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Expected climate change impacts on land and natural resource use in Namibia: exploring economically efficient responses

Jon I Barnes1, James MacGregor2* and Moira Alberts3

Author Affiliations

1 Design & Development Services cc, PO Box 25942, Windhoek, Namibia

2 Department of Economics, Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, Sweden

3 Independent consultant, PO Box 350, Riebeek-Kasteel, 7307, Western Cape, South Africa

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Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:22  doi:10.1186/2041-7136-2-22

Published: 28 September 2012


This paper informs policy over the efficiency of investments on Namibia's rangelands both now and under future expected climate change. It is in this setting that Namibia's pastoralist communities, communal conservancies and increasing numbers of wildlife reside, and their economic activity dominates. We bring the principles of economics to decision-making. We analyse primary land uses, livestock production and wildlife viewing tourism in three ecologically different biomes - the southern Karoo Biome, the central Savanna Biome and the northeastern Woodland Biome. We analyse how expected climate change will impact these investments to 2080. From an economic perspective, pastoralism and wildlife-based tourism developed within common property management systems can be sound investments across Namibia's communal lands. Furthermore, as climate changes, the existing economic benefits to the Namibian economy associated with pastoralism and wildlife-based tourism should be magnified, as capital-intensive commercial fenced ranching systems become less economic. Recent research indicates that adoption of good rangeland management principles involving flexible herding, economies of scale and commercially viable utilisation of invasive bush can significantly increase profits and economic returns on investment for livestock systems in Namibia. Furthermore, under conditions of expected climate change, our results indicate that income from natural resource use will be more resilient than livestock and other agricultural investments. Estimated losses in economic contribution will be highest in the agricultural sector, and in particular with commercial fenced ranching, and rainfed cropping. Climate change poses considerable challenges for pastoralists and other economic activity on Namibia's rangelands. Global climate modelling suggests that by 2080, Namibia's temperatures will have increased by some 3°C and rainfall decreased by 5% to 20%. Our results suggest that gradual change in climate over the next 70 years will see the potential national value of livestock income halved and that of tourism income reduced by one quarter. Active interventions should include shifts in livestock and rangeland policy, encouraging the adoption of more flexible and resilient systems and including efforts to make rangeland use less rigid and more able to change and adapt. Adaptation to climate change should include promotion of natural resource-based land uses such as continued expansion of the Community Based Natural Resource Management programme. Furthermore, national policy now recognises this, and implementation of the Namibia Rangeland Management Policy will provide incentives to invest in sound rangeland management.

Namibia; Livestock; Wildlife; Land use; Climate change; Economics