Namibia - Early Projects 1996-2001

Update 2009

The situation regarding a fog collection project in Namibia remains the same. Once sponsorship funding is found serious efforts can be made to put together a water project for a Topnaar village. Joh Henschel and the staff at Gobabeb are a motivated and well informed group.

Update November 2004

Robert Schemenauer of FogQuest met with Joh Henschel (FogQuest member) the director of the Gobabeb Research Station during the Cape Town conference in October 2004. Joh feels that they have a good prototype for a modified large fog collector, which is capable of withstanding the periodic extreme winds in the time of the year outside the main fog season. This is a time when fog is infrequent but when very productive events do occur. He feels the sites identified in the 1990s are still viable as fog water sources for the Topnaar people. We agreed that he would look into access to some specific sites on and near the Swartbankberg and that FogQuest would seek a modest level of funding, to enable a small water project to be undertaken. If you can help to make this project a reality, please contact FogQuest.

Background

The earliest measurements of fog collection in Namibia were made in the 1950s by Nagel. In the 1970s Seely, Hamilton and others began investigations of beetles and plants that make use of fog as a source of water. In the 1990s, with support from the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa, the Standard Fog Collector (SFC), used first in South America, was brought to Namibia by Cereceda and Schemenauer for an evaluation of the fog collection rates in the Namib Desert. Since 1996, Henschel, Mtuleni, Shanyengana, Seely and others have continued the work with the SFCs and have also built several large fog collectors to test various construction techniques. Olivier has looked at fog frequency and climaology and Eckardt and Schemenauer at fog chemistry.

Namibia is a very dry country with negligible surface water. Much of the country is taken up by the Namib Desert. Rainfall is very low averaging only 18 mm at the coast at Swakomund and 21 mm at Gobabeb 60 km inland. Despite the aridity, coastal fog is very frequent and varies relatively little from year to year. The measurements with the SFCs have taken place from the coast inland as far as 60 km. Sites have included rocky outcrops in the desert, villages of the indigenous Topnaar peoples, and the research site at Gobabeb. The Gobabeb Training and Research Centre is the centre for fog investigations in Namibia.

Fog collection rates in the coastal part of the Namib Desert have been low. They are of the order of 1 L m-2 day-1 or less averaged for the entire year but of course higher during the actual fog events when daily values reach 12 L m-2 day-1. The water itself is of very good quality. Because of the lack of surface water and the depletion and the salinity of underground water, fog collection remains as one of the few alternatives for the nomadic people who now live more settled lives. Research continues on how best to utilize fog collectors in Namibia while funds are being sought for a project to bring water to the Topnaar people.