• John Mendelsohn

Namibia’s new Atlas

A new atlas of Namibia was published this year. This is the third geographical profile and atlas of Namibia. The first, the National Atlas of South West Africa (Namibia), was published in 1983. Nineteen years later, in 2002, a second atlas followed, the Atlas of Namibia, a portrait of the land and its people. And after another 20 years, here is the Atlas of Namibia: its land, water and life.


Three organisations gave major support to its production: the German development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) generously funded the project, the Namibia Nature Foundation published the book, and Ongava Research Centre co-ordinated and compiled a significant part of the text and data in the Atlas. The authors will be known as The Atlas of Namibia Team, comprising individuals who compiled text, sets of data and analyses for the Atlas. Many other people and institutions gave support in the form of data, photographs, advice, knowledge and encouragement. Cumulatively, at least 8-man (or person) years went into producing the new Atlas.


More information about the world is available than ever before. In Namibia, hundreds of surveys, mapping projects, censuses and research studies have been conducted in recent decades. Each day, hundreds of satellite images are taken to measure rainfall, cloud cover, atmospheric particles, plant growth, urban development, floodwaters, fires, and much more. A goal of this Atlas is to help ease the challenge of retrieving, analysing, understanding and synthesizing much of this information into a portrayal of Namibia’s land, water and life.

Another intention is to explore and describe the connections between the wide range of topics covered in the Atlas. For example, as readers look at the pages on climate the effects that weather patterns have on plants or soils, which in turn affect farming and people’s livelihoods, will be evident. Each section of this atlas stands on its own, but each also adds value to topics on other pages.


The Atlas was published in 2022. The aim is to take stock of Namibia at this time, consider how it has changed, and help open our eyes to changes to come. Much of Namibia’s demographic and economic environment has changed substantially during the past few decades. These changes have impacts on water, soils, vegetation, and wildlife, and they affect how land is valued and used, how towns develop and how and where people live. More changes will come. Each day, motion is everywhere: in wandering animals, growing plants, germinating seeds, gusts from the south or breezes from the east, migrations of people, evolving economies, and children acquiring knowledge.


Most of the data used in the 2002 Atlas was soon made available through www.the-eis.com. This is the website for Namibia’s Environmental Information Service (EIS), which provides a wide range of environmental information. Over time, hundreds of other datasets, published papers, books and unpublished reports have been added. Access to all these resources is free. All data and maps from this new Atlas of Namibia are also available through this portal and www.atlasofnamibia.online for the use of students, technicians, scientists and anyone interested in exploring Namibia’s fascinating geography.