Namibia: Harness Technology to Combat Climate Change

There is hardly any country in the world with climatic conditions similar to those of Namibia, said Harald Schütt of the Renewable Energy and Efficiency Institute (REEEI) at the Polytechnic of Namibia.

And thus Namibians should stop complaining and take the bull by the horns "to show the world they can run the whole country on renewable energy and make lots of money out of it".

He made these remarks at the publicization of a joint-venture initiative on energy efficiency between the Polytechnic of Namibia and the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

The key mandate of the joint venture is to collect and disseminate information on renewable energy and energy-efficiency technologies and practices.

Currently REEEI runs a DANIDA-funded Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Capacity Building Programme (REEECAP), whose objective is to increase the use of renewable energy and energy-efficiency measures to promote the environmentally-sustainable socio-economic development of Namibia.

In the same spirit REEEI works closely with manufacturers of energy efficient (tsotso) stoves, solar cookers and wood gasifiers to promote these and other technologies.

Schütt said all that needs to be done is to make sure that Namibia cooperates with her international friends and partners, share in technological knowledge and use the country’s unique and favourable conditions.

This came to light at the Auas Rotary Club special meeting last week Monday, attended by visiting German senator Professor Dr Reinhard Loske in the capital. Schütt said with Namibia’s particular situation "there is more opportunity than we might have problems".

"Under the general trends in the country, I’m of the humble opinion that Namibia should and could become the first developing country in the world to generate its own renewable energy. We have two to three times more sunshine than Germany," he said.

He said Namibia has a generation deficit of around 400 megawatts. "If Namibia plays its cards right and presents itself on international level, she can follow a new model of an industrialised nation and a new model of job creation.

"Technically, we can concentrate on solar power technology and wind power generation." He said that if experts concentrate on the coastal area with more then 1560 kilometers of coastline, they could harness more than 1000 megawatts with small wind turbines.

"We could make Wavis Bay the centre of excellence in southern Africa in wind energy generation, generating enough solar power which is an opportunity to create massive jobs."

Schütt said the country also exports electricity and liquid fuels worth more then N$970 million.

He said that on a mere 6,500 hectares of land, Namibia could produce enough energy for the entire country which would be unique in the world.

Dr John Mfune, senior lecturer in the Department of Biology at the University of Namibia, spoke on climate change from a Namibian perspective.

He said with the country being the driest in sub-Saharan Africa it is already witnessing the impact of climate change.

"As we are aware, Namibia does not contribute a significant amount of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, and yet she is a recipient of the impact of climate change." Predominantly, he said, impacts will be forced on the country and Namibians will have to work out strategies on how to adapt.

"Our attention is towards adaptation and we should not ignore it."

"We have to be aware that our existence depends on natural resources like food for livestock. For the majority in rural areas, climate change has become an interest topic of the future."

In terms of the country’s response, he said there is a lot that has happened.

Mfune said as the country is dry, Namibians will see a lot more areas drying out.

The question, he said, "is how are we sustainably going to have enough suitable water".

The other issues, he said, are food security, sustainable resources, agricultural bio-diversity and coastal resources.

Human beings will also be included in future policies regarding issues of sanitation. He said in areas where it becomes extremely dry, sanitation will have to be addressed as it relates to sickness.

Mfune said: "When we put up infrastructure or develop housing units, it must be climate-proof. You cannot develop housing close to the sea, as water levels might rise."

On sustainable energy and carbon emissions, Mfune asked if Namibia would go the route of using a lot of carbon or low carbon.

"We use the renewable resources we have and highlight the key issue of education, training and capacity building.

"We need to educate and we need to strengthen capacity to respond to a strategy and action plan. The rice project in Kalimbeza in Caprivi is a good example," Mfune said.

Namibia must take advantage of what we have and invest in projects to feed ourselves.

In taking advantage of what we have, Mfune said the research component must not be left out.

"Rain is going to be affected and for Namibia the prediction is that the rainy season will be shorter. Which means that we must look for varieties that can mature in a shorter period, like mahangu.

"More should be done to give enough information to the people on the ground to switch growing varieties when seasons differ."

How the country manages resources is the key question, he said.

Mfune said in developed countries and developing countries things are different.

"Governments in the developing world can make changes, while in a third-world country there is no such thing. We therefore need to prepare our technology for development."

He said the country’s Disaster Policy is good and it will contribute in addressing the issue. On technology development, he said it is prudent to look at technology, especially technology that locals use.

"We must adapt to new technology, dealing with drought. Also develop climate change policies and translate them into action."

Mfuna said there is going to be a big need for networking and multi-sectoral networking.

Namibia needs that all sectors of society be involved in addressing issues of climate change.

He advised Namibians to take advantage of its living history, and borrow from indigenous knowledge on how people in the past had coped during hard times.

"Although we cannot solve the problem overnight, we must take action as the country is prone to droughts and low rainfall," he said.

By Fifi Rhodes,