Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 695–707 | Cite as

Resilience of the poorest: coping strategies and indigenous knowledge of living with the floods in Northern Namibia

  • Lauri Johannes Hooli
Original Article


In Northern Namibia, the climate is highly polarised between dry and wet seasons, and local communities have lived with these varying weather extremes for centuries. However, the recent changes in socio-environmental dynamics—associated with urbanisation, inappropriate spatial planning, and population growth—have disturbed the river system in the area. These changes, together with torrential seasonal rains, have aggravated the social impacts of the flood events. By using various qualitative and quantitative data sources, and comparative analyses between the flood dynamics in urban and rural environments, this research studies local residents’ coping strategies to endure the irregular flood events from the perspective of socio-ecological resilience. Particular interest is placed on the learning processes that enhance the residents’ capability to cope and the role of indigenous knowledge. Indigenous knowledge (IK) has been emphasised as a source of resilience in both theory and practice, as it is built upon learning from past experiences of natural hazards. The findings reveal that the floods are a result of complex and relational development without the necessary linear relationship between the causes and effects. The abrupt socio-ecological changes, together with the multiple stressors related to poverty, have made residents more vulnerable to the flood events and attenuated the communities’ coping strategies based on IK. Instead of focusing on the communities’ capacity to self-organise, the focus of resilience building needs to be directed to emphasising the broader socio-political processes, which are making the communities vulnerable in the first place.


Resilience Disaster risk reduction Indigenous knowledge Flood Namibia 



I am grateful for the constructive criticism received from two anonymous reviewers. I would like to thank Professor Jussi S. Jauhiainen and Professor Jukka Käyhkö for their insightful comments and support. Most importantly, I thank all the community members in Namibia who were willing to participate in this research project. This paper was partly funded by the Academy of Finland’s Knowledge Creation Processes project, number 259078. The funding source was not involved in the study design, the collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, the writing of the report, or the decision of submitting the article for publication.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geography Section, Department of Geography and GeologyTurun YliopistoTurkuFinland

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