World Resource Institute

Namibia: Combating Land Degradation with Tools for Local-Level Decision-Making

By Susan Tambi Matambo and Dr. Mary Seely

Often described as “the land between two deserts”, Namibia is the most arid country south of the Sahel. In order to prevent land from becoming barren and the desert from encroaching, over the past 15 years Namibia’s government has pursued bottom-up approaches to natural resources management, particularly within the agricultural sector.

Since 1996, regular meetings known as Forums for Integrated Resource Management have enabled farmers and extension service providers to exchange locally-relevant information which in turn informs decision making for sustainable crop and livestock management. Central to the forums’ success is a decision support tool known as “local level monitoring” in which farmers identify and monitor critical indicators such as rainfall, livestock condition and fodder availability. Addition information concerning marketing of livestock, animal health and nutrition, rotational grazing and other rangeland management practices was provided by government agricultural extension workers through the forum. Together, this information has enabled farmers on the ground to make appropriate decisions for sustainable natural resource management.

In general the forums have been successful not only in building institutional capacity and social capital at the local level, but also in nurturing a feeling of inclusiveness and trust between remote rural communities and central government. The approach has succeeded by giving ownership to those involved, and therefore empowering local solutions to land management issues. While the initiative has greatly improved communication between decision makers and local farmers, it has yet, however, to make a significant impact on national level laws. Funding is also an issue, as the forums tend to be donor-supported, rendering them unsustainable when donor financing dries up.

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