Deon Shekuza, an environmental activist and blogger, explores the impact of climate change in Namibia where it already threatens the daily lives of the majority of the country’s population. Part of our #coolerplanet blog series. Follow Deon on Twitter for more blogs and updates.
Throughout Namibia’s history, climate change has altered the course of the daily lives of the majority of its population. It is a country with different tribes and cultures, made-up of herders, nomads, hunters, and farmers, inhabiting stretches of rivers, coastlines, deserts – and all of them rely on the environment to survive. Today present generations are still living like their ancestors did, but with the new challenge of climate change.
Now, Namibia’s environment is changing, threatening the livelihoods of 70% of the population. Rainfall is becoming scarcer for what is already the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa. The seasonal weather patterns are not easily predictable, affecting crop farming and cattle rearing.
The immediate consequences of climate change are felt most in rural areas. Urban areas often remain uninterrupted by extreme weather conditions, with commercial activities able to continue. But in rural communities floodplains are being destroyed, fish stocks reduced, schools and hospitals damaged, diseases such as dengue and yellow fever spread and the risk of malaria increased. The effects also pose a threat to people with disabilities and HIV/AIDS who are already poverty stricken and find it hard to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change.
However, negative impacts do reach built-up areas, like the capital city Windhoek. People from farming backgrounds, who often lack skills suited to working in cities, are migrating to Windhoek. This movement of people is adding to the hike in unemployment and poverty. It’s placing a strain on the capital: crime, waste and environmental degradation are rising, and a shortage in water, energy and housing supplies are the three major crisis facing Namibia. Namibia’s economy is based on natural resources. As these resources deplete, it reduces spending on education, health, social services and other vital services. The government is forced to borrow money from international markets and introduce new local taxes.
Namibia still lacks the adequate technical capacity and knowledge to deal with climate change. This is where and why young people should get involved. We need to raise awareness to spread the message of climate change more effectively. We are needed on the ground to speed up the implementation of policies, create innovative solutions and hold the government accountable for the management of resources such as water, because the droughts and energy deficits will be ours to experience. Youth will inherit the land, farms and lifestyles their parents have. We face the fight against climate change alongside other challenges, such as unemployment, poverty and housing problems. It is clear that solutions made today will benefit the future generation’s experience – young people must take action now.