Population growth depletes Namibia's natural resources

Windhoek- Namibia (PANA) -- A recent research project by 30 students from Namibia's two high institutions of learning has linked the fast depletion of natural resources in a given country to the fast expansion of its population.
Sponsored by the Research Foundation of Namibia jointly with the Swedish International Development Agency, the project was conducted between November 2001 and January 2002 year to determine the effects of population expansion on the resource base.
Students from the University and the Polytechnic of Namibia based their research on the water balance of the Etaka Canal, a water channel which runs through two densely populated northern regions of Oshana and Omusati.
During the research they observed that overgrazing was prominent along the entire length of the canal, a situation which they said will have serious repercussions for the communities based there.
The project was part of the Summer Desertification Programme, an environmental research training programme administered by the Foundation which is designed to provide future decision-makers with the tools to address environmental challenges for sustainable development.
In their research operation the students specifically studied the water capacity and evaporation rates of the Etaka Canal and the Olushandja Dam along the channel.
Based on the evaporation rates of the canal, the students deduced that it might be beneficial to allow more water into the canal, and then allow the water to reach the livestock and people of the area in a fast and expansionary manner.
In a special bulletin entitled, "The Waters of Etaka," just published to highlight the research results, the students said they discovered, during their six-week research, that a large number of livestock within the two regions depended for their grazing on Lake Oponono which is dependable because of sufficient grazing facilities along its area.
In essence the students argued that the suitable farming areas for settlement were fully occupied most of the time and vegetation did not seem to be used in a sustainable manner.
The maximum foraging range was put at least six kilometres from water points, while they also established that the western area along the Etaka Canal was heavily overgrazed and dependant on the recent rainfall in the region.
Regarding the vegetation, the students noted that the Mopane tree, which is the dominant woody plant in the area, is used in an unsustainable manner, while palm trees are exploited with young trees unable to grow where cattle and goats are grazing.
During their projects, the students also listed equity concerns in which they stated that it was the inequality of wealth, not only in the number of livestock owned but also in resources to build fences which excluded small and poor herdsmen from good grazing facilities.
The other factor leading to inequality was that those who had settled in the area for 20 or more years had managed to develop large households, farms and herds, leaving absolutely no space for upcoming settlers.
The results of the survey will be compiled into a research paper to be published by the Desert Research Foundation and be distributed to decision-makers and stakeholders.
They (results) will also be discussed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development, the line government ministry which partnered the project.

18 Fevereiro 2002 23:17:00

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