Zanele Hartmann

A couple of years ago, I visited Namibia, and part of the visit included the Sossusvlei-dunes and the Dead Vlei in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. I was met by a spectacular and striking landscape that was extremely contrasting. On the one side, there were these tall, red, beautiful sand dunes, and  on the other side, there was the Dead Vlei. Vlei is the Afrikaans word for “marsh”, simply translating to “Dead Marsh” in English. The Dead Vlei was once an oasis, that is now a white clay pan. The dead acacia trees are estimated to be between 600-700 years old (Bliss, 2018). The Namib desert, containing the Namib-Naukluft National Park, is thought to be the oldest continuous desert in the world (Bliss, 2018). This desert has endured an arid climate for 50-80 million years, and this lengthy dry period has influenced the endemic plants and animals in the area (Bliss, 2018).

Namibia is situated in the south-western region of the African continent, it is semi-arid, and the country experiences significantly lower rainfall than other nations in Southern Africa. Namibia’s climate consists of persistent droughts, unpredictable and variable rainfall patterns, high temperature variability, and scarcity of water. The World Bank’s 2021 climate change country report mentioned that climate change in Namibia is expected to have significant impacts on natural ecosystems, key economic sectors, and livelihoods in the country. Rising temperatures and increasing extreme heat conditions are likely to, for example also affect tourist activity. While the Dead Vlei is already facing arid conditions, one wonders how climate change could potentially affect this landscape and other surrounding ecosystems. The latter might also indirectly impact the Dead Vlei through its impact on tourism. The extreme weather conditions and heat may have implications on the experiences of those who visit this exquisite landscape, thus influencing visitor patterns to the area.

Millions of people have been affected and continue to be affected by weather and climate hazards. Namibia has faced persistent droughts and floods in the northern region, desertification in the central, southwest, and eastern regions, forest fires throughout the country, and sporadic disease outbreaks such as cholera and hepatitis E (World bank, 2021; UNDP, 2022). Flooding is the most regularly occurring hazard in Namibia, with documented flood events having affected over a million people. These floods commonly damage infrastructure and crops, hampering patients’ access to healthcare and children’s access to school (World bank, 2021), consequently, disrupting people’s livelihoods, health and well-being.



Bliss, S. (2018). Landscapes and landforms: Deserts: Namib desert. Geography Bulletin50(1), pp.37-52.

The Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2019-2022. Namibia

World Bank, ‘Climate Risk Country Profile: Namibia’, 2021, World Bank Group, Washington, D.C., 2021.  Available from:

Posted on 20 March 2024 09:03:22

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