Landscape Story

The area selected for the focus of COMDEKS activities in Namibia is the Ipumbu-ya-Shilongo Conservancy, located in the Otomanzi and Uuvuudhiya constituencies, in the Oshana and Omusati regions of northern Namibia. The Ipumbu-ya-Shilongo lies within a trans-boundary wetland shared almost equally between Angola and Namibia. This trans-boundary wetland is called the Cuvelai-Etosha Basin. The Cuvelai-Etosha Basin consists of hundreds of drainage channels (called iishana, singular oshana – in the local language) that emerge and diverge hundreds of times.  The conservancy was officially gazetted by the Republic of Namibia in April 2012. Spreading across 154,800 hectares, it is one of approximately 70 conservancies in the country in which community members manage and benefit from their resources jointly on a local level. Through the creation of a system of conservancies, Namibian land policy allows communities to proactively address habitat conservation and natural resource protection. Conservancies are created within existing communal areas where local community leaders enter into collaborative management agreements with state.  Members of the conservancy are given shared rights to the land, which cannot be entered or occupied without permission from local authorities and the conservancy.

Land use in Ipumbu-ya-Shilongo is divided into three distinctive zones –crop farming, livestock farming and conservation and tourism. Approximately 75% of the land, is dedicated mostly to crop and livestock farming. The remainder of the land, in the southern part of the conservancy is dedicated to tourism and conservation efforts.  The largest challenge facing the target landscape universally across the three zones is scarcity of water. There is lack of availability of permanent and sufficient sources of non-saline water. The landscape, located in a semi-arid area with relatively poor soil quality, is very susceptible to drought and flooding, and the majority of the population relies on the iishana (drainage channels) which collect water in low areas. However, these are not a reliable source of consistently available, clean water.  This scarcity is putting increasing pressure on the ecology of the region, agricultural production, and well-being of local communities in Ipumbu-ya-Shilongo.

Biological Impact

One of the greatest characteristics of Namibia is its extraordinary biodiversity, which consists of a wide range of mammal, bird, amphibian and plant species. Because of the aridity of the country, the distribution patterns of species can be dependent on rainfall patterns.  Currently, approximately 50% of species in Namibia are of conservation concern, mostly as a result of a history of poaching, or because of habitat loss due to agricultural production. There are estimates that about ten mammal species known in Namibia are assumed locally extinct, and species such as zebras and lions have experienced a 95% reduction over the past 200 years. Conservation efforts, driven largely by the creation of the system of conservancies, as well as support from governments and NGOs, have helped to restore previously declining populations of lions, cheetahs, black rhinos, and zebras. Currently, in the Ipumbu-ya-Shilongo Conservancy, there is no systematic system for managing wildlife in the conservancy.  Animals are able to move fairly freely from the nearby Etosha National park, which can lead to conflict with grazing livestock and farmers. Additionally, increasing fresh water scarcity is a threat to local plants and animals.

Socioeconomic Impact

The target landscape area lies within the Cuvelai-Etosha Basin, a trans-boundary wetland system which consists of hundreds of drainage channels that are dry throughout most of the year.  However, when flows do occur, they can range from very small trickles to large floods of water, making the landscape conditions dependent on seasons and weather variability.  The majority of the people live in the northern part of the conservancy, the estimated population within the conservancy is about 13,500 individuals, and population density is on average only about 10 to 14 people per km2.  Although approximately a quarter of the land is set aside for conservation efforts and tourism, the population is highly dependent on agriculture and livestock farming for survival. Due to the lack of available fresh water, the majority of crops produced are through a “low-input, low- output” system to mitigate the risk of crop loss due to inadequate rainfall or pests.  As a result, crops are limited mostly to production of staple foods, mostly pearl millet, although small areas of sorghum, maize, and vegetables are also grown.

Baseline Assessment

In March 2014, a baseline assessment was undertaken in order to evaluate the state of the landscape and to identify key issues. Community members were invited to participate in the assessment and workshop, and 38 stakeholders, including 15 women and 23 men took part.  The workshop was carried out in English and in Oshiwambo, the local language for most of Northern Namibia. During the workshop, the participants, which included members from the traditional local authority, community leaders, agricultural and forestry technicians, and members from local conservation groups, participated in a mapping activity in order to outline the landscape and to identify key resources and areas of concern. Participants identified and discussed the various land uses, economic activities, and infrastructure within the conservancy. Next, community members were invited to rate the current conditions of the Conservancy using the SEPLS Resilience Indicators.  The results of these indicators were used to discuss priorities and strategies within the target landscape.

Landscape Strategy

The overall aim of the COMDEKS Landscape Strategy is to increase the resilience of natural ecosystems and human production systems through partnership‐based community activities.  The strategy has a clear emphasis on recognition of the value and importance of local traditions and cultures; natural resource management by various participating entities; and contributions to local socio-economies.

Some of the expected outcomes are:

  1. Enhanced provision of ecosystem services within the target landscapes, through conservation activities and the sustainable use of natural resources.
  2. Improved agricultural productivity in the target landscape by promoting sound and sustainable agricultural practices, resulting in increased food security and income generation.
  3. Alternative livelihoods options promoted within the landscape to enable access to markets.
  4. Strengthened institutional systems as well as multi-stakeholder participatory decision-making for greater landscape resilience.
  5. Emergence of a new model for landscape management and its promotion as a best practice for other landscapes or communities to emulate.

Country Project

The COMDEKS project seeks to bring about community development, learning, and knowledge sharing by making small grants available to community organizations to help them maintain more resilient socio-ecological production landscapes. The types of community projects that may be supported by COMDEKS in the Ipumbu-ya-Shilongo Conservancy include activities that will improve freshwater retention, both for consumption and agricultural use, rehabilitation of wells, or the development of “conservation tilling” as an agricultural practice, which would allow water to penetrate the soil and nourish crops for a longer period of time. Other activities may focus on the creation of wildlife preservation zones, which would sustain regional biodiversity while creating a source of revenue for the local community.

To learn more, please download the COMDEKS Country Programme Landscape Strategy for Namibia here.



Project Contact

Mr. Nickey //Gaseb
National Coordinator
Phone: +264 61 431 7700
Fax: +264 61 240 339

Ms. Rauna Nghatanga
Programme Assistant
Phone: +264 61 431 7700
Fax: +264 61 240 339

c/o Environmental Investment Fund Namibia , P.O. Box 28157, Auas Valley, Windhoek , Africa 9000


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