Fish farming in the Namib DesertJuly 25, 2012
Swakopmund – Bring a sweater!July 25, 2012
Gobabeb Training and Research Centre
Text Annetjie Siyaya, Mary Seely, Viv Ward
Photographs Gobabeb Training and Research Centre
Originally chosen for research purposes, the location of Gobabeb at the intersection of three ecosystems provides a unique opportunity for guided learning about our natural environment, with an emphasis on the arid zone.
The Gobabeb Training and Research Centre (GTRC) is a demonstration site for hybrid energy, water-recycling systems and sensitive environmental impact practices. Students therefore gain practical field experience and knowledge of arid ecosystems, with simultaneous exposure to sustainable living techniques.
Using a questioning, self-discovery approach, the education programmes cater particularly for young Namibians. They are equally suitable for those learning about environmental education; those teaching environmentally related subjects; and those wanting to gather ideas for integrating all aspects of the environment into more formal education opportunities. Longer-term internships (three to 12 months) are offered to tertiary-level Namibians and international post-graduates focused on applying theory to environmental problem-solving for sustainable development.
At Gobabeb we constantly look for new ways to stimulate and challenge young Namibians, our future decision-makers. Through funding from the Embassy of Finland, Gobabeb has been developing materials and implementing environmental education courses for local primary and secondary schools for the past six years. In a training programme entitled ‘I am a Researcher’, learners conduct and complete small research projects in the three ecosystem areas: dunes, river and plains.
At the end of the research projects, learners present their findings to their trainers, teachers and fellow learners.
Apart from conducting research, they also engage in discussions, one of which is when water is a limiting factor, especially in the desert. To help tackle the issue of water shortage, learners carry out infiltration exercises and build desalinators as an alternative method to help solve this problem. Learners also investigate alternative energy sources and their usage, such as solar cookers, and learn how these devices can prevent or reduce deforestation.
Throughout its fifty-year history, the GRTC has welcomed students from all over the world to pursue PhD, MSc or post-doctoral research, often in collaboration with Namibian students
As part of the training section, Gobabeb has a school liaison officer who runs programmes at the coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. Environmental Club members from various schools participate in afternoon activities. They also go out into their immediate surroundings to investigate the impact of the mining and fishing industries, as well as the issue of waste management and urbanisation.
Through these participatory, hands-on training courses, environmental awareness and conservation is instilled in young people. What better way to learn than by going out into the environment, investigating issues of environmental concern, and coming up with solutions, thereby giving rise to the mission statement: Training in a research-based ‘outdoor classroom’ towards a sustainable future for all’.
Thanks to funding by the Embassy of Finland, this year the Centre is able to promote excellence through a Youth Environmental Summit. The target group is 30 Grade 11 learners in the Erongo Region, who – through a selection process – demonstrate a questioning approach to the impacts of mining on the environment. The Summit will include an excursion to the Uranium Institute in Swakopmund, and practical fieldwork focusing on areas disturbed by mining exploration near Gobabeb.
Learners will be challenged to consider both negative and postive spin-offs of mining in the Namib Desert.They will examine possible rehabilitation and restoration measures while conducting their own small research projects, ultimately producing a mini environmental impact assessment. The Ministry of Education in Erongo has given the green light for this initiative, which will hopefully become an annual event on the school calendar.
Throughout its fifty-year history, Gobabeb has welcomed students from all over the world to pursue PhD, MSc or post-doctoral research, often in collaboration with Namibian students, in fields ranging from geology and ecology to sustainable use and management of a range of natural resources in a variety of settings. Students may undertake this research in the Namib-Naukluft Park at Gobabeb, or use the Centre as their base for working in surrounding areas.
Gobabeb hosts tertiary courses each year for university student groups from the United States and Germany. Focusing on arid ecology, the students participate in current research projects as part of their formal university courses. Courses are conducted for University of Namibia (UNAM) and Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) students, as well as for UNAM student teachers.
We strive to establish environmental awareness and understanding, with the emphasis on implementing changes that promote sustainable development in Namibia
The Gobabeb Training and Research Internship Programme (GTRIP) is a five-month internship for Namibian students. Participants are required to complete individual research based on the theme of the course: restoration ecology. To equip them to become Namibia’s future environmental leaders,
students are also exposed to thinking critically, GIS (geographic information system) and remote sensing, writing, leadership and statistics skills.
Gobabeb also engages in a range of training activities outside the formal education sector.
The Centre’s proximity to the Topnaar community has allowed for a close, long-term relationship. A local community member is currently documenting Topnaar livelihoods and history through photographs and video. A project was launched recently to establish appropriate sanitation facilities in the communities along the Kuiseb River. Courses are tailor-made for Ministry of Environment and Tourism wardens in GIS and research techniques, to support their work in the Namib-Naukluft Park.
Why are we doing all this training in the desert? Well, we strive to establish environmental awareness and understanding, with the emphasis on implementing changes that promote sustainable development in Namibia.