The Okavango Delta

The Okavango River rises in the Angolan highlands and flows over 1,000 miles, passing through Namibia before entering Botswana and forming the Okavango Delta. The Okavango Delta is a 15,000–square–kilometer rich and varied habitat for thousands of mammals, birds, fish and other animals. It sustains tens of thousands of delta residents and a growing ecotourism industry.

The Okavango River Basin is at a key juncture, with opportunities to promote sound management of its resources and threats posed by water extractions and hydropower development. The Namibian government is considering extracting water from the Okavango River upstream of the Delta to supply the growing population in Windhoek and farming needs in northern Namibia. In addition, Namibia is looking into the feasibility of constructing a hydropower dam at Popa Falls, less than 50 kilometers upstream from Botswana. Further, as refugees move back into the headwaters of the basin in Angola, it is expected that additional developments, including dams, will be under consideration.

Fortunately, the three basin states have formed the Permanent Okavango River Basin Commission (OKACOM) in 1994, with the purpose of promoting sustainable management of the river basin through the development and implementation of a comprehensive basin–wide management plan. The two-phase process included a "trans–boundary diagnostic assessment" and a "strategic environmental program."

Recognizing the opportunity presented by OKACOM and the ongoing threats to the resource and communities that depend on the river, in the late-1990s IRN worked with NGOs and communities in Botswana and Namibia to develop a project called Every River Has Its People: Promoting Co–Management of the Okavango River Basin.

NOTE: International Rivers is not currently active in this program. To learn more, contact or 

The Every River project has two aims:

  • Building the capacity of riparian communities to manage Okavango River resources, and
  • Facilitating community participation in Okavango Basin planning and management processes, such as the OKACOM’s basinwide planning process and the Botswana government’s delta management planning process.

Every River offers resources for capacity building, community based natural resource management, and socio-ecological issues. The project’s goal is to increase the capacity of communities and other local stakeholders to participate effectively in decision-making about the natural resources of the Okavango River Basin, particularly those related to water resources, at local, national and regional (basin-wide) levels.

Okavango Delta Map
Okavango Delta Map
By the end of 2001, project staff had conducted extensive Socio-Ecological Surveys, in partnership with local communities, regional and local authorities, and NGOs. The socio–ecological survey involved meeting with riparian communities to gain a better understanding of resource issues in the Okavango Basin and communities’ short- and long-term needs and hopes for the Basin. The project carried out these surveys in Botswana and Namibia, but in Angola the work was delayed by the last throes of the civil war, as well the war’s legacy of land mines and destruction of infrastructure. However, the project has made connections in Angola and plans to conduct such surveys in the Upper Basin in the next phase.

 Finally, the Every River project produced a Basin-wide Survey Report, as well as reports on Namibia and Botswana respectively, which identify common issues in the communities surveyed; cross-cutting themes emerging from the survey results; main differences in the results from the two countries; and roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders in the co-management of the Okavango River Basin.

For further information, please contact:

    KCS Every River Project
    Light Industrial Area
    Private Bag B050
    Maun, Botswana
    Tel: 2676862351; 2673974557
    Fax: 2676862110

    Namibia Nature Foundation
    4th Floor Kenya House
    Robert Mugabe Ave
    PO Box 245
    Windhoek, Namibia
    Tel: 26461248345
    Fax: 26461248344