Combating Namibia’s Drought

Oluibukun Gbenga Ajayi

President Nangolo Mbumba has declared a State of Emergency in the face of the persistent El Niño-induced drought affecting all regions of Namibia. 

The government’s action is commendable and underscores just how critical the situation is – it is projected to be Namibia’s worst drought in 100 years.

This follows a pattern of recurring droughts that have had a devastating impact on our communities, agriculture and economy, not only in Namibia but across the entire Southern African region.

In fact, the drought sweeping the region is reportedly set to be the worst in decades.

The World Food Programme says 13,6 million people in the region are experiencing crisis level of food insecurity.

In line with president Mbumba’s declaration, Zimbabwean president, Emmerson Mnangagwa has also declared a national disaster to tackle the prolonged drought crisis in the country, once the breadbasket of southern Africa.

Neighbouring Zambia and Malawi have also recently declared states of disasters because of bouts of severe drought.


According to, one in five Namibians battles with food insecurity. More than 331 000 households are said to have registered for the government-funded drought relief programme designed to assist affected communities.

At present, this programme, which is expected to cost about EUR 40 million, currently has a funding shortfall of EUR 25 million.

At the extraordinary Summit for Heads of State and Government (held virtually) on 20 May by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to address the drought and floods affecting member states, president Mbumba appealed for assistance from SADC countries and the international community to bridge funding gaps.

As we anticipate the generous assistance of the international community, we must adopt prompt and effective strategies to maximise this state of emergency.

In this article, I highlight both immediate and long-term strategies to mitigate the effects of the current crisis and build resilience against future droughts.


  • • The government should expedite the distribution of water to the most affected areas, especially remote and rural communities to ensure even access to clean water. The public needs to be properly educated on the importance of water conservation, especially during this period.
  • • Prioritise providing emergency feed and fodder for livestock to prevent further loss of animals vital to the livelihood of many Namibian families.
  • • The government should also consider offering palliatives in the form of financial aid or subsidies to farmers to help them sustain their operations.
  • • Distribution of food aid to the most vulnerable will address immediate food insecurity. This can be done in partnership with international organisations for better and more robust impact. Industries should also be encouraged to consider providing food palliatives to their host communities as a form of corporate social responsibility.
  • • We must ensure that primary healthcare services are available and accessible. It is anticipated that water scarcity will lead to malnutrition which will negatively affect people’s health, particularly in drought-stricken areas.


  • • Developing and implementing a comprehensive national drought management plan that includes all stakeholders – government agencies, private sector, non-governmental organisations, and communities – is essential for coordinated and effective responses.
  • • Strengthening legislation and regulations around water use, land management and environmental protection can create a framework that supports sustainable practices and resilience-building.
  • • Promoting and supporting the construction of rainwater harvesting and storage systems in both urban and rural areas can increase water availability during dry periods. While there is a paucity in the volume of rain received, the little rainwater we have should be judiciously harvested and stored.
  • • Invest in building new dams and reservoirs while effectively maintaining existing ones to enhance Namibia’s water storage capacity.
  • • Wastewater recycling on an industrial and municipal scale should be one of the government’s long-term priorities in mitigating the effect of drought. Wastewater recycling can significantly augment Namibia’s water supply by providing an alternative source of water for non-potable uses such as irrigation and industrial processes.

Namibian industries, particularly mining and manufacturing, can adopt recycling technologies such as those of the Petronas Refinery in Melaka, Malaysia, to reduce freshwater consumption and dependency on limited water resources.

  • • Explore the feasibility of desalination plants along the coast.
  • • Sustainable agricultural practices.
  • • Cultivation of drought-resistant crops can help maintain agricultural productivity even during periods of low rainfall.

Research institutions should focus on investigating, developing and disseminating these crop varieties.

  • • Implementing soil conservation techniques such as mulching, terracing and the use of cover crops can enhance soil moisture retention and reduce erosion.
  • • Innovative technology and research.
  • • Using remote sensing technologies for continuous monitoring and early warning systems can help anticipate drought conditions and enable timely interventions.
  • • Supporting climate research initiatives in Namibia’s higher institutions to understand the patterns and effect of drought will inform better policymaking and resource management.


While immediate relief measures are necessary to address the current crisis, we must also invest in long-term strategies that build resilience and reduce vulnerability to future droughts.

We need to see this state of emergency as a call to action for all of us.

The government, in collaboration with the private sector, civil society and international partners, must prioritise short- and long-term strategies for Namibia to emerge stronger and be better prepared to combat drought.

  • * Oluibukun Gbenga Ajayi is a senior lecturer in geoinformation technology at the department of land and spatial sciences, Namibia University of Science and Technology; The views expressed in this article are his own and not those of Nust.

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