Home » Wild places » Africa » Namibia


Damaraland, Namibia
Location: South-west Africa, bordering South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Angola and the Atlantic
Size: 825,000 sq km (three and a half times the size of the UK)
Environment: Desert, woodlands, grasslands, coast
Iconic species: Its many different habitats make it a country rich in wildlife including Africa’s iconic mammals, hundreds of reptile and bird species, and an array marine life
People: Just over 2 million – mostly rural, mostly poor

About the Namibia

Namibia is a large, sparsely populated, mainly dry country where droughts are common. Less than 10% of the land is suitable for growing crops. Almost one-third of Namibia’s population lives below the poverty line. These people largely live in rural areas and rely heavily on natural resources.

Our work in Namibia focuses mostly on the remote Kunene region in the north-west of the country, where people and wildlife are especially vulnerable to environmental damage and climate change. We work closely with our long-term partner, the field-based Namibian organisation Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC).

Why Namibia matters

One of Namibia’s most groundbreaking political reforms was the 1996 Nature Conservation Amendment Act, which gave local communities the power to form community based organisations called conservancies. Conservancies give communities legal rights to access, manage and benefit from wildlife on communal land. In return, the communities must commit to sustainably manage their natural resources. Income from ecotourism, for example, can then be used to support local families, schools and more.

Namibia is popular with wildlife tourists because it’s home to lots of Africa’s iconic mammals, including a large chunk of the cheetah population, elephants and rhinos.

Wildlife that live in Namibia

Threats to Namibia

Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia

Climate change

Droughts are already a frequent problem in such an arid country, but climate change means water shortages could become more common or more severe.

Strip mining for diamonds © Martin Harvey/ WWF-Canon

Agriculture, mining and other industries

Farming, diamond and uranium mining and tourism are all vital for Namibia’s economy – but they also compete for the limited water and land resources in this dry landscape.

Conflict between people and wildlife

When resources like water are limited, there's an increased risk that people and wildlife will cross paths and this can lead to conflict. Before the conservancies were created, local people mainly saw wildlife as a threat to them and their livestock. Now, through the conservancy, they can gain benefits from this wildlife which helps reduce such conflicts.

Black rhinoceros Under 24 hour armed guard due to risk of poaching Africa

Wildlife poaching

Although Namibia’s great wildlife protection work – in particular its conservancies – have reduced poaching to zero in many places, the increased demand for elephant ivory and rhino horn from parts of Asia means poaching still remains a threat.

Cheetah On the plains of Namibian
Lottery Funded

What we’re doing to help

With support from the Big Lottery Fund, we’re working with IRDNC in the Kunene region of Namibia. This is the second largest region in the country. Our focus is on:

Corraling cattle to protect from elephants © WWF-Canon / Folke WULF

Preventing conflict between people and wildlife

We’ve helped to introduce safe but effective repellents around fields to deter elephants including chilli ropes, drumming and beehives – as well as protective enclosures for livestock. We’ve helped to develop insurance schemes so farmers can be compensated if their crops or livestock are damaged by wildlife.

Vitalus Florry, field officer for Torra Conservancy, tracking rhinos, Torra Conservancy, Kunene, Namibia

Supporting conservancies

Community-managed conservancies (which we’ve been involved with since the 1990s) have brought new ways of thinking in Namibia. In places where we’re working, wildlife is now widely seen as valuable and worth protecting. Some of the country’s poorest people now benefit directly through lucrative activities like ecotourism.

Conservancies are also giving women more of a voice in a traditionally male-dominated culture. And they’re getting the chance to be more active in local issues. It’s becoming normal for women to be better educated, earn their own income, and be involved in running community affairs – from health to business.

Woman making handicraft goods, Namibia

Alternative incomes and training

We’ve helped establish craft groups producing wood-carving, jewellery and other goods from natural resources – including valuable medicinal herbs and essential oils. And we’ve helped people to market their products locally and internationally. We help run workshops on subjects ranging from wildlife monitoring to financial management. And we encourage local people to gain employment from the range of jobs that ecotourism brings to the region.

Protected water container and cemented water tank to avoid destruction by elephants. © Jo Benn /WWF-Canon

Improving water, land and resource use

Working with livestock farmers to improve the quality of their grasslands through sustainably managing their range. As this includes better management of water resources and considers how the land is used by others, it will benefit not only the livestock farmers, but also improve the habitat for both the wildlife and other people who rely on it.

How you can help protect Namibia