Land and Resources, Environmental Issues
Despite Namibia's low population density, excessive farming pressure on a fragile ecology has resulted in environmental damage in the north. Much of the woodlands and perennial grasses have disappeared, leaving the soil degraded and subject to desertification. Game herds have suffered depletion from drought and intensive hunting.
Through the 1970s Namibia's wildlife was vulnerable to high levels of poaching by the country's rural inhabitants, who needed both the food that wild animals provided and the money from their skins. In the 1980s the government hit upon a creative solution for the problem. The administration began employing people from local communities to scout for and report poachers and, later, to act as guides for tourists—all within close range of their homes. In return for a few months of work each year, a rural person received a monthly food ration and a cash stipend. By making the preservation of wildlife a boon to the livelihood of rural people without significantly disrupting their traditional ways of life, this program made wildlife conservation more effective and directly beneficial to the country's rural inhabitants. Wildlife populations have rebounded somewhat, and ecotourism has expanded.
Namibia has one of the highest ratios of protected land to population in the world, at 65.1 sq km (25.1 sq mi (1996)) per 1,000 people. About 13 percent (1997) of the country's total land area is protected. The government has ratified international environmental agreements pertaining to biodiversity, climate change, desertification, endangered species, hazardous wastes, law of the sea, ozone layer protection, and wetlands.