Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership – Namibia
Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank partnership is carrying out vital work in Namibia to save plant life under threat and habitats at risk. Namibia has an extremely dry climate which poses a challenge to plant survival. Collecting and storing seeds in Namibia will help to prevent plant loss in the wild and secure plant diversity for the future.
Climbing up sand dune 45 in Namibia to find Sesamum abbreviatum (Image: Andrew McRobb)
Plant life in Namibia is under threat
Conserving wild plant species in Namibia is a national priority. A significant part of Namibia’s economy is based upon its natural vegetation. In such a dry region of the world as this, the population are dependent upon the plants that grow for uses such as fuel, food and medicine.
Of the 4,000 plant species in Namibia 287 are classified as endangered and vulnerable. Among those 4,000 there are also 602 endemic species that are unique to Nambiba.
One of these endemics is the intrepid little giant (Chamaegigas intrepidus), a rare aquatic plant first discovered by German botanist and explorer Kurt Dinter in 1909.
Another is the tree tumbo (Welwitschia mirabilis). This plant is best known for its short, woody and unbranched stem. Surmounted by two strap-shaped leaves, the tree tumbo is unique in that it never stops growing, as long as the plant is alive. Its leaves become twisted and frayed with the passing centuries.
Environment and climate
With a mean annual rainfall of around 270 mm, Namibia has the driest climate in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 50% of the land surface is arid or desert. Such dry weather conditions ensure that many habitats in Namibia experience a severe lack of water.
A further 37% of Namibian habitats are classified as semi-arid and only around 8% as sub humid. Humid conditions are mainly found in Namibia’s northeast region and the Caprivi Strip with decreasing moisture in most of the country, increasingly towards the south and west.
Annual average rainfall across Namibia varies from less than 20mm in the western and coastal zones to more than 700 mm at the eastern end of the Caprivi Strip. Only 5% of the country receives more than 500 mm. The only perennial rivers flow along parts of the northern and southern borders.
A relatively small population of less than 2 million people live in the central-north region of Namibia, with the rest of the country remaining relatively undisturbed by people.
Saving seeds for the future in Namibia
Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank partnership in Namibia is working to conserve the wild species from arid and semi-arid areas and duplicate them at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place, West Sussex.
We aim is to collect and save around 130 species new to the collection each year. Our partner organisations in Namibia will be trained in specialist seed collecting and seed banking techniques. Seed storage capacities in Namibia will be expanded and knowledge of the Namibian plant genetic resources will be improved and documented.
Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank partner since 2001 has been the Namibian Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry. Within the Ministry we are working with the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRi) and the National Plant Genetic Resources Centre (NPGRC).
Discover more about our work in Africa...
Our team in Namibia
- Michiel Van Slageren, MSBP International Co-ordinator
- Herta Kolberg, Project co-ordinator
Our partners in Namibia
- National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI)
- National Plant Genetic Resources Centre (NPGRC)
Plant stories from Namibia
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