Namibia's Second National Communication - October 2011


The creation of a National Communication offers countries the opportunity to contribute with technically sound studies and information that can be used for designing mitigation and adaptation measures, and project proposals that can and will help increase their resilience to the impacts of climate change. Activities generally include: V&A assessments, Greenhouse Gas Inventory preparation, Mitigation Analysis or Education, and awareness raising activities.The ultimate goal is the integration of climate change considerations into relevant social, economic and environmental policies and actions.

Namibia is one of the driest countries in Southern Africa with a mean annual rainfall that ranges from 25 mm in the southwest and west, to 700 mm north and northeast. With the Namibian economy disproportionately based on natural resources it is extremely sensitive to climate change effects. It is predicted with a high degree of certainty that Namibia will become hotter throughout the year, with a predicted increase in temperatures of between 1°C and 3.5°C in summer and 1°C to 4°C in winter in the period 2046 - 2065. Maximum temperatures have been getting hotter over the past 40 years, as observed in the frequency of days exceeding 35°C. Equally, the frequencies of days with temperatures below 5°C have been getting less, suggesting an overall warming.

Project Details

Impacts, Vulnerability, and Adpatiation

For the purposes of the impacts and vulnerability assessment, emphasis was placed on the socio-economic contexts of rural areas, in particular the Karas (south) and Caprivi (north) regions. Particular attention was paid to the water and agriculture sectors, the coastal zone, tourism (and specifically the importance of Community-Based Natural Resource Management [CBNRM]), and human health (focusing on malaria and HIV/AIDS). Notwithstanding the challenges associated with modeling the future climate of arid/ semi-arid regions, where natural climate variability exceeds the climate change signal over the next few decades, vulnerability was assessed against broad statements of change.

Climate Change in Namibia

It is predicted with a high degree of certainty that Namibia will become hotter throughout the year, with a predicted increase in temperatures of between 1°C and 3.5°C in summer and 1°C to 4°C in winter in the period 2046 - 2065. Maximum temperatures have been getting hotter over the past 40 years, as observed in the frequency of days exceeding 35°C. Equally, the frequencies of days with temperatures below 5°C have been getting less, suggesting an overall warming.

Detecting trends in rainfall is typically more difficult, especially in highly variable arid climates such as Namibia. Considerable spatial heterogeneity in the trends has been observed, but it appears as if the northern and central regions of Namibia are experiencing a later onset and earlier cessation of rains, resulting in shorter seasons in most vicinities. There has been a statistically significant decrease in the number of consecutive wet days in various locations, and increases in measures of rainfall intensity could be observed. As far as predictions for the future are concerned, it is not obvious whether Namibian rainfall will be reduced, although intensity is likely to be increased. The most consistent changes are for an increase in late summer rainfall over major parts of the country, and a decrease in winter rainfall in the south and west of the country. Increases in rainfall are most obvious during the January to April period, especially in the central and north-eastern regions. It is important to underscore that variability, and stronger variability at that, is likely to remain the key aspect of Namibia’s climate in the future.

Socio-Economics and Climate Change

Vulnerability is informed by climatic changes, but also depends on the capacity to respond adequately to those changes. Household income, income diversification, availability of labour, the health status of household members, and access to productive assets and resources are factors that determine vulnerability. In combination with environmental conditions and the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, these factors negatively impact on agricultural production and food security. Ultimately they contribute to limited adaptive capacity. External factors such as the existence of formal and informal social support networks, the availability and quality of health services, and prices of farm inputs and outputs further influence the capacity to cope with and recover from climate shocks.

The vulnerability to climate change differs between regions in Namibia and between various socio-economic groups. In particular, the impact of poverty and HIV/AIDS may reverse relatively favourable environmental conditions in the northern regions. In general, it is a matter of concern that the capacity for social organization and support in communities in various regions of the country appears to be dwindling. This will limit adaptive capacity.

Water resources

Namibia has reached or exceeded its carrying capacity with regard to water in many areas of the county. The agricultural sector uses about 75% of all water use, and the Green Scheme is likely to add another 80% above current irrigation abstraction. The projected temperature increases will result in evaporation and evapotranspiration increases in the range of 5-15%, further reducing water resource availability and dam yields. It is predicted that, even without the additional stresses of climate change on the water resources, demand will have surpassed the installed abstraction capacity by 2015.

A reduction of 10-20% in rainfall by 2045-2065 over the Angolan catchments of the Zambezi, Kavango, Cuvelai and Kunene rivers is expected to lead to a reduction in runoff and drainage in these river systems by +/- 25%. The impacts of project climate changes on run- off, peak flows, and sustainable dam yields for the Fish river basin were modelled. The interpretation of the results is limited due to uncertainties in the models, particularly the climate models. Within these limitations, there are signs that runoff may increase in the far South of the country, whereas this is less clear for the central- southern area of Hardap.

Wetlands are likely to provide reduced ecosystem services such as water retention, flood attenuation and water purification, negatively affecting rural livelihoods and tourism. The mouths of the Kunene and Orange rivers are likely to be affected, with possibly serious implications for their qualifications as Ramsar sites. Floodplains in the Caprivi and oshanas (ephemeral rivers and pans formed in the shallow depressions of the Cuvelai system in the north) remain particularly vulnerable, as smaller areas will be inundated, and because they may dry out more rapidly due to increased evaporation. The Okavango delta may be strongly affected in similar ways, as a result of which it may potentially shift to a seasonal river.

Due to uncertainties with regard to the relationships between rainfall and runoff in arid environments such as Namibia, only preliminary deductions can be made around the implications for groundwater recharge. Literature suggests that groundwater recharge may suffer a reduction of 30-70% across Namibia; a potential exception could be found in the recharge of alluvial aquifers that have their origins in central areas of Namibia, where more late summer convective rainfall can be expected by the middle of the 21st century (a trend that can moreover already be observed).


The agricultural sector is critical to the subsistence base of a large section of Namibia’s society. The dualism of the sector, with its marked differences in access to credit, markets and inputs, accentuates the socio-economic vulnerabilities of rural dwellers in Namibia. While the impact of climate change will be felt across all farming communities, being rich or poor, communal or commercial, poor people living in marginalised areas will be most severely affected. A complex interaction of socio-economic stressors in subsistence farming households exists (poor health, inequitable access to land, gender inequaIity, population growth, and increasing competition for shared resources), and climate change induced impacts will only add to this situation.

Crop models for potential yields and planting windows for the mid-21st century for Namibia’s main staple grains, maize and pearl millet, for Rundu and Grootfontein, yielded largely inconclusive results owing to model uncertainties. The potential for crop production in the Grootfontein area may increase. The success of the flagship Green Scheme (GS), which aims to encourage agricultural and rural economic development within suitable irrigation areas, will be highly dependent on the provision of water resources (particularly the Kavango river). Under climate change, with a projected decrease in rainfall of 10%, proposed GS sites may experience reductions in perennial drainage of 30-60%. This may affect the viability of the scheme with implications for national economic development and food security.

Impacts of climate change on the livestock sector will depend on grazing availability, quality, and bush encroachment; livestock production and reproduction responses; water availability and demand; and disease and parasite impact. Significant changes in vegetation structure and function are projected, with the dominant vegetation type Grassy Savanna losing its spatial dominance to Desert and Arid Shrubland vegetation types, and increases in bush encroachment in the north-eastern regions. Reductions in vegetation cover and reduced Net Primary Productivity (NPP) have negative implications for grazing. Maximum temperature thresholds for conception in cattle will be breached for some popular breeds. Increased water demand will reduce grazing distances and exacerbate degradation around watering points. Warming and changing rainfall distributions could lead to changes in the spatial or temporal distributions of climate-sensitive diseases/vectors/ pathogens.

Coastal Zone and Fisheries

Namibia, with its long coastline and important fisheries sector, is vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise. Under a short-term (2030) sea level rise scenario, damages are likely to be limited, except for early damages to, and disruption of the economically important Walvis Bay port infrastructure and activities. With the protective Pelican Point sandspit still in place in 2030, enhanced coastal erosion from a sea level rise of +20cm will lead to a likely coastal set-back estimated at almost 100m. With the sandspit destroyed, sea level rise of +2m on an annual basis, and of +3m from extreme sea levels with a return period of 100 years, would inundate much of the town. The other three major coastal towns would only suffer relatively minor damage to fixed infrastructure and property, compared to the serious impacts on Walvis Bay. Over the longer term, under the scenario of polar ice melt, low lying coastal areas will be permanently inundated, leading to the wholesale disruption of infrastructure and services along the coast.

Sea level rise and associated storm surges will bring about biogeophysical impacts such as coastal erosion; flooding, inundation and displacement of wetlands and lowlands; landslides; salt water intrusion into freshwater aquifers and estuaries; and reduced protection from extreme storm and flood events. Coastal populations have a high dependence on aquifers, this constitutes a key vulnerability. Raised water tables could allow an encroachment of polluted water into wastewater treatment facilities, increasing the probability of sewage overflow, with the associated human and ecological health hazards.

The ability of coastal ecosystems to provide services such as provision of food, tourism/recreation, flood attenuation, and replenishment of groundwater, could be impaired. Slowly increasing salinity levels of estuaries and aquifers, and changes to habitats and primary production, would be detrimental to spawning and nursery

grounds for many fish species, thus impacting on the shore birds which feed on them. The ability of the Namibian coast to continue supporting large numbers of migratory and shore bird numbers could be jeopardised. Breeding sites on coastal islands would be at particular risk of flooding from sea level rise. In the longer term, the effects of sea level rise on primary production in coastal systems may largely be dependent upon variations in the nutrient concentrations caused by changes in ocean current patterns and upwelling regimes associated with the Benguela system.


Climate change could affect the growing nature-based tourism industry in Namibia directly by impacting on the tourism resource base, through changes in habitats, landscape characteristics and vegetation cover, biodiversity loss, decreasing water availability, increased frequency and severity of climate hazards, coastal erosion, and increased incidence of vector borne diseases (like malaria). Projected declines in vegetation cover and significant change in vegetation structure and function, would impact on tourism. Beneficiaries of the CBNRM programme in conservancies and forest reserves, who are developing sustainable livelihoods based on resource management and tourism, stand to be severely affected by any such changes. On the other hand, shifts in land use systems away from livestock production systems based on exotic species, toward indigenous biodiversity production systems, may reduce impacts, and possibly even benefit the tourism potential.

The indirect impacts of climate change on the future of the tourism sector are likely to be of greater relevance. Significant shifts are occurring in international consumer awareness and attitudes, with increasing concerns regarding the carbon footprint of long- haul air travel to distant tourism destinations. This is resulting in greater consumer reluctance to engage in such travel for tourism purposes and greater willingness-to-pay for tourism products and services that are environmentally friendly and have a smaller carbon footprint.


Human health will be impacted through a complex set of interactions, both in the shorter- and longer-term, with many direct as well as indirect impacts. Climate change, and particularly the effect of increased variability, will add additional pressures to the social environment and a health care system that is already burdened by challenges such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and malnutrition (especially in rural areas). In populations with reduced immune responses, additional stresses brought about by climate change could lead to an increased risk of diseases, including co-infection with TB. The HIV/AIDS epidemic, in combination with poverty and a reduced capacity of institutions to respond, has already reduced the resilience of rural households. Also, HIV/AIDS has not yet been adequately mainstreamed in emergency management practices, with recent floods having caused substantial disruptions in the delivery of HIV/AIDS-related health services. Women, orphans and other vulnerable children, the chronically ill, and those infected with HIV/AIDS are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Climate change could affect health through the direct impacts of increasing temperatures, with newborns, the old and infirm, and those with pre-existing medical conditions particularly vulnerable. Rural Namibians with poorer access to medical services are considered relatively more vulnerable. Increasing contamination of open water sources driven by floods and droughts and a diminishing resource, and exacerbated by increasing pressure from humans and animals, may increase the risk of diarrhoea, cholera, fever and related water borne illnesses. Rising temperatures and more intense rainfall events are conducive to increased breeding of the malaria-carrying mosquito, and rising transmission rates. Currently non-endemic areas bordering endemic zones could experience higher risk of malaria, with sporadic occurrences over time increasing the range of endemic areas. Currently malaria-free areas, including some major population centres, could become exposed in future.

Reductions in crop yields and increasing populations could reduce the availability of food in rural Namibia, thus increasing malnutrition and contributing to weakened human disease defenses, and increasing mortality, particularly in children. The provision of sufficient safe, reliable and affordable water, and good sanitation and drainage, all essential for human health, will become increasingly challenging. Water scarcity is likely to lead to an increase in conflict within and between communities, and in migration and its associated impacts on increasing the spread of diseases, especially in peri-urban and urban areas. This will challenge urban health, water and sanitation services.


An economic analysis of the potential impacts of climate change on the Namibian economy (GDP and income distribution), based on six scenarios of changes in the agriculture and fisheries sectors (being strongly climate-sensitive), was conducted. Under a best- case scenario, agricultural impacts would be partly offset by improved water distribution, there would be no impact on fisheries and the overall GDP would fall by only about 1%. Under a worst- case scenario, large-scale shifts in climate zones would reduce agricultural and fishing outputs, and the overall GDP would fall by almost 6% over 20 years. However, this estimate constitutes only a fraction of possible climate change impacts because it considers only two economic sectors that are directly affected. Furthermore, climate change impacts will hit the poor hardest, with employment opportunities constrained and a substantial decline in wages, especially for unskilled labour. Even under the best-case scenarios, subsistence farming will fall sharply. In the worst-case scenario for agriculture, labour intensive livestock farming is hit hard, and while high-value irrigated crop production could thrive, employment creation in this area would be minimal. Thus, even under the best- case scenario, a quarter of the population will need to find new livelihoods. Displaced rural populations are likely to move to cities, which could cause incomes for unskilled labour to fall by 12 to 24% in order to absorb the new workers. Income distribution in Namibia is already one of the most uneven in the world and this inequality is likely to increase, with significant implications for future social cohesion, if no counteracting policies are put in place.


This report highlights the importance of addressing climate change from a developmental perspective, cutting across policies and warranting early action. Namibia’s ability to adapt to climate change will be informed by its aridity, environmental sensitivity, population growth trends and high densities in northern areas and internal migration, high dependence on natural resources (particularly agricultural land), widespread poverty amongst some sections of the population, decline in effective traditional land management systems, and lack of access to credit and savings.

However, people may not adapt sufficiently to climate change for a variety of reasons. Climate may be perceived to pose little risk relative to other hazards and stressors and therefore given low priority, as shown in the Namibian Poverty Profiles. A Namibia

specific study identified the following barriers to adaptation to climate change:

• Insufficient awareness (information limited to specialists and access to research by stakeholders)
• Political and institutional barriers (implementation of policies, low public participation)

• Socio-cultural barriers (technology stigmatation and techno-focus, as well as a different local priority than national ones at times)
• Financial barriers (types and conditionality of funds, insufficient pricing of resources, and lack of access to private funding)

Namibia aims to address its increasing water scarcity through both supply- and demand-side interventions within a framework of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). Since climate variability is and will remain the greatest threat, adaptation responses should draw on experiences in innovative mechanisms to address water scarcity and expand implementation of such approaches countrywide and at all times. The focus should be on measures to reduce evaporation and to improve water resource use efficiency. Specific measures will include the conjunctive use of surface and groundwater resources, including sub-surface water banking. Monitoring and control of groundwater use will be stepped up. Demand management is required in municipalities, industries, mines, and in the agricultural sector. For local authorities this may go a long way to delay major water infrastructure investments. The Basin Management Approach may assist in raising awareness of the vulnerability to climate change amongst communities, but more resources and capacity building are required to gain experience with the approach. The development of the policy and legal framework around IWRM must be sped up.

For agriculture, adaptive responses are structured along technological, policy and institutional imperatives. Technological priorities include irrigation and water harvesting, conservation agriculture, diversification, use of improved crops (especially those developed from indigenous germplasm), use of indigenous livestock breeds, increased seed and fertilizer availability, shared water resource management, early warning systems, drought mitigation measures, livestock management strategies, and crop modeling skills development. Adaptation at the farm-level focuses on tactical decisions farmers make in response to seasonal variations in climatic, economic, and other factors, and influenced by a number of socioeconomic factors including access to information and supportive institutions. For effective adaptation at this level, perceptions of current and future climate are important, and improved communication and information dissemination should be established to guide behavioural adaptation. There is a great need for improving social organisation and local adaptive capacity, to counteract dwindling social support and increasing conflict in communities. It is important that research is linked to existing local knowledge of climate related hazards and involves local communities in exploring adaptation decision making.

In view of the uncertainties surrounding sea level rise, adaptation responses that retain options, and promote continued monitoring and flexibility are most valuable. From a financial perspective, sea- level rise adaptation options in Namibia can be divided into (1) no regrets options – desirable, low cost, high benefit options should be pursued even if climate change was not a threat, (2) sea-level rise specific responses that save more money than they cost and (3) sea- level rise specific options that are necessary (to save human life or heritage value) but are costly. From a methodological perspective, adaptation options can be divided into (1) infrastructure and hard engineering responses (such as sea-walls, dolosses and raising the level of harbours; desalination plants), (2) soft and biological responses such as the retention of wetlands and riparian vegetation in estuaries, beach and sandspit replenishment, the planting of dune vegetation to ensure dune buffers are retained and the cultivating of kelp beds that dissipate wave energy, and (3) socio-institutional responses such as enforced coastal buffer zones, early warning, insurance market and planned relocations. Selecting and applying these options will be most effective within the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) approach, which takes cognisance of Namibia’s existing development priorities and programmes, the economic, social, recreational and cultural objectives of the coastal zone, and the limits set by the carrying capacity of the coast. ICZM must also be undertaken in collaboration with neighbouring countries, through the Benguela Current Commission (BCC).

Adaptation in the tourism sector will focus on sustainable tourism, underpinned by Namibia’s negligible carbon footprint and its excellent reputation for nature conservation, and in particular pro-poor nature conservation (CBNRM). Namibia will actively seek to market the country as a “carbon-neutral”, “fair trade”, “pro- environment” and “pro-poor” tourism destination. Conservancies, by diversifying land use and associated rural income sources and livelihoods, provide benefits which improve the capacity of rural ecosystems, rural land use systems, and rural livelihood systems to adapt to the effects of climate change. This makes rural people benefiting from CBNRM less vulnerable and increases their adaptive capacity. Wildlife is generally better adapted than livestock to the current ecological and climatic conditions in arid Namibia, and can be expected to be more resilient and adaptable to future conditions. The Conservancy programme’s monitoring activities and developing database, collated and stored in a national conservancy information system (CONINFO) provides a valuable information base which can be used towards effective climate change monitoring and adaptation for both the natural resource base and the tourism- related activities which it supports.

An integrated health system-wide response and capacity building on all fronts is required to adequately respond and cope with the health-related impacts of climate change. Adaptation to climate change within other sectors, notably water resources, agriculture and food security, and disaster management can offset many of the negative repercussions within the health sector. First, immediate year-to-year health imperatives driven by slow-onset linear changes in weather patterns (and thus disease) will require well-planned public health responses. For example, the encroachment of malaria into new areas can be met by improvement and intensification of current efforts. Second, different response measures are required for abrupt and/or fast-onset changes, which can give rise to large-scale epidemic outbreaks. These include large-scale social upheaval, and secondary effects of extreme climatic events, which are more likely to be effectively dealt with under the umbrella of a nationally coordinated emergency response.

To complement and strengthen existing policies and programmes e.g. for malaria and HIV/AIDS, Namibia needs to enhance and further mainstream climate-related awareness, improve access to timely and relevant information, undertake scenario development and pro-active planning and policy development to address both fast-onset and slow-onset climate-induced events, develop health- centred adaptation strategies, climate-proof the public health system, and strengthen water and sanitation systems.

In terms of managing the impacts of drought and floods the capacity for disaster risk preparedness, rather than disaster response, should be strengthened. Spatial planning that takes ecosystem requirements into consideration has the potential to markedly reduce flood related costs. In order to address the disaster-related risks suffered by the majority of the rural population, pro-poor disaster insurance schemes should be developed.

Source: Namibia Second National Communication (October, 2011)

Climate-Related Hazards Addressed: 
Level of Intervention: 
Primary Beneficiaries: 
Through improved identification of national circumstances, government agencies and other actors will increase their abilities to insulate at risk urban and rural populations from the adverse effects of climate change.
Implementing Agencies & Partnering Organizations: 
Namibia Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry
Namibia Ministry of Lands and Resettlement
Namibia Ministry of Regional and Local Government and Housing and Rural Development
Namibia National Planning Commission
Global Environment Facility (GEF)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Project Status: 
Financing Amount: 
Co-Financing Total: 

Key Results and Outputs

  • Sustainable development and the integration of climate change concerns into medium- and long-term planning
  • Inventories of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases
  • Measures contributing to addressing climate change
  • Research and systematic observation
  • Climate change impacts, adaptation measures and response strategies
  • Education, training and public awareness

Potential Adpation Measures: 

Agriculture and Food Security

  • Educational & outreach activities to change management practices to those suited to climate change
  • Switch to different cultivars
  • Improve and conserve soils
  • Develop new crops

Water Resources

  • Decrease water demands, e.g. by increasing efficiency, reducing water losses, water recycling, changing irrigation practices
  • Develop and introduce flood and drought monitoring and control system
  • Reduce water pollution

Coastal Zones and Marine Ecosystems

  • Develop planning/new investment requirements
  • Research/monitor the coastal ecosystem

Reports and Publications

Monitoring and Evaluation

In 1992, countries joined an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to cooperatively consider what they could do to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with whatever impacts were, by then, inevitable.

Parties to the Convention must submit national reports on implementation of the Convention to the Conference of the Parties (COP). The required contents of national communications and the timetable for their submission are different for Annex I and non-Annex I Parties. This is in accordance with the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" enshrined in the Convention.

The core elements of the national communications for both Annex I and non-Annex I Parties are information on emissions and removals of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and details of the activities a Party has undertaken to implement the Convention. National communications usually contain information on national circumstances, vulnerability assessment, financial resources and transfer of technology, and education, training and public awareness.

Since 1994, governments have invested significant time and resources in the preparation, collection and validation of data on GHG emissions, and the COP has made determined efforts to improve the quality and consistency of the data, which are ensured by established guidelines for reporting. Non-Annex I Parties receive financial and technical assistance in preparing their national communications, facilitated by the UNFCCC secretariat.


Yamil Bonduki
Coordinator, National Communications Support Programme (NCSP)
Government of Namibia
Uazamo Kaura
Project Affiliate