Namibian youth delve deep into the desert

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The Gobabeb Research & Training Centre hosted its third Youth Environmental Summit (YES) from 19-25 August 2013. With generous support from the Finnish Embassy’s Fund for Local Cooperation, the programme brought together 40 secondary school learners and three teachers from schools around Erongo and Ohangwena to participate in a week of intensive field research under the guidance of senior researchers affiliated with Gobabeb.

In conjunction with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification’s (UNCCD) Conference of Parties in Windhoek next month, the theme for this YES was proud of our deserts while combating desertification.

Over the course of the week, learners spent a cumulative 2500+ hours collecting, analyzing, and presenting data from the field. They worked in four teams, each specializing in a particular aspect of desertification and land degradation in the Namib Desert.

Learners present their findings

Learners present their findings

At the end of the week, the learners presented their findings in a creative seminar that involved songs, role plays, and formal displays to Gobabeb staff, representatives from the Namibian Environmental Education Network, the Embassy of Finland, and visiting researchers from Namibia, South Africa, and the United States.

The learners will be publically showcasing their final presentation at Gobabeb’s Open Day on 21 September. Hosted each year, the Centre’s Open Day is an opportunity for the public to visit and see the various research and training programmes Gobabeb is involved with.

Registrations for Open Day may be obtained by emailing openday@gobabebtrc.org.

Additionally, a group of eight learners from the YES will present their work before delegates at the UNCCD Conference of Parties in Windhoek during the week of 16 September.

These learners will spend several days before synthesizing their research into a 20 minute presentation that they will give at a side event during the conference.

Learners installed pit-fall traps to catch animals on the dunes as part of their studies

Learners installed pit-fall traps to catch animals on the dunes as part of their studies

This will be an excellent opportunity for Namibia to demonstrate its efforts to combat desertification and enhance science education by empowering youth in the country.

The YES was funded by an N$880,000 grant from the Finnish Embassy’s Fund for Local Cooperation which has worked closely with Gobabeb in the past to fund previous environmental education programmes.

The funding will also be used to host the fourth YES in May 2014, which will focus on the recent inscription of the Namib Sand Sea as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Transportation for the learners to Gobabeb was provided by the Erongo Education Regional Office of the Ministry of Education. Namibian Wildlife Resorts generously provided two 4×4 vehicles which were used to transport learners throughout the week into the dunes of the sand sea, along the Kuiseb river, and across the gravel plains. The vehicles were also used to bring learners deep into the sand sea one evening to explore the night life of the dunes.

Field study of indigenous and invasive plants

Field study of indigenous and invasive plants

During the walk, learners used 40 torches donated by Cymot in Walvis Bay, which will be kept at the Centre and used in future training programmes with learners.

List of research topics

Dr. Eugene Marais from the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport, and Culture worked with learners to develop ways of monitoring Namibia’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Namib Sand Sea. Learners studied the geological processes responsible for creating and shaping the dunes while applying various methods to measure biodiversity.

Dr. Gillian Maggs-Kölling, director of the Gobabeb Research & Training Centre and former Chief Researcher at the National Botanical Research Institute, assisted learners in studying whether or not browsing in the Kuiseb River by domestic animals reduces productivity in the river.

Study of how land uses patterns can influence erosion rates

Study of how land uses patterns can influence erosion rates

Dr. Cornelis van der Waal, a private agriculture and environmental consultant, guided learners in assessing the impact of land degradation on the gravel plains of the Namib Desert. Learners examined forage availability, rates of erosion, and animal activity in several areas with various levels of human activity to see how people impact the productivity of the land.

Dr. Mary Seely, a long time associate and former director of Gobabeb, lead a group of learners in examining drought tolerance among plants in the Namib Desert. Learners identified arid adaptations of various plants in the region and discussed the national Drought Policy and Strategy in the context of Namibia’s extreme climate variability.

List of participating schools

Coastal High School Namib High School Swakopmund Secondary School De Duine Secondary School Duneside Secondary School Kuisebmond Secondary School Kolin Foundation Secondary School S. I. !Gobs Secondary School Ponhofi Secondary School

(Swakopmund) (Swakopmund) (Swakopmund) (Walvis Bay) (Walvis Bay) (Walvis Bay) (Arandis) (Omaruru) (Ohangwena)

Inquiries should be directed to Gobabeb’s Training Coordinator, Robert Logan, by emailing robertl@gobabebtrc.org or calling +264 64 694 199.

Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia is a high-quality glossy Namibia travel and lifestyle magazine tasked with promoting Namibia to the world. With riveting stories, first-hand encounters and magnificent photographs showcasing tourism, travel, nature, adventure and conservation, TNN is the ultimate and most comprehensive guide to exploring Namibia. Travel News Namibia is published in five different editions per year. These include four English- language editions and one German. Travel News Namibia is for sale in Namibia and South Africa.

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