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Closer look: Landscape level assessment for the Central Namib Desert

Namibia - Credit David Wright, FFI
Written by: Pippa Howard
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The southern African country of Namibia has been high on Fauna & Flora International’s (FFI) agenda since early 2007.

Both Pippa Howard and Dave Wright from FFI’s Business & Biodiversity programme have written lauding the dramatic beauty and high level of biodiversity of the Namib Desert’s varying landscapes. In these blog posts, they also outline some of the challenges to the long-term sustainability of the Central Namib in the light of short-term developments such as uranium mining.

All those who have visited this part of the world have developed their own special affinity with the place, and everyone agrees that the sustainable development of this ancient and unique desert is essential.

Supporting sustainable and responsible development in the Central Namib

In April 2011, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, through its Strengthening Protected Areas Network programme, commissioned FFI to undertake a landscape level assessment (LLA) of key biodiversity vulnerability and land use within the uranium province in the Central Namib, in collaboration with international and local specialists.

The LLA arose out of a seminal piece of work that was completed in 2010 – the Strategic Environmental Assessment for the central Namib Uranium Rush. This assessment highlighted the multitude of positive and negative impacts associated with different development scenarios. It also provided a number of recommendations that, if implemented, will address key gaps and support sustainable and responsible development of uranium mining in the Central Namib, for the benefit of all its inhabitants.

The strategic assessment highlighted the need for a LLA of biodiversity in western Namibia’s Erongo region to identify biodiversity priority areas.

The LLA employed a systematic conservation planning approach to develop a powerful decision-support tool for:

• Identifying priority areas for biodiversity and ecosystem services in the Central Namib, based on defensible data and a robust methodology

• Supporting decision makers and stakeholders in evaluating the cumulative impacts of mining and other land-uses on biodiversity and ecosystem services

The LLA produced a series of maps and data sets that have helped us to better understand the impacts of uranium mining and other developments on the environment and identify where conservation priorities and other land uses exist within the landscape.

Building a strong case for conservation

As one of the uranium mine managers commented: “The problem with the environment is that it is such a hard sale.”

When decision makers in government are faced with a choice between short-term development initiatives (like mines or heavy industry) versus longer-term sustainable livelihoods or biodiversity conservation, we need persuasive arguments underpinned by verifiable data to guide them towards more sustainable decisions.

The outputs from this assessment, coupled with the work of the Namibian Coast Conservation and Management project, give biodiversity a stronger position in the debate and make a meaningful contribution towards the sustainable management of the Central Namib landscape for the benefit of both people and biodiversity.

Download a fact sheet about the Landscape level assessment in the Central Namib Desert (PDF).

Learn more about the Landscape level assessment of key biodiversity vulnerability and landuse in the Central Namib, Namibia (PDF).

Written by
Pippa Howard

Pippa Howard is the Director of the Business & Biodiversity Programme. Pippa has degrees in Environmental Science, Marine Biology, Zoology and Development Management. She is a registered Professional Natural Scientist with over 20 years experience in a variety of spheres of biodiversity conservation, environmental management, impact assessment, development and sustainability. She has worked on projects in the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Ecuador, Alaska, Italy, Brazil, Indonesia, Liberia, Guinea, Chile, Spain, Bulgaria, Sultanate of Oman, Indonesia and Singapore. Pippa directs and is responsible for FFI's initiatives and partnerships with multinational corporations and all corporate affairs. She plays a key role in developing business and biodiversity strategy, business plans and financial management; provides specialist input to cross-sector partnerships and multidisciplinary programmes in biodiversity conservation; is a specialist in extractives sector environmental management, biodiversity risk assessment, action planning and management and biodiversity offsets design, management and implementation. Pippa also sits on a number of sectoral initiatives (BBOP, ICMM, GRI, IPIECA) and biodiversity advisory committees of extractive sector companies (De Beers, Rio Tinto, Nexen, Areva).

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