Assessing the Evidence: Migration, Environment and Climate Change in Namibia


Every year, millions of people around the world are displaced by disasters and conflicts (IDMC, 2017). A disaster refers to a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or society, up to a point where the affected communities are forced to migrate (UNISDR, 2017). Disasters are caused by natural hazards such as floods, droughts, cyclones and earthquakes, the impact of which, may be worsened by underlying factors such as poverty and inequality, fragile or weak governance, urbanization, climate change and environmental degradation (IOM, 2015b). Whereas, social unrest and armed conflicts are the main drivers of conflict-induced displacements (IDMC, 2017), disasters bring about the highest number of displacements each year with a total of 24.2 million people recorded for 2016 as compared to conflict-related displacements that lead to the displacement of 6.9 million people during the same period (ibid). The combined displacements totaled 31.1 million people in 2016 alone and it equates to one person forced to flee every second (IDMC, 2017).

Namibia is classified as one of the countries that is most vulnerable to climate change and natural hazards in the world (UNU-EHS, 2016). The country experiences significant agricultural production losses, upon which more than 70% of the population directly depend on food security for survival (NSA, 2012). The effects of climate change and natural hazards pose serious threats to the livelihood of communities and socioeconomic development at large (Birkmann & Welle, 2015). Namibia is particularly vulnerable to natural hazards, such as droughts and floods (OPM, 2012b). Droughts and floods occur at different temporal and spatial scales and have become recurring events (UNDP, 2014). Due to increased frequency and intensity of these extreme weather events, the affected communities are forced to migrate from one area to another, mostly to escape drought stricken or flooded areas (in the short-term) or in search for water, grazing, arable land, in-order to enhance their livelihood and survival (ibid).

In order to better understand MECC in Namibia the assessment objectives were as follows:

  1. To map and build evidence on the complex relationship between migration, environment and climate change in Namibia, by looking at human mobility due to environmental factors, and providing an overview of the country’s situation.

  2. To analyze existing policy frameworks and provide recommendations for the integration of migration due to climatic and environmental variability into the national policy framework.

The MECC assessment adopted a qualitative research methodology and is primarily based on a desk-review. The desk review has been complimented by interviews of the relevant institutions and case studies on prominent natural hazards such as floods in the north central and drought in the north-west regions of Namibia respectively. The assessment focused on capturing and analyzing existing data from literature with specific emphasis on human mobility due to environmental phenomenon and the responsiveness of the existing policy framework relevant to climate change and human mobility.

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