given the relative scarcity of potable water in the country.

Biodiversity preservation

Namibia, like most other southern African countries, relies on its natural landscape and biota as a tourism draw-card. The biota is rich, by global standards, and relatively well-preserved. There is increasing awareness of its economic potential for bioprospecting.

Land quality

Land degradation and desertification, especially in the populous north, is a key issue. The increase in woody plant density in the north-central area has historically been a major concern.

Freshwater resources

The availability of water for human, livestock, industrial and agricultural use is probably the top environmental issue in Namibia. Quantity and quality are both very important. There is significant dependence on groundwater. All the major rivers are peripherally located, and are shared with neighbouring countries. For example, plans to bring water southward from the Okavango River have raised concerns in Botswana.

Climate change

Namibia is extremely sensitive to changes in either the amount of rainfall, or its interannual variability. Decreases in rainfall, or increases in interannual variability, would greatly exacerbate existing development challenges; increases in rainfall would make them easier to overcome.

Status of National Environmental Observing Systems

Institutional framework

Government Organizations




Ministry of Transport

Division of Meteorological Services

Collects, analyses and disseminates weather data

Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development (see organigram below)

Dept. of Rural Planning

Rural census and socioeconomic data

Dept. of Agriculture

Research stations, soils data

Dept. of Water Affairs: Divisions of 1) Hydrology, 2) Geohydrology and 3) Water and Environment

Water quantity and quality above and below ground

National Botanical Institute

Plant biodiversity and plant resources

Ministry of Environment

Department of Environment Affairs

Environmental treaties, environmental impact studies, regulations

Directorate of Specialist Services

Biodiversity data, environmental atlases and profiles

Etosha Research Centre

Ecological research especially relating to wildlife, NOAA receiver

Ministry of Education

Namibia Museum

Biodiversity data

Parastatal Organizations


Supply of water, principally to urban areas. Monitor yield and quality of well fields

Non-governmental Organizations

Desert Research Foundation of Namibia

Operates the Gobabeb site, active in environmental education, monitoring and management throughout Namibia, hosts Netwise, a directory of southern African environmental organizations, coordinates desertification work

Namibia Nature Foundation

Biodiversity and communal resource management


Economic data


Was involved in national emissions inventory

Analysis of existing sites

Name of site Responsible agency




Tier 2: Long-term, permanently staffed sites conducting advanced observations on many variables, often with experimentation

Gobabeb desert research station

~23.6 S


All aspects of desert biology

Etosha research centre

19.10 S

15.54 E

Principally wildlife related and focussed on the Etosha National Park

Tier 3: Long-term, staffed sites routinely observing a core set of variables (research stations)

Gelap Oost

All major agricultural zones are represented

Agricultural research stations administered by the Department of Agriculture. Some rationalization may occur in the near future

Tier 4: Locations which are periodically visited

Hydrological weirs

120 (4 affiliated to WHYCOS)

Wetland sites

Several hundred, nationally, visited once every several years

Permanent sample plots

About 50, south and central to measure bush encroachment and shrub productivity, some forestry plots in the north

National networking

Effective national networks exist, both informally and formally (coordinated by the DEA, the Ministry of Agriculture and the DRFN, see NETWISE [Southern African Network of Environmental Oriented Organizations] at The number of environmental practitioners is small, and concentrated in Windhoek. This has not led to a high degree of functional integration of datasets or electronic databases; with the possible exception of the environmental atlas under construction at DEA.

International networking

Namibia is a signatory of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention for Combating Desertification, among other international environmental treaties. The hydrological network is linked to WHYCOS, and the climate network contributes to WMO. The herbarium is a part of SABONET, and the faunal biodiversity specialists are active in IUCN regional working groups. The DRFN has been active in the efforts to establish ILTER in southern Africa.

Legal framework for data handling

The data held by Government agencies is in principle in the public domain, except where this would be a breach of confidentiality with respect to individual landowners. Data is provided on request, free of charge, to users with a legitimate reason to have it. This is not necessarily restricted to citizens of Namibia. The Department of Finance has initiated a policy of cost recovery on value-added databases (for example, special analyses of climate data), but this is not yet in force.

There is no overall policy with respect to the significant amounts of data held by NGOs. In the case of the DRFN, the policy is primarily publication in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. DRFN and other NGOs conduct contractual research, so data resulting from these activities is presumably subject to negotiation between potential users and the contractual parties. Most of the NGOs are short of funding, so data may not always be available at no expense.

Use of environmental information

The principle users of information are the Government Departments themselves, and consultants acting on their behalf. Researchers, mostly based at the Technical College and University or in the several technical or development-oriented NGOs, are the third major category. Several data suppliers listed individual landowners as significant data users.

Sectoral Environmental Information Systems

Weather and climate

The national weather service coordinates a network of about 900 daily rainfall stations operated by volunteer observers. Only about 300 of these are active, down from a peak of about 400 in the 1960s. The oldest station dates from 1893, with the major growth in the network occurring in the 1930s. The rainfall is recorded daily, and reported either ten-daily (100 selected stations who report by telephone) or monthly, on paper. There are 17 synoptic stations, half staffed by the weather service itself, recording temperature, humidity and winds three-hourly between 0600 and 2000 (two are 24-hour stations). They report three-hourly, via telex, fax or e-mail.

The service has experimented with 15 automatic weather stations, now largely abandoned due to maintenance problems.

The service has both Meteosat and NOAA receivers, and archives the data daily.

The data since 1997 are managed in the CLICOM database. Some efforts have been made to capture the historical data, but the volume of paper-based data exceeds the weather service budget for entering it.

The service publishes a ten-daily summary bulletin (called WHOT) covering rainfall, temperature and sea surface temperature. It is provided free of charge to about 350 recipients, including Government officials, aid agencies, researchers, farmers and economists. Daily forecasts are published on a web site, and broadcast on television from an on-site studio. Other information requests are received and serviced, free of charge, via letters, e-mails, personal visits and telephonic enquiries. Treasury policy is moving towards cost recovery for weather and climate products.

Water resources

Surface water resources

Quantity of flow

The Division of Hydrology in the Department of Water Affairs operates a network of 120 river flow stations. Two of these are automatic, satellite-downloading WHYCOS stations, with two more planned and a further one not yet sited. The rest have chart recorders, and are serviced three-monthly. The digital database in which the flow records are stored goes back to 1940, with most records dating from the 1970s. The number of sites is declining.

The water level in impoundments is reported weekly, or more frequently in flood times.

The main users are water resource planners in the Department itself, consultants, researchers and the water supply parastatal, Namwater. The data are provided in a variety of formats, depending on user needs, at no cost.

The Division also has about 20 rainfall intensity recording stations. The evaporation pan network has been discontinued.

Water quality

The recent creation of Namwater as a separate entity from the Department has led to some confusion regarding who is responsible for what monitoring. The responsibility for database maintenance is apparently with the Department, but the water analysis is done on contract to them by Namwater. There does not seem to be a systematic sampling programme. Data principally originates from specific projects and from compliance monitoring. The data are currently stored in a paper filing system. An electronic database is planned.

Water processing plants are required to do their own quality checks, and are supposed to submit the data, but seldom do.

Groundwater resources

Size of resource

The Division of Groundwater has an electronic database on boreholes dating from the early 1980s, and mostly populated with data from a survey conducted in the 1950s and 1960s on commercial farms. It is estimated that about 60% of Namibian boreholes are recorded in this database, which has the location, depth to water and geological details.

The database is not very functional, and a new one is being created, to be operational in 2000. It will include pump tests.

The water level is monitored in about 900 boreholes. Ninety of these have automatic (chart) recorders, while the rest are manually recorded monthly or three-monthly. In future, electrical conductivity data will be collected as well. Namwater maintains a database of the amount of water extracted from production well fields under its control.

The main database users are consultants and the public at large, particularly in connection with the purchase of farms. It is regarded as a public domain database.

Land cover, Land use, Land quality

The Agroecological Zone project of the Department of Agriculture has published a map of areas which have similar potential for use, based on climate, topography and soils. These are available as a GIS coverage, and ongoing work hopes to improve the internal detail.


The only existing vegetation or landcover map is the small-scale one drawn in the 1970s. Several efforts are underway in various parts of the country and by various organizations to update it. Within the National Botanical Research Institute a very detailed plot-sampling process has been underway for three years, which should eventually lead to a national map. At the current rate of collection (about 300 sites per year) this objective will take another two decades.

The DEA has a programme of developing ‘Environmental Profiles’, region by region. One is published and several others are nearly complete. The whole country will be complete by 2002, providing a national atlas. The profiles are GIS-based, and include soils, climate, landcover (largely based on aerial photography), population, livestock density, land use and other information. At present the main output is in the form of published documents (large format books, in colour), but an electronic information system is under consideration.


The DEA has been active in mapping fires using NOAA data, particularly in the northern part of the country. Daily NDVI ‘greenness’ data is collected to estimate carrying capacity (AEZ and NBRI). Bush encroachment was seen as a major threat to the livestock industry. A network of 200 permanent sample plots of 500 m2 each was established by the Department of Agriculture, and is resurveyed every three years. Basal area and stem counts in four height classes are recorded. A further 37 sites are monitored for sheep and goat carrying capacity in the south of the country. The AEZ project plans to carry out erosion hazard mapping.


A soil survey was begun in 1998. It will be conducted at 1:1M scale nationally, with 1:250 000 and 1:100 000 cover in the more agriculturally-productive parts in the north. A pedon database is part of this survey.

Agricultural productivity

Area planted with crops and crop yields

Statistics on the area planted with various crops are collected by the Agronomy Board. The Namibian Agricultural Union also keeps this type of information. The Directorate of Planning in the Ministry of Agriculture has data on crop yields.

Agricultural inputs: fertilizers and pesticides

The Department of Agriculture maintains a register of agricultural chemicals, but there does not appear to be a database of pesticide usage.

Livestock numbers

The base data is provided by the Division of Veterinary Services (Department of Agriculture). It originates from six-monthly stock inspections on commercial farms, and the vaccination records in communal areas. This information is regarded as confidential.

Indigenous biological resources

Plant resources

The National Botanical Research Institute has responsibility for information on Namibian plant resources. It operates a herbarium with about 78 000 accessions and has a professional staff of seven. A survey of medicinal and useful plants has been undertaken, with a view to protecting the resource from overexploitation and theft of genetic material. To supplement the mapping of species distribution based on herbarium records, which tend to under-represent the distribution of common, easily identified and frequently very useful species, a tree atlasing project is currently underway. It uses about 500 lay volunteers (of which 150 are active, and 50 contribute the bulk of the records). The project is planned to take two years, and is funded by GTZ. It is estimated that 15% of the ¼ degree latitude squares in Namibia have been adequately sampled, and 50% have not been visited by botanists at all. The output of this project will be a printed atlas, as well as CD-ROM-based electronic databases. It is aimed at professional botanists, farmers and the public.

A vegetation inventory of Namibia is in progress, with collaboration from the University of Cologne. It is based on 1000 m2 sample plots, surveyed using the Braun-Blanquet methodology. The data is captured in a database called TurboVeg (developed and used in South Africa), which allows tabulation, sorting and some statistical manipulation. In three years, 900 plots have been surveyed. Comprehensive national coverage is estimated to require about 10 000 plots.

Animal resources

The Division of Specialist Support Services maintains databases on farm permits issued for wildlife culling, and trophy and hunting statistics. The results of questionnaires sent to landowners, covering predators and large animals, are captured in databases. The users are primarily in the Ministry itself, and the databases are not entirely in the public domain. The databases are principally in the form of spreadsheets and Microsoft Access databases.

A separate database monitors accidents between vehicles and animals. Animal mortalities in the water canal in the north of the country are recorded in a database maintained by Namwater.

The Ecological Research Centre located at Etosha has conducted aerial wildlife surveys throughout the country since the mid-1960s. This is not a systematic national survey, but driven by particular project requirements. All large mammals are counted.

Freshwater fisheries

Some data are maintained by the Division of Fisheries, which has a station at Hardap Dam.


Conserved areas

GIS datasets on the boundaries of conservation areas are maintained by the DEA.

Rare and endangered species

Red data books have been completed, or are in an advanced state, for most of the main taxa. The recently completed biodiversity country study, linked to the Convention on Biological Diversity, has been a major impetus for this work, which was able to build on a relatively good data record and the existence of a core of skilled specialists from several institutions. The Biodiversity coordinator is located in the DEA.

Problem species

The National Botanical Institute has a database on alien plants. DSSS has databases, built from questionnaire surveys, of problem animals.


The National Botanical Research Institute has a database of every plant species, alien and introduced, known to occur in Namibia (4 239 species, of which 592 are endemic).

Mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians

DSSS maintains an electronic database of the voucher specimens of all Namibian mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Very comprehensive databases of bird distributions are maintained by Ornithologists in the Division.


The Namibia Museum operates an innovative scheme for the transfer of data from the written collection records of its vast collection of insects, arachnids and other invertebrates, to electronic form. It is running a programme called [email protected], which recruits corporate sponsors and secondary-schoolchildren to digitize the data. The sponsors help to provide schools, even in deep rural areas, with computers and Internet access, in return for the entry of data. The interface screens through which the data entry is performed are specially designed to be simple, self-checking, interactive and fun. Data capture occurs during day-long supervised sessions, where teams of scholars compete with each other for school prizes. Quality control of the entered data is performed by specialists at the museum - this is regarded as a much more productive use of their time than the data capture itself. The scheme has numerous other advantages, including service provision to the schools, educational outreach, publicity for the sponsors and skills development among the participants.

The record-keeping effort at the Museum is geared towards the use of advanced Information and Communication Technology. The entire collection list is on the web, and accessible to anyone. Specialist amateurs, for example butterfly collectors, are encouraged to enter their own collection information on password-protected pages. Claris Filemaker is used for the database construction, because it is relatively cheap, is well supported locally, and is HTML compatible.

A significant outstanding problem is that an estimated 80% of Namibian collections are in non-Namibian museums, and not even collection lists are available to the Namibians. They hope, through digitizing their own records and placing them in the public domain, to shame the much better resourced institutions in Europe and America to do the same.

Aquatic biota and habitats

The Division of Water and the Environment in the Department of Water Affairs maintains a database of wetlands, rivers and pools, which includes their location, description and biota. It used to address RAMSAR convention-related questions. DSSS of the Ministry of Environment has a GIS-based database on the four RAMSAR sites, and other prospective wetland sites of interest, containing physical descriptions, lists of species, and estimates of populations for bird populations.

Air quality

There is currently no systematic air quality monitoring. The DEA has a meta-database, which lists the commitments that major developments have made to conducting ongoing environmental monitoring and reporting, when development permits were issued.

Ancillary data: economic activity and population statistics

The National Planning Commission performs population censuses. An NGO, NEPRO, is regarded as one of the best sources of economic indicators.

User Needs Assessment

Data and information needs

The biodiversity coordination unit and the recently formed desertification coordination unit are likely to be key data users. Organizations conducting environmental impact assessments (that will be required by Namibian law) are already major data users.

The Namibian experience shows two examples of how a relatively simple communication device can be highly effective in influencing environmental policy. The first is the ten-daily ‘WHOT’ bulletin produced by the Meteorological Services, which summarizes rainfall, temperatures and satellite-derived greenness and sea surface temperatures over the immediate past period. It is widely used by policy-makers, resource managers and farmers alike. The second is the briefing papers produced by DRFN. They are targeted at (and often solicited by) the members of the National Assembly, and deal simply but non-trivially with environmental issues that the assembly will debate in the near future. They are based on in-depth work done by the DRFN and others, but are written by a professional writer. They are each a few pages in length, and have a circulation list of several hundred.

Requirements raised by potential users of GTOS

Specialists in the DSSS pointed out the useful role GTOS could play was as a regional clearing-house for regional biodiversity information. The policy implications of threats to a species which only occurs within one country are quite different to those raised by declining numbers of a species which only have a part of their distribution in the country, and are well-represented elsewhere. At present the regional distribution has to be gleaned in a laborious and haphazard fashion, by addressing requests to neighbouring countries.

Key Stakeholders


Person visited

Type of data

Ministry of Agric., Water and Rural
Development (see flow diagram)
National Botanical Research
Private Bag 13184
Windhoek, Namibia
tel: +264-61-202 2167

Dr Gillian

Herbarium, plant collection records, genetic resources

Barbara Curtis

Tree Atlas

Benjamin Strohbach

Vegetation survey

Desert Research Foundation of Namibia
PO Box 20232
Windhoek, Namibia
Tel: +264-61-22 9855
e-mail: [email protected]

Joh Henschel

· Weather data

· River flow

· Welwichia growth data

· Groundwater data (on an hourly scale)

· NETWISE (Southern African Network of Environmental Oriented Organizations) maintained by DRFN (

Ministry of Transport:
Meteorological Services
Private Bag 13224
Windhoek, Namibia
tel: +264-61-208 2174

Franz Uirab

· Rainfall data

· Climatic data

· Synoptic data

· Temperature

· Sea surface temperatures

Ministry Agric., Water, Rural
Development: Agricultural
Department (see flow diagram)
Private Bag 13184
Windhoek, Namibia
tel: +264-61-208 7111
fax: +264-61-208 7768
e-mail: [email protected]

Louis Du Pisani
Marina Coetzee
FW Bester
Bertus Kruger
(now with NNF)

· AEZ database

· Soils database

· Commercial farms database - database with contact details of owners of 11 000 commercial farms as well as boundaries

Ministry of Agric., Water and Rural
Development: Rural Development -
Directorate Planning
Private Bag 13184
Windhoek, Namibia
tel: +264-61-208 7111
fax: +264-61-208 7768
e-mail: [email protected]

Manfred Menjengua

Gender disaggregated system
Nutritional survey

Ministry of Environment and Tourism
(MET) - 3 Divisions:
Division of Environment Affairs (DEA)
Resource Management (RM)
Specialist Support Services (SSS)
Private Bag 13306
Windhoek, Namibia
tel: +264-61-24 9015
fax: +264-61-24 0339

John Mendolsohn
Phoebe Barnard
Mike Griffin

DSSS & RM databases:
Aerial surveys
Scientific research permits
Farm permits
Trophy and hunting statistics
Farm questionnaires
Animal related traffic accidents
Mammals & amphibians
Mining database
DEA databases:

Ministry of Environment and Tourism
National Museum
PO Box 1203
Windhoek, Namibia
tel: +264-61-29 34 351
fax: +264-61-22 86 36
e-mail: [email protected]

Eryn Griffen
Joris Komen


Ministry of Agriculture, Water and
Rural Development:
Dept. of Water Affairs: Hydrology
Division (see flow diagram)
Private Bag 13193
Windhoek, Namibia
tel: +264-61 208 7111
fax: +264-61 208 7160

Flow database
Groundwater database

Ministry of Agriculture, Water and
Rural Development:
Dept. of Water Affairs: Pollution
Control and Water Quality Division
(see flow diagram)
Private Bag 13193
tel: +264 61 208 7111
fax: +264 61 208 7160

Guido van
Chris Christelis
Shirley Bethunie

Water flows
Water quality

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page