No safety net in the face of climate change: The case of pastoralists in Kunene Region, Namibia

Emilia N. Inman, Richard J. Hobbs, Zivanai Tsvuura

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27 Citations (Scopus)


Over the past decade, pastoralists in Kunene Region, Namibia, have endured recurrent drought and flood events that have culminated in the loss of their primary form of livelihood–pastoralism. Most pastoralists are finding it difficult to sustain their livelihoods, and their communities have fallen into extreme poverty. Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) approaches are increasingly acknowledged as having the potential to enhance the adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities. The first step is to develop an understanding of how affected communities live, their perceptions of and how they respond to climate change and the biophysical impacts of climate change in their communities. This study aims to collect this information in order to explore the use of EbA to help pastoralists adapt to climate change. We examined an isolated pastoral Himba community, to understand their perceptions, experiences and understanding of climate change and its related impacts on their livelihoods. A nested mixed-methods approach using structured interviews was employed to address the study objectives. Interview results revealed that pastoralists lack scientific knowledge of climate change, and they have no access to climate change information. Though pastoralists have coping and adaptation approaches at the community level (such as making gardens, fishing, etc.), these have become ineffective as climatic uncertainty and change persist. Furthermore, pastoralists no longer get benefits from the environment, such as food and fodder. Despite this, there are currently no biodiversity interventions at the community level to address the impacts of climate change. Pastoralists have indicated their adaptation needs, particularly the provision of water supply to grow food. This is an open avenue to explore EbA approaches, specifically ecological restoration, while still addressing the need of the pastoralists. There is an urgent need to develop new practical adaptation strategies, including restoration options that will strengthen their adaptive capacity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0238982
JournalPLoS One
Issue number9 September
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


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