Climate & Agriculture

Arid and semi-arid

A long road cutting through the Kalahari desertAverage rainfall is generally low in Namibia, but especially so in the deserts of the Kalahari and Namib. Some desert areas receive as little as 15mm of rain and in some years, there may be none at all. Temperatures can reach well over 45°C.

Along the coastal plain of the Namib Desert, the morning fog is the only regular moisture for the region’s plants and animals. This fog forms when the cold sea air (from the Benguela current) mixes with warmer air from the land.

To the north and east, it becomes less dry inland. The capital of Windhoek receives an average of 1700mm during the summer rainy season (from December to March). However, even in central and northern inland regions, rainfall patterns are variable and regular droughts occur.

Daytime temperatures in Windhoek average 24°C in the summer and 13°C in the winter (May-October).

Water is the key

The best soils are in the north and also in parts of the central and southern plateau. But overuse of land has reduced tree and bush cover and led to serious soil erosion.

Dam facts

At 30km long, Hardap Dam (near Mariental) is Namibia's largest. The capital of Windhoek receives its water from the Von-Bach Dam (southeast of Okahandja) which can store 50 million cubic metres.

Water is the main constraint on agriculture, especially in populated regions of the north and in commercial farming regions. In certain areas, the water table has dropped by as much as 100 feet over the last century.

Some annual rainfall is collected in dams. But water supply remains a problem, especially with a growing population.

Livestock farming

Arable farming only takes place in certain parts of the country. Even then, it’s mainly subsistence-style, where smallholders grow millet and maize as main crops.

Drought years

Namibia normally imports half its cereal requirements. In drought years, food shortages can hit rural communities.

Two-thirds of the country supports pastoral grazing and the raising of livestock is a key activity.

Cattle meat is Namibia’s highest-earning agricultural export. Meat from sheep, chicken and pigs is also exported, as well as karakul skins.

Karakuls are a variety of sheep originally from desert regions of central Asia. German settlers introduced them because the animals cope well with the dry conditions. In Namibia, karakuls with white rather than black pelts have been bred. However, the market for the soft, tightly-curled pelts of the newborn lambs has diminished because of anti-fur campaigns. But the wool from adult karakuls is increasingly used for carpets and felt.