The Future Okavango



BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research)
FONA (Research for Sustainable Development)

Project Time



Prof. Dr. Joachim Hill
Dr. Achim Röder
Dr. Marion Stellmes
Dr. Johannes Stoffels


Partner Universities and Research Centres

  • Universidade Agostinho Neto (UAN) - Luanda/Lubango
  • Universidade Privada de Angola (UPRA) - Lubango
  • Universität Bremen
  • University of Botswana - Gaborone/Maun
  • Universidade Estadual De Campinas (Unicamp) - São Paulo
  • Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
  • Universität Hamburg
  • Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
  • Lisbon University Institute - Centre of African Studies (ISCTE-CEA)
  • Phillips-Universität Marburg
  • University of Namibia (UNAM) - Windhoek
  • Polytech/NUST of Namibia - Windhoek
  • Universität Trier
  • Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen (DSMZ) - Braunschweig
  • Okavango Research Institute (ORI) - Maun
  • Helmholtz Climate Service Centre (CSC) - Hamburg
  • National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) - Windhoek
  • The University Centre for Studies in Namibia (TUCSIN) - Windhoek

Partner Institutions and Organisations

  • Associação de Conservação do Ambiente e Desenvolvimento Integrado Rural (ACADIR) - Menongue
  • Accao Para O Desenvolvimento Rural e Ambiente (ADRA) Luanda
  • Community Economic Development Project (CEDP) - Windhoek
  • The Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN) - Windhoek
  • Environmental Protection and Sustainable Management of the Okavango River Basin Project (EPSMO) - Luanda
  • Kalahari Conservation Society (KCS) - Gaborone
  • Mayana Valley Foundation - Rundu
  • Mashare Agricultural Farm - Mashare
  • Ministry of Agriculture,Water and Forestry of Namibia (MAWF) - Windhoek
  • Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) - Windhoek
  • The Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) - Gaborone

The Project

The Okavango River is one of the large lifelines of Southern Africa. It has its source in the rainy highlands of Angola, forms part of the northeastern border of Namibia and terminates in the Okavango Delta, the world's largest inland delta and the largest freshwater swamp south of the equator. Accelerating climate change, population growth, and anthropogenic over-utilization of natural resources turn the Okavango Basin with its variety of savannah woodlands and wetland ecosystems into a global hotspot of biodiversity loss and potential land use conflicts.

There is a need for high-quality scientific contributions to optimize landuse and resource management. The interdisciplinary research project "The Future Okavango"(TFO) is dedicated to support a sustainable landuse and resource management in the Okavango Basin with scientific knowledge.

TFO will analyse the interlinkages between human action and nature's services. An improved understanding will help to evaluate and valorize existing ecosystem services and landuses within their cultural and socio-economic context and to discover potentials for improved land management. With an innovative and trans-disciplinary approach TFO aims at supporting the already well established communication between science and decision makers leading to the participatory implementation of research results. Results promise a high potential transferability to other tropical and sub-tropical regions.

Okavango Challenges

A strong growth of human population with changing consumption patterns causes an expansion of land use

  • Climate change scenarios forecast an increase of water stress and extreme events for the catchment
  • The global demand for resources is most likely to severely affect formerly peripheral regions.
  • The decline of the dry woodland (Miombo) belt due to degradation is regarded as one of the global tipping point regions regarding loss of biodiversity, impacts on climate and on biogeochemical cycles of other regions

TFO aims at

  • an improvement of knowledge based land use management within the Okavango catchment - involving the countries Angola, Botswana and Namibia
  • the application of a trans-disciplinary approach by involving relevant stakeholders on different scales 
  • the analysis of ecosystem functions (ESF) and services (ESS) under scenarios of global change


Tasks of the Department of Environmental Remote Sensing and Geoinformatics

Task1: Mapping Land Use Systems and Functional Vegetation Types on Catchment Level at a Spatial Grid of 0.5 to 1.0 km

Employing time series of satellite images with high temporal resolution, such as the MODIS system, phenology indicators will be analyzed to characterize major land use systems and functional vegetation types. This information will be coupled with climate data to provide unbiased assessments of ecosystem productivity. These data will supply valuable baseline information covering the full Okavango catchment.

Task 2: Analysis of Local/Regional Land Use Dynamics within Three Representative Core Areas of the Okavango Catchment (Upper Cubango, Angola / Kavango, Namibia / Okawango, Botswana)

The baseline provided by task 1 will be complemented by more focused studies assessing land use and land cover change dynamics in representative target areas in Angola, Namibia and Botswana. These studies will deliver detailed land use maps to other subprojects and develop specific information products by integrating remote sensing based indicators with information collected in other sub-projects. These include both biophysical as well as socio-economic information in order to delineate dynamics in coupled social-ecological systems. One aspect of particular importance in this context is to contribute to the conservation of the Miombo woodlands in the region, which are listed as one of the global tipping point regions for biodiversity.

Task 3: Design and Validation of Enhanced Satellite-supported Regional Inventories of Forest Resources in the Kavango Forests (REDD Support)

Given current climate change scenarios, carbon sequestration remains one of the most urgent issues in land management. In this context, the woodland and forest areas of the Okavango catchment are an important resource, and a detailed inventory is considered essential to map timber resources and provide support to REDD programmes. The development of a spatially-adaptive strategy to integrate remote sensing information with ground based inventory data and the implementation of carbon bookkeeping models will provide the required spatial information products to contribute to these objectives.

Task 4: Design of Adaptive Grazing Management Concepts in the Transition Area between Okavango Delta and Surrounding Dry-Woodland Savannas

The Delta region of the Okavango catchment is a prominent example of conflicts between wildlife conservation and livestock management. Subproject SP09.1 aims at providing management concepts that reconcile the two aspects. One particular constraint is the veterinary cordon fence that restricts opportunistic movement of animals in relation to forage location. Here, we intend to use satellite imagery to track seasonal forage availability and link this with information on animal movement patterns recorded with GPS and forage quality analyses. The integration of these multiple information sources will enable the quantification of grazing gradients and the design of more flexible concepts to use available ecosystem services for both, livestock and wildlife.


Study Area

Okavango Catchment: Landsat-Scenes of the core areas. Chitembo and Caiundo, Angola: 179/70 and 178/71, Rundu, Namibia (177/72) and the Okavango-Delta, Botswana (175/73 and 174/73). The mean EVI calculate from MODIS data for the period 2001 to 2011) is illustrated in the background.