Namibia's landmass of 824,000 square kilometres has a subtropical desert climate. The cold but fertile Atlantic currents to the west bring abundant marine life, whilst the land bordering the ocean is the oldest desert in the world - the Namib. This wilderness is stark and beautiful but with a harsh environment for plants, animals and humans. To the northeast lies the most fertile area and to the east is the Kalahari desert and Botswana. The Orange River marks the southern border with South Africa.
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Namibia is three times the size of the UK but has a population of just 2 million, compared with 64 million in the UK. Windhoek, situated in the centre of the country, has a population of 500,000 and is the economic and political capital.
The Republic of Namibia adopted a modern constitution on achieving independence from South Africa in 1990. It has been hailed as one of the world's most democratic countries and it's entrenched Bill of Rights provides for freedom of speech, press, assembly, association and religion.
The Soil Fertility Project (SFP) is involved primarily in the arid north west, initially around Purros and Sesfontein. We are also engaged with Albrechtshohe Farm near Karibib, just to the north of Windhoek, which is typical of rain-fed agricultural land that mainly supports cattle but also some arable farming
106 km west of Sesfontein, Purros is a small community of about 100 people living in scattered small dwellings on the sandy plain bordering the ephemeral Hoarusib river. The majority living in the area are from the Himba tribe and some of them still live traditionally in Himba villages. It has not rained here in four years and the only water sources are the river when it flows and bore holes drilled into water aquifers deep below the surface. Desert elephant and lion are to be found in this area.
Named after six springs that surface nearby, the small town Sesfontein is set between mountains in the Hoanib Valley. As the name implies it does have access to a constant supply of spring water but very little rain has fallen here in recent years. The population of around 700 people supports a school and variety of trading stores. Home to primarily Himba and Herero people, it is an important hub of economic and cultural activity for the region. It borders the edge of the Namib desert.
30 km to the east of Sesfontein is the small settlement of Warmquelle situated near a large spring, which flows through the valley to feed a network of small gardens, as seen in the attached picture. It is in these gardens that the SFP has one of it's key projects.
In the past this land was more productive and remains of an early 1900's irrigation system can still be seen.
This is a traditional working farm and guest house near the small-scale mining town of Karibib and within easy reach of Windhoek. it is very different to the other SFP sites. There are marble, gemstones and low grade gold deposits nearby. The farm itself is situated next to hills and springs which feed good water into reservoirs scattered around the farm. Some cattle are reared and crops such as Lucerne grass are harvested. Sometimes a cloud will drop rain on one farm and miss another. Rainfall is very unpredictable.