An atlas of Namibia

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By John Mendelsohn, Alice Jarvis, Carole Roberts and Anthony Robertson

The Atlas of Namibia represents a vast source of information compiled from over a hundred sources. It provides an important tool in education on every level and is a valuable reference for virtually anyone interested in Namibia and what the country has to offer.

Ever wanted to have more facts and figures about our country at your fingertips? Such as: Is Gobabis colder than Keetmanshoop? How were the Naukluft Mountains formed? Where is the boundary between Caprivi and Kavango? Which region has the highest density of people? How many species of endemic reptiles does Namibia have? Where does the most intensive cattle farming take place? How much rain does Etosha get and why does most of Namibia’s rain fall during the summer months?

Work began on a new atlas of Namibia three years ago. The product, Atlas of Namibia: A portrait of the land and its people, is scheduled for publication in October 2002. The book of al-most 200 full-colour pages will contain over 200 maps, as well as numerous graphs, diagrams, tables, photographs and satellite images of the country – each presented with an explanatory text. It will contain a wealth of information on all aspects of the geography of Namibia, compiled as follows:

• Physical – relief, geology, minerals, soils, water and landscapes;

• Climatic – climate systems, ocean currents, sunshine and radiation, temperatures, humidity, rainfall, evaporation and wind;

• Natural – characteristic vegetation types and the resources they provide, as well as the types, distribution and abundance of various animal groups;

• Settlement – land, its occupation, control and use – present and past; and

• Human – distribution, density, growth and structure of the population, household economics and social services

While it took a team of four compilers working with a handful of specialists three years to produce the atlas, the publication represents the vision, dedication and findings of many people working in various organisations over several decades. Infor-mation was compiled from over a hundred sources, including government ministries, NGOs, private businesses, individuals, books and the Internet. The project was made possible by the willing support and generous contributions of a great number of individuals and organisations.

How it all began

Modern-day inventions such as the GPS (Global Positioning System), computers and GIS (Geographic Information Sys-tems) software have made geographical data much more available and accessible, and the compilation and analysis of these data that much quicker. Over recent years a considerable amount of geographical data on Namibia has been generated.

However it has been almost 20 years since the last comprehensive atlas of Namibia was published, and at least ten years since that atlas was available to the general public.

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) recognised that a compilation of these data would provide a valuable up-to-date description of the geography of the country, and as such would be a useful tool to assist in the management, conservation and use of the environment and its resources.

Three years ago, with generous funding from the Government of Finland, the Atlas of Namibia Project established its home in the Directorate of Environmental Affairs at the MET. Soliciting the assistance of specialists in various fields, the core team of four embarked on compiling the atlas from the most recent information available.

Data were transformed into maps, graphs, tables and script. Photographs and satellite images were sought. The work was reviewed by peers and refined by editors. Finally, the elements were brought together as an organised spread of information and colour under the wand of the designer.

Publishing assistance

Producing a book is an expensive venture, and to make it successful requires more than a good tale. No matter how sound the book is, to reach its audience it needs to be marketed and distributed. To assist in these tasks and to help ensure the continued availability of the publication, the MET entered into a publishing agreement with David Philip Publishers, a long-established Cape Town publisher of general and reference books. The agreement has the added advantage that more copies will be printed in the initial print run, making the book more available and affordable. Through the Atlas of Namibia Project, the Ministry will acquire 2 000 copies of the book, which will be freely distributed to schools, libraries and government offices. The hope is that the publication will become a valuable and well-used resource.

The cherry on top

Apart from the book, there is a second and equally valuable product of the project, namely the data. The collection of data compiled and analysed to produce the maps and graphs in the book forms the most up-to-date single set of geographical data available on Namibia. Apart from the information compiled from numerous sources, there are also original data generated specifically for the atlas. Much of these data will be made available for public use. In the same spirit that the project received facts and figures from its many numerous contributors, it is hoped that they will be widely used, further analysed and published in other formats to contribute to wise development of the country.

This article appeared in the 2002 edition of Conservation and the Environment in Namibia.


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