Rural Poverty in NamibiaA conservation project in Namibia, sub-Saharan Africa, is actively fighting rural poverty alongside preserving important wildlife species and ecosystems. Indeed, the N/a’ankuse Wildlife Sanctuary, located around 50 kilometers west of the country’s capital, Windhoek, has identified the benefit of a holistic approach to the improvement of wildlife and human populations.

Namibia was the first country to enshrine the protection of the environment into its constitution, making it a suitable home for the conservation project. Recognizing that effective conservation comprises the ‘preservation of natural habitats, the well-being of wildlife and the empowerment of local communities,’ the N/a’ankuse Foundation targets the reduction of species endangerment whilst fighting the rural poverty that the local San community is facing. As indigenous descendants of the oldest inhabitants of Southern and Eastern Africa, the San have suffered years of ostracism, violence and even genocide, and are subject to the worst effects of the country’s poverty and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Health Care Efforts

Through both donations and the project’s flourishing volunteering program, N/a’ankuse has funded the Lifeline Clinic, whose main focus is tackling the poor health outcomes for the San community. Members of the community benefit from annual medical care through clinic-based health care and outreach programs, aided by a 4×4 ambulance, which is helping to combat the persistent discrimination in service provision toward the San as well as their geographic isolation. Bi-weekly nutritional support programs, attended by up to 120 people, provide emergency malnutrition aid as well as education and information regarding health and dietary requirements.  


The project has further recognized the importance of education in the fight against rural poverty. An estimated 55.6% of the San population have never received a formal education due to marginalization within public schools, widespread bullying, poor exam results and the giving up of schooling entirely. Yet the N/a’ankuse primary school, established in 2009, directly challenges these barriers to education and the subsequent high illiteracy levels within the community. Recently, Namibia’s Petroleum Training and Education Fund (PETROFUND) provided members of the primary school with the opportunity to attend St. Boniface College in 2024, one of the country’s most acclaimed schools, through the provision of tuition and boarding fees.

The project’s conservation efforts revolve around a holistic approach to both the environment and human life. The primary school creates a safe and welcoming environment for San children, fostering a deep respect for local wildlife. This not only enhances educational outcomes for the children but also encourages the local community to participate in preserving their environment.

The school inspires its students to maintain their vegetable gardens and educates them about conservation efforts. Simultaneously, local community members are employed to support activities like beach clean-ups, anti-poaching initiatives and environmental sustainability projects. In 2020, an agricultural program was established to reinforce nutritional support by providing fresh fruits and vegetables. It also offers training and job opportunities in agricultural and hydroponic techniques for the community.

Such training is essential for the continuity of sustainable farming, ensuring a steady supply of fresh local produce. This helps address malnutrition and improve overall health within the community.

Looking Ahead

The N/a’ankuse project is a remarkable illustration of sustainability and conservation efforts collaboratively addressing rural poverty. By adopting an integrated approach, this initiative has shown that it is possible to uplift both communities and their environment for a brighter future.

– Phoebe Long
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Namibia
Even as one of the eight countries in Africa classified as an upper-middle-income country, Namibia is still striving overall to eliminate extreme poverty and inequality. The implementation of new socioeconomic structures from the Namibian government and partnering initiatives will soon make the vision of no poverty in Namibia a reality.

Living Below the Poverty Line

Of the nation’s population of 2.5 million people, 17.4% were living below the poverty line in 2015 and 2016. This is a drastic decrease of over 11% between 2009 and 2010 when 28.7% of the population lived below the poverty line. This progress aside, environmental conditions and employment rates have inhibited the growth of economic status and societal wealth in Namibia.

Although the poverty line decreased in 2016, unemployment remained at a steady rate of 34%. Unemployment was more likely to affect women at 38.3%, and youth counterparts suffered at a rate of 43.4%. The rates of poverty and unemployment are dependent on people’s surroundings. Youth living in rural areas are likely to experience more difficulty finding a job than those living in an urban setting.

Education in Namibia

Education in Namibia, similar to in the U.S., is a primary skill to have when looking for work. Therefore, poverty in Namibia significantly affects people who may not have access to education. This includes those living in rural areas, those disabilities affect and women. Inadequate access to education due to a lack of resources is more likely to affect people living in rural areas. Rural communities often have limited access to management, funding, technology and information. In many cases, these resources directly affect employment opportunities.

Unfortunately, one-third of students drop out of school before the 10th grade. This issue correlates to the lack of teaching qualifications, as more than 20% of teachers in Namibia have no formal qualifications. The number of students that continue to higher education also remains at a low estimate of 19%. To combat these challenges, there is a need for mobilization of employment policies to rural areas in Namibia.

The High-Level Panel on the Namibian Economy (HLPNE)

The Namibian government appointed the HLPNE in March 2019 to respond to issues regarding “the path toward recovery and growth.” The seminar discussed economic inequalities, examining the investments and policies for the creation of jobs. According to the ILO, “The HLPNE has four pillars of work that include building a $1 billion investment portfolio, removing policy impediments, promoting Namibia for tourism and investment and creating employment opportunities.”

Honorable Erkki Nghimtina, Namibia’s labor minister, and Chair of the HLPNE Johannes Gawaxab both spoke during the seminar. They believe that the economy needs funding to gradually allow for job creation. In turn, this would balance the socioeconomic disproportion in Namibia. Tax incentives and government funding from private sectors and organizations would provide the ability to implement this, allowing the country’s economy to respond properly.

Vision 2030

Along with this, the Namibian government has created a developmental agenda to combat poverty in Namibia: Vision 2030. Vision 2030 enacts targets to create new and improved policies to form a more unified government between all sectors, both rural and urban. This agenda focuses on health care, education, housing and more in order to provide equal opportunity for those living in poverty in Namibia. Modernizing the economy within rural sectors will provide more funding and resources between schools. This will allow students to receive appropriate education, specifically developing skills needed for work in Namibia.

With help from new initiatives and improved policies and targets, awareness is emerging regarding poverty in Namibia. This awareness will allow for improvement upon the inequalities that still affect rural and urban sectors. These contributions will enable Namibia to continue making positive strides to eliminate poverty by 2030.

– Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr