Climate change took on a whole new meaning before the weekend when one of the most influential men on earth, Pope Francis, citing the scientific consensus that global warming is disturbingly real, left little doubt about who to blame in an interview with CNN. He slammed a slew of modern trends — the heedless worship of technology, our addiction to fossil fuels and compulsive consumerism, saying “humanity’s reckless behaviour has pushed the planet to a perilous breaking point.”
For Namibians, the Pope’s stern lecture carries even more weight as the country has been identified as one of the most vulnerable to climate change and global warning due to its extreme aridity and dependence on primary industry, combined with a limited adaptive capacity. This is confirmed in a study; ”The economic impact of climate change on commercial agriculture in Namibia” by Louise Helen Brown of the University of New York, done in collaboration with Namibia Nature Foundation.
“In the absence of adaptation, the effects of climate change on agriculture could lead to economic losses of up to 3.5 percent of GDP per year, and could exacerbate the already high inequality in income distribution. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism states that “climate change could potentially become one of the most significant and costly issues that affect the national development process in Namibia,” the report warns.
Approximately 70 percent of Namibia’s 2.2 million people live in rural areas and are directly reliant on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods. The study goes on to say that these impacts can be incorporated into land use planning and policy making. Identifying the regions and sectors that are likely to be most vulnerable to climate change will give land owners the opportunity to make informed. Namibia relies heavily on groundwater reserves, which currently supply more than 50 percent of the country’s water demand. Lack of water is identified by the Government of Namibia as the single biggest limitation to Namibia’s development. Namibia’s economy is heavily reliant on natural resources, with primary industry comprising some 24.4 percent of GDP (Central Bureau of Statistics) and agriculture and forestry contributing 5.5 percent of GDP, of which 3.2 percent derives from livestock farming. Agriculture is the main land use in Namibia, with approximately 64 million hectares, or 78 percent of the total land area, being used for farming, and approximately 70 percent of the population practicing subsistence farming.
In terms of employment, agriculture is the most important industry in Namibia, employing around 27 percent of the country’s work force and 58 percent of the workforce in rural areas.
Cattle farming for meat production takes place on approximately 38 percent of Namibia’s land, in the northern and central regions, and its productivity, which is generally low compared to that of other countries, is largely determined by rainfall. Large areas are required, with an average stocking rate on commercial farms of 14.8ha to one large stock unit. Small stock farming takes place on about 33 percent of the land area, in the arid southern regions where there is insufficient grass for cattle farming.
Intensive agriculture takes place on less than one percent of Namibia’s commercial farmland, and includes the production of maize, wheat, and high value commodities such as dates, olives, grapes, dairy products, pigs, fruit and vegetables.
Production systems involving natural resources, primarily wildlife, are on the increase in Namibia, both on commercial and communal land. Wildlife production is estimated to contribute about two percent to gross national product (GNP), of which 62 percent comes from wildlife viewing tourism, 19 percent from trophy hunting and 10 percent from live game production Part of the value of wildlife to farmers lies in the diversification of risk (Ashley and Barnes, 1996).
Tourism is Namibia’s fastest growing industry, and an important source of foreign exchange. Tourism directly contributed approximately 3.7 percent to GDP. The full potential of tourism in Namibia is yet to be realised, especially in the communal areas, and the economic contribution of wildlife alone to GNP is projected to triple over the next 30 years.