Sustainable resources can unlock economic potential

Oct 4, 2019


Woodcarving in Namibia should not deplete the natural forests. Photo by: Namibia Tourism Board

Brigitte Weidlich

Climate change is a harsh reality particularly in southern Africa with extreme weather conditions as floods and droughts badly affect livelihoods. Natural resource management, bio-economy and climate smart agriculture have recently become popular buzzwords to build resilience.

“Sustainability is based on three pillars, namely environment, economy and the social factor,” said Clemens von Doderer, resident representative of the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) in Namibia. “If these three pillars are not balanced and just the environmental or social pillar is pushed, this will cause unevenness”, he told a conference in Windhoek this month on Namibia’s sustainable natural resources management and its bio-economic potential.

The one-day conference looked at three key sectors in Namibia, environmental resources, sustainable agriculture and forestry as well as marine and inland fisheries.

“Safe-guarding our natural resources not only for us but particularly for our future generations should be at the centre of our work. Sustainability, however, does not call for the prevention of consumption but, rather environmentally safe and wise consumption with value addition and environmental safeguards,” the Speaker of the National Assembly,” Peter Katjavivi emphasised during his opening speech.

Namibia’s constitution obliges the State in article 95 to put measures in place to promote the “maintenance of eco systems, essential ecological processes and the biological diversity of Namibia” as well as the “utilisation of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future”.


River tourism

Sustainable use of natural resources is an important aspect of Namibia’s tourism industry. Photo by: The Cardboad Box

River tourism
Namibia regularly submits reports to the United Nations as stipulated in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and has signed the 2015 Paris declaration, and has a national policy on climate change in place since 2011. However, widespread floods in northern Namibia in the 2009-10 rainy seasons, destroying crops and infrastructure and the prevailing drought since 2016 – the worst in 35 years – revealed Namibia’s vulnerability to climate change. Overfishing in the marine sector and inland fisheries along the [permanently flowing] rivers, depletion of valuable wood species like kiaat and rosewood, which was exported to Asia until a moratorium was issued at the end of 2018, requires more concerted efforts.
Some 70 percent of Namibia’s population of 2.4 million directly or indirectly depend on ecosystem services and biodiversity. These include natural building materials, fuel from wood, craft materials, fishing, medicinal and cosmetic value like devil’s claw and natural oil from the fruit of the marula tree. Tourism and Namibia’s regulated trophy hunting tourism play an important role. “Approximately N$13 billion (about 780 million Euros) in revenue is annually generated from Namibia’s biodiversity, with an estimated 40 percent coming from tourism”, Environment and Tourism Minister (MET) Pohamba Shifeta says.

National strategy for biodiversity conservation

Namibia is currently developing a national “Resource Mobilisation Strategy for Biodiversity Conservation”, including concrete policy options and economic instruments. The German government is rendering support to the MET through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The GIZ is currently implementing the Resource Mobilisation for the Biodiversity Strategy of Namibia Project (ResMob) in cooperation with the MET.

The overarching objective is to improve Namibia’s capacity to mobilise financial, human, technical and knowledge-based resources for its biodiversity conservation. By measuring the economic value of nature, ecosystems and the benefits they bring, the value can be documented and integrated into national accounting as a basis for government policy and management, according to the GIZ. “Natural capital accounting must demonstrate the value of biodiversity in Namibia to justify calls for resources”, it explains the ResMob project.

The project is also developing customised training programmes. This is done by cooperating with tertiary education institutions, strengthening environmental economics in Namibia and supporting the Environmental Economics Network of Namibia (EENN).

“Establishing the economic value of our biodiversity and ecosystem will enhance their sustainable use, enable us to mobilise resources for their management and create new jobs, “a conference delegate emphasised.


Sustainable resources

Sustainable use of natural resources is an important aspect of Namibia’s tourism industry. Photo by: The Cardboad Box