Figure 1. The //Huab River flowing west in March this year.
Namibia is one the countries with very few perennial rivers – five in this case. They are all found on its borders and there is no inland perennial river. The country is however dissected by numeral seasonal and ephemeral rivers that only flows after good or heavy rains and dries up in the dry season. These rivers are a life-giving source in the arid areas they traverse to both man and beast. They are characterised by large, well-watered, diverse tree species, notably the Ana tree (Faidherbia albida) which is an important source of food for wildlife and livestock. Interestingly or maybe not so much, as the book of Ecclesiastes reads, all rivers run to the sea – so does our ephemeral rivers, well, direction-wise. A large number of them are found in the north-western region of Namibia, mainly in Kunene and Erongo. In years of unusual high rainfall, the water actually reaches the sea. As much as the existence of these “linear oasis” (as they are commonly known in Namibia’s conservation realm) is cherished, they can also be hazardous during periods of heavy flooding with their mighty flows.
Figure 2. Crossing a deep section of the dirt road crossed by a river.
We were fortunate to be in Kunene this year during the rainy season, to witness the flow of these rivers. As most roads in this part of the country are either gravel or just dirt roads, one has to be careful when crossing a section of the road that is intersected by these rivers. Their flows can be unbelievably powerful, carrying large amounts of sediment, debris and uprooted trees downstream.
Figure 3. The life blood of an ecosystem, //Huab River.
These rivers are easily noticeable from above due to the riverine vegetation fortifying their riverbanks and have local names in the Damara language spoken by the indigenous people of those areas. They are a national treasure because they support people and vital ecosystems including populations of renown Namibia’s desert adapted elephants and desert lions and many other species.