Getting to Grips With Namibia’s Drought Crisis

Oluibukun Gbenga Ajayi

NAMIBIA, KNOWN AS one of the driest countries south of the Sahara, has faced continuous drought conditions for many years.

The effects of drought can be far-reaching and profound, leading to crop failures, food shortages, loss of livestock, economic hardships and environmental degradation.

Droughts can vary in duration and intensity, ranging from short-term dry spells to prolonged periods of severe water shortages.

The severity of the situation in Namibia has prompted the government to declare national emergencies on multiple occasions, including in 1992/1993, 1995/1996, 2012/2013, 2013/2014, 2015/2016, and 2018/2019, in response to extreme drought events.

According to recent reports from the Namibia Meteorological Service, several regions – including //Kharas, Hardap, Erongo, Kunene, Omusati, Oshana and Oshikoto, as well as the western part of the Omaheke region – experienced below-average rainfall during the 2022/23 rainy season.

Following two consecutive seasons of above-average rainfall, Karasburg in the //Kharas region now finds itself in an extreme drought situation, having accumulated only 21,4mm of rainfall during the 2022/23 season.

This marks the fifth driest rainy season in Karasburg since records began in 1913.

Similarly, Maltahöhe in the Hardap region recorded only 5mm of rainfall during the same period, placing it in an extreme drought situation along with Kamanjab in Kunene.


Specifically, in 2019, Windhoek experienced its driest year on record since 1891, contributing to Namibia’s most severe drought on record.

The adverse effects of the prolonged drought were felt far and wide, with communities grappling with water scarcity, food insecurity and economic hardship.

Agriculture production plummeted to its lowest levels which led to increased livestock deaths and widespread disruption to the livelihoods of many families across the nation.

This prolonged period of low rainfall has had a devastating effect, with more than 500 000 people in Namibia suffering from the impact.

In addition, drought has resulted in the loss of more than 60 000 livestock and has left many locals facing significant challenges, including food insecurity and water shortages.

The situation reinforces the urgent need for comprehensive drought management strategies and the importance of building resilience to climate-related challenges in Namibia.

Given the detrimental effect of drought on communities, economies and ecosystems, the importance of accurately modelling drought conditions cannot be overstated, especially in the development of effective early warning indicators and strategies which is crucial for mitigating the impact of drought and minimising its adverse effects.


Thanks to advancements in technology, large-scale field operations and inspections are no longer the only recourse for assessing drought-prone areas.

Geographic information systems and remote sensing products offer efficient and cost-effective solutions which enable rapid response to evolving drought conditions.

Accurate drought modelling enables policymakers, emergency responders and stakeholders to anticipate and prepare for drought events, which allows for timely interventions to mitigate their impact.

Early warning indicators derived from reliable drought models provide vital information to decision-makers.

This provides an informed framework for implementing proactive measures such as water conservation initiatives, agricultural adjustments, and disaster preparedness plans.

Furthermore, accurate drought modelling facilitates the allocation of resources and aid to affected regions which ensures that assistance reaches those most in need.

A robust understanding of the spatial and temporal patterns of drought can help authorities prioritise interventions and allocate resources efficiently to maximise their impact and effectiveness.

In addition to emergency response efforts, accurate drought modelling also plays a crucial role in long-term planning and resilience-building initiatives.

Our policymakers can implement targeted measures to enhance resilience, such as improved water management practices, sustainable land use planning and infrastructure investments by identifying areas at higher risk of drought and understanding the underlying drivers of drought vulnerability.


Apart from accurate drought modelling and developing effective drought monitoring and early warning systems, mitigating the impact of drought requires a combination of proactive measures.

These include water conservation, sustainable land management practices, drought-resistant crop varieties and improved water infrastructure.

Raising awareness about drought preparedness and resilience-building efforts is essential to minimise the social, economic and environmental consequences of drought events.

Finally, government officials must be adequately informed and armed with accurate data to make informed decisions, while our communities must be educated and equipped with the tools and resources to mitigate the impact of drought on their livelihoods.

It is imperative that we act now.

Let us join hands in the fight against drought, for the well-being of our nation and the generations to come.

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

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