The Molopo-Nossob region in the southern Kalahari experiences continued land degradation, loss of biodiversity and primary productivity, and ultimately the loss of ecosystem functioning. This is mainly a function of inappropriate land use practices (livestock densities and related management practices as well as water point establishment and distribution), lack of knowledge, limited access to markets in some areas, and inappropriate policies.

The ecosystem straddles three countries, each with its own specific policies. Consequently, this fragile environment is subjected to a plethora of land use practices, different levels of resource extraction and impact, as well as market access and the potential for intensification. Poverty levels vary dramatically within and between countries, affecting the ability of households to control and manage natural resources. Accordingly, land degradation has taken many forms with a variety of internal and external threats and impacts. Local decision makers are often caught between the nexus of economic development and resource exploitation.

This complex scenario provides us with a unique opportunity to address the different impacts of various land use strategies as determined by country-specific policies, human and animal densities, support structures and available knowledge. Past experiences provide guidance over how to identify and address the root causes of environmental degradation, focusing particularly on gaps in the knowledge base, natural resource ownership and governance, and institutional capacity at different levels. By working across boundaries it will be possible to learn more about appropriate ways to achieve sustainable natural resource management, the strategies and technologies that have proven to be successful, and the best policy environment to support SNRM.

While there is a sound understanding of the biophysical process of land degradation as well as an appreciation of the numerous technologies and improved sustainable land management (SLM) strategies, implementation and replication of these strategies is uncommon. The overall goal of the proposed Kalahari-Namib project is to support communities, community based organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local and national governments, including local and regional policy makers in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa to effectively implement and scale up long term SLM in the Molopo-Nossob basin area. The project will thus facilitate the sharing of information and knowledge and provide support to decision makers at all levels of natural resource management, including farmers and their institutions, local and national governments, as well as regional bodies such as Southern African Development Community (SADC). To ensure greater long term impact, capacity to implement and out-scale project outputs and outcomes will be established, and by working with government at local, national and regional level the project will help the institutionalization of new ways of working that support people-centered natural resource planning and management.

The project will address the numerous barriers and constraints that affect the implementation of SLM practices, both locally and regionally. These include limited access to appropriate information and technologies, weaknesses in institutional infrastructure and participation, unsustainable land-use practices, conflicts between land-use goals, and weak tenure and resource governance arrangements. Although many of these barriers and constraints differ from region to region and from country to country, the commitment and resources of the people living in these areas, as well as the political and economic sectors in each country will be essential.

In order to achieve this goal, the project will conduct a complete baseline assessment using existing literature, local knowledge, and an analysis of the current/baseline scenario. This will also help to determine the information requirements and gaps in order to understand local and regional capacity building and training requirements. The project will identify appropriate SLM strategies for further out scaling and establish a cross-boundary forum in order to enhance regional cooperation, decision making, and exchange of best practices. This will be the first cross-border platform addressing land degradation and improved land management in the region. This body will also serve to share information, address mutual issues related to socio-economic development, and suggest procedures to harmonize policies.

The Kalahari-Namib project, through its trans-boundary perspective and linkages, will offer considerable potential to build upon the strengths of each country and establish long lasting regional development synergies. The focus will be on traditional agricultural practices incorporating interactions with other resources and users (e.g. wildlife and ecotourism based Community Based Natural Resource Management) which will result in the persistence of the structural impediments to sustainable development. It will be important to improve on what local people are already doing for themselves through the promotion of a more diversified and balanced economy that utilize the inherent strengths of the area.

Support from GEF will assist to elevate local site-specific efforts and strategies to a planned and coordinated longer term regional approach with greater sharing of information within and across borders. With local and regional capacity strengthened and effective partnerships fostered, decision makers and other users of natural resources can then collectively determine their sustainable development pathway. It is envisaged that this will contribute to improving livelihoods and maintaining the integrity and functioning of the greater Kalahari-Namib ecosystem within the three countries.