Support to De-bushing

Project description

Title: Support to De-bushing
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Namibia
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF)
Overall term: 2014 to 2017


Namibia is affected by bush encroachment on a massive scale. The phenomenon currently affects some 26 to 30 million hectares of farmland in eight of the country’s 13 regions. That amounts to roughly 30 per cent of Namibia’s land area. Bush encroachment severely reduces biodiversity and the formation of groundwater. It lowers the productivity and livestock capacity of pasture land by up to two thirds. This in turn causes economic losses of over EUR 100 million every year due to reduced meat production.

Meanwhile, the bush encroachment process has developed into a huge biomass resource, estimated at about 200 million tonnes. Measures to repel bush encroachment, known in Namibia as ‘de-bushing’, are creating new opportunities for the Namibian economy through the use of this resource for electricity generation and value chain development in other sectors. The de-bushing process therefore offers the potential to increase agricultural productivity, economic growth, employment and the energy supply, without competing with food production.


Namibia has established a national de-bushing programme which supports the large-scale expansion of effective activities to fight bush encroachment. The programme is supported by public- and private-sector stakeholders.


In order to use the bush biomass in economically viable and environmentally sustainable ways, it is important to identify and develop opportunities for adding value to the biomass. Programme activities will focus on support measures, and on efforts to create an enabling environment. Key approaches at the programme level include:

  • developing strategies for the profitable use of biomass for electricity generation as well as in agricultural and industrial value chains
  • enhancing know-how and institutional capacities for the successful development of the national de-bushing programme
  • improving the legal and institutional framework for large-scale bush clearance programmes.

The scale of bush encroachment in Namibia calls for extensive and expandable exploitation strategies. There is extensive, diverse demand for biomass on both domestic and international markets, with interest shown by, among others:

  • the agricultural sector, which can use biomass as feed for cattle or wild animals, or as fertiliser for crop production
  • the construction industry, where biomass is used to produce sustainable building materials, such as chipboard or wood panels
  • the energy sector, whose especially large demand is sufficient to trigger large scale bush clearance programmes. Bush material can be used to substitute firewood in private households, and fossil fuels such as coal or oil in industrial boilers and power plants.