The recurrent Cuvelai Basin floods are both a blessing and a curse. This article discusses the consequences that flooding has on rural livelihoods of the Cuvelai Basin in Northern Namibia. The combined flooding episodes in the last few years had a substantial impact on local residents and the Namibian economy, with estimated losses of approximately US$136.4 million (NAD1364 million) in direct damage and US$78.2 million (NAD780 million) in indirect losses. The consequences of flooding amounted to ~1% of the country’s 2009 Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Rural residents in the Cuvelai Basin live predominantly on small farm holdings (‘ekove’) allocated by local village leadership, and depend heavily on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. Since higher-lying ground with soil best suited for crop production becomes scarcer, residents are allocated land in low-lying areas which are smaller and more susceptible to floods. The destruction of crops, farm and grazing land, trees and livestock, by floods and similar disasters is of a huge concern. The study sought to assess the impacts of flooding that place residents at risk, and socio-economic conditions that lead to vulnerability. Qualitative data was collected using questionnaires for in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. The qualitative data was recoded and some of it coded in SPSS and STATISTICA to enable statistical analysis of the results. Qualitative responses are in turn partly used to substantiate the quantitative results. Residents of the Cuvelai Basin heavily rely on subsistence agriculture to sustain their livelihoods. The impacts of flooding on animal and plants are thus discussed.
Key words: Cuvelai Basin, rural livelihoods, flood risk management.
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