Indigenous peoples and climate change in Africa

Indigenous peoples and climate change in Africa

Case studies exploring climate change impacts on indigenous peoples in Namibia and their adaptation strategies

Through two participatory case studies, this paper examines the impact of climate change on the indigenous peoples of Namibia. The objectives of the case studies are three-fold: to document how the indigenous peoples are affected by climate change; to analyse how they perceive, adapt to and leverage opportunities from climate change; and provide recommendations for strengthening the indigenous peoples’ engagement in national and international public climate change policy.

The paper begins by explaining the methodology of the study and providing background on the socioeconomic and historical context of study areas. Focusing on the Topnaar and Hai Om people, research methods consisted of a literature review, data collection through household questionnaires, focus groups, expert interviews and participatory approaches, as well as data analysis identifying the successful use of traditional knowledge in climate change adaptation.

A vulnerability and opportunity assessment is presented regarding climate change, governance and socioeconomic conditions in Namibia, before the study comprehensively outlines the results from the two case studies. The vulnerability and opportunity context, the impacts of climate change on the indigenous people, and the traditional knowledge and adaptation are all explored in each sub-region.

The report concludes with recommendations regarding each community. Concerning the Topnaar community, the study finds that their adaptation to arid conditions (a high dependence on Inara plants and livestock) makes them vulnerable to floods, while the poor were disproportionately unable to adapt to recent heavy rains. The study recommends investing in eco-tourism and encourages the diversification of livelihoods.

Regarding the Hai On community, the study finds that their increasing loss of access to land and commercial farms is resulting in many problems. Access to bushfood is limited and they are ever-more dependent on government aid. Furthermore, the study finds that the authorities have restricted peoples’ efforts at livelihood diversification. It is recommended that the Hai On people are given more of their ancestral land, that a strict cattle-per-hectare policy is enforced to prevent further overgrazing, and proper consultation and participation is assured.

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