NaDEET Environmental Literacy Projects, Namibia

  • Date published:
    12 October 2018
NaDEET Environmental Literacy Projects
© Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (NaDEET)

Programme Overview

Programme Title NaDEET Environmental Literacy Projects
Implementing Organization Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (NaDEET)
Language of Instruction English and mother tongue (with translation and teacher assistance)
Funding European Union local grant (about 50%); UNESCO and other UN agencies (10%); local company grants (10%); participants own contribution (10%); and private individuals/donors (20%).
Programme Partners Funding: European Commission, UNESCO, UNDP-Global Environment Fund, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit
Implementing: Ministry of Education, Namibian Environmental Education Network, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, UNESCO; Others – Namibian Environment Wildlife Society, Freundschaft mit NaDEET, Wilde Ganzen, Biosphere Expeditions.
Annual Programme Costs N $400,000 (US $37,600)
Annual cost per learner: Varies depending on how the learner is engaged (for example, a NaDEET centre programme costs N $800 – or US $75 – per person, while a partner organisation implementing the publications in the classroom has a cost of N $5 – or US $0.09 – per learner).

Country Context

Education has been a national priority in Namibia since independence was achieved in 1990. The Namibian government has a policy of financing literacy programmes and allocates almost a quarter (22%) of its budget to education (UNESCO, 2014). The Ministry of Education has increased funding through the Directorate of Adult Literacy.

Improving literacy is not the only educational challenge facing Namibia. The lack of awareness of environmental issues is another pressing concern, stemming largely from poor understanding of the definition, causes and impacts of environmental problems. For example, many Namibians misunderstand the concept of climate change and use the term to refer to normal weather events. This is particularly problematic given the negative impact climate change continues to have on Namibian communities. Many Namibians do not believe that their actions can make a difference, while others are unsure what to do to improve the environment. There is a long-standing need for better environmental education in the country.

Namibian environmental education began in the late 1980s and the early 1990s when the government, in partnership with a number of non-governmental organizations, established the first ‘true’ environmental education centres for Namibian youth. Outdoor camps had existed before but were more focused on survival training rather than the environment. The new centres, which still exist today, are primarily located north of Windhoek, in areas like Etosha National Park, and are focused on nature and wildlife.

A group of passionate citizens felt there was a need for environmental education for Namibians living in the Namib Desert. They started the Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (NaDEET), a non-profit organization offering environmental education, with a centre on the NamibRand Nature Reserve in Namibia’s southern Hardap Region.

The centre was established in 2003 by a construction manager, a small team of assistants and three groups of Raleigh International volunteers. At the time, funds were extremely limited and the centre was built primarily using recycled materials donated by individuals. Almost everything was done by hand as there were few power tools available. The centre had six accommodation units with shower and toilet facilities and a main building (which included a classroom and kitchen).

NaDEET’s founders soon noticed a ‘disconnect’ between what was being taught and what was being learned. Rather than being a model of environmental living in everything that it did, the centre was purely focused on its subject and did not take a sufficiently holistic approach. It made little sense to teach students about reducing environmental impact while taps leaked in the centre’s bathrooms. The centre proposed a ‘practice what we teach’ approach and has since integrated this philosophy into its infrastructure and teaching practices. NaDEET believes that the facility itself plays a major part in the learning experience of participants. All the facilities (bathroom, stove, bed, etc.) are designed in a way to inspire the people studying at the centre to integrate the principles of sustainability into their daily lives.

To fulfil its aims, NaDEET has established environmental education programmes at its centre, as well as an environmental literacy project and community development through outreach activity.

Programme Overview

The environmental literacy project complements the core programme of environmental education at the NaDEET centre and the outreach and community development work. These programmes give participants first-hand experience of sustainable living. Participants are taught to understand environmental problems and their solutions, in theory, with a range of environmental publications supporting practical activities.
Children and adult (mostly rural women) participants learn about sustainability, biodiversity and the balance between humans and the environment. They learn not just by seeing and hearing, but by doing and living. At the NaDEET centre, theory meets practice so that participants are empowered to make a difference in their homes and communities.

NaDEET’s environmental literacy project aims to produce locally written and relevant literature about the Namibian natural environment and sustainable living. The publications on environmental literacy (presented below) are a core component of the project, reinforcing and deepening participants’ understanding of the environment. They give students the opportunity to reflect on their real-life experiences and learn the value of written literature as a means of gaining more information.

The project’s publications target a broad audience and take a fun and creative approach to giving readers the resources they need to tackle environmental issues. The publications are:

Bush Telegraph


The Bush Telegraph is a youth magazine, available for free to learners, educators and citizens in Namibia. Since its inception, its readership has grown from just 500 to more than 18,000 (around half of the readership of the Namibian national newspaper). The Bush Telegraph is produced twice a year and covers a variety of environmental topics relevant to Namibia. It is estimated that some 72,000 readers have been engaged in the topic through articles, activity suggestions, games, contests and pictures.

It’s Time to…

The It’s Time to… series of booklets aims to promote sustainability to a wider audience. It comprises six publications:

  • It’s Time to Grow: a pre-primary environmental pack that includes four small booklets, a growth chart, a pack of crayons and seed paper to plant.
  • It’s Time to Change: a primary-school activity workbook.
  • It’s Time to Work: a secondary-school career guide to technical and vocational training in a green economy.
  • It’s Time to be Efficient: a guide for adults to managing a sustainable household.
  • It’s Time to Solar Cook: a solar cooking guide for adults.
  • It’s Time to Identify: a biodiversity identification booklet for all ages.

Around 60,000 It’s Time to… booklets have been distributed directly to schools and at environmental education workshops in order to reinforce the sustainability practices taught at the centre. The publications are also available to the public as free PDFs downloadable from the centre’s website.


Aims and Objectives

NaDEET, as an organization, aims to encourage Namibians to participate in finding practical solutions to local and national environmental issues and to create a healthy and sustainable future for all. The following aims guide the organisation:

  • To provide a non-profit environmental education service for all, especially those from underprivileged areas of Namibia.
  • To build capacity at all levels of the environmental education sector, focused on addressing relevant environmental issues, supporting the Namibian school curriculum, and practising hands-on, experiential learning and learner-centred educational methods.
  • To engage in education, advocacy and awareness of the critical role of sustainable living in a finite, semi-arid environment.

NaDEET’s environmental literacy project aims:

  • To provide ongoing publications on environmental issues for Namibians in an easy-to-read format.
  • To maintain and foster a forum for school children, teachers and environmental education practitioners to learn and share about the Namibian environment and the challenges it faces.
  • To increase and improve the environmental literature available to Namibian readers in their own country.

Programme Implementation

Structure and Mechanism

The environmental literature is delivered in the following ways:

  1. NaDEET centre programmes:Participants come in organized groups of up to 40 for a residential programme lasting from Monday to Friday.
  2. NaDEET outreach: Follow-up and additional outreach is conducted with three selected communities and on demand.
  3. Direct mailing: Readers can sign up to the Bush Telegraph subscriber list to receive two issues per annum.
  4. Partners (e.g. schools and other NGOs): They request copies of specific publications to support their educational learning activities.

Teaching and Learning: Approaches and Methodologies

The duration of the courses varies. The NaDEET centre runs approximately 30 one-week programmes each year, as well as outreach programmes from one day in duration. Partners also offer programmes of varying length. The NaDEET programme runs in various locations, with the main activities taking place at its centre. Each year, between 18,000 and 20,000 learners participate, more than 80% of them continuing students. The average number of learners per group is 40.

The programme takes a hands-on, experiential approach to learning, offering a range of activities, from theoretical to practical learning, which are applied in sustainable living practices. There is also an emphasis on team-work and cooperation. Here is an example of how water conservation is taught at the NaDEET centre’s primary-school programme, with photographs illustrating each stage:

  1. In the first photograph, children are asked to recall what they have learned in school by drawing a water cycle in their sustainable-living journals.
  2. Water cycle concepts of evaporation and transpiration are tested out and explored in nature.
  3. The importance of saving water and knowing how much is used is practised during the daily water count.
  4. Sustainable living practices are implemented through the use of a personal ‘recycled’ water bottle.


Programme Content and Teaching Material

The content of the materials is determined by NaDEET’s overall mission, current affairs, and relevant international days, as promoted by the United Nations. The materials used are various, including, though not limited to, journals, booklets and experimental material. The content is related to the environment and focused on the four main areas of energy, water, waste and biodiversity. Material is developed by NaDEET’s staff under the guidance of the director. It draws inspiration and relevance from the centre-based programmes. Activities are tested out by programme participants.

Recruitment and Training of Facilitators

NaDEET has grown to employ nine permanent staff members, supported by several interns and volunteers. NaDEET opened a small head office in Swakopmund at the beginning of 2014 in order to make the procedures more efficient, develop strategic partnerships and expand operations to other areas of the country.

The organization is governed by a board of trustees. The facilitators involved in the programme are full-time, paid employees. Remuneration ranges from N $10,000 to N $30,000 (equivalent to between US $940 and US $2,820). The facilitator/learner ratio is one facilitator to every 20 learners. All facilitators are qualified in nature conservation and/or education and are given additional in-house training. NaDEET offers an education training programme once a year.

Learner Assessment

The programme targets school children, out-of-school youth, adults with poor literacy, women and girls, and minority groups. Learners are recruited through school visits and the sending out of invitations to visit NaDEET. Today, most participants are drawn from schools which have previously taken part in the project, with some new schools which heard about the programme through word of mouth. Needs are determined in conjunction with the school principal and accompanying teachers. The appropriate programme level and content are assigned accordingly.

As the project is implemented through a variety of mechanisms, methods of monitoring and evaluation vary. NaDEET’s main monitoring and evaluation activities take place at its centre in the form of surveys, conducted before and after the programme, which measure awareness and understanding of environmental topics. These are analysed annually to identify areas that need further improvements and to measure changes in behaviour and attitudes of programme participants with regard to sustainable development. The development of the project’s publications involves their being piloted with various relevant audiences wherever possible.

The centre has no accreditation mechanism. Throughout the programme participants are asked questions and, at the end of the week, participate in an environmental quiz to assess what they have learned. In some groups, a ‘Certificate of Participation’ is offered. The enthusiastic feedback of participants remains the clearest indicator of success.

Monitoring and Evaluation

An evaluation of the programme is conducted annually, considering the percentage of returning schools, increases in readership numbers, and other ad hoc feedback. An example of this is the feedback received from a partner organization, which reported using the Bush Telegraph as a learning material for an environmental studies class for technical and vocational training students. The centre has conducted informal evaluations of its publications and is awaiting feedback from a formal evaluation of its pre-primary school publication. The programme also relies on progress indicators such as increasing participation (over 9,000 participants at the centre over 10 years) and the thousands of readers whose continuing interest is a clear signal of the value of the work.

Impact and Achievements

An external evaluation (conducted by Ashby Associates) was commissioned in 2013 to assess the impact the programme has had on participants. There is a link to the report at the end of this case study. The results varied depending on the level of engagement and the community to which the learner belonged. The project’s ongoing outreach efforts provide an opportunity to work with communities and enable them to assess the value and relevance of the programme.

NaDEET’s environmental literacy project has achieved a great deal over the years, including:

  1. A relatively high print-run of 18,000 copies for the Bush Telegraph, illustrating the demand from readers for this publication.
  2. The sustainability of the project’s publications, which have been produced for more than 11 years, demonstrating the financial commitment of the donors and the institutional capacity.
  3. Local and international recognition of its publications, which have received a number of Eco-Media Awards, leading to the work being showcased at UNESCO events worldwide.
  4. The cost-effectiveness of the programme, due to its being integrated within other activities and its use of partnerships to distribute materials to institutions, such as the Ministry of Education, after-school programmes and environmental clubs, where teachers use the material in their lesson plans.
  5. Reaching a wide range of readers with the project’s publications, from pre-primary to pensioners, and ensuring wide access to the programme by targeting rural areas in the south of Namibia. More than half of all participants are women.
  6. In recognition of its work, the Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (NaDEET) won the 2018 UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development.


One of the biggest challenges concerns access to NaDEET’s environmental literacy materials. At present, NaDEET does not have the resources to publish its materials in languages other than English and Afrikaans. It would like to publish both the Bush Telegraph and the It’s Time to… series in the 11 different indigenous languages spoken in Namibia. However, the costs and logistics involved would require enormous additional resources that would put the project’s financial sustainability at risk.

As more and more people in Namibia gain access to smart phones and the internet, it would seem prudent and cost-effective to switch from print to online publishing. However, the fact that not all Namibians have equal access to information and communication technology, means that a switch to online publishing would run contrary to NaDEET’s objective of reaching the most underprivileged and neediest in society. The current challenge is to meet the needs of both audiences so as to remain relevant.

Lessons Learned

The biggest area where improvement is needed is in developing formal channels for the distribution of NaDEET’s publications. As a non-profit organization, NaDEET has often organized distribution through other non-profits or at special events. Future efforts should focus on getting the materials approved through the national body and thereby recognized and endorsed for schools to purchase. This would be in addition to the current approach, as it would reach a different audience in a new way. If more funding was available, NaDEET would employ a dedicated staff member or team to develop this. Currently, the focus is on the publications and not the accessibility of the information to the reader.


The project is integrated within all of NaDEET’s activities, utilising existing human and institutional capacity and thereby reducing overall costs as much as possible. NaDEET uses a variety of approaches to ensure the financial sustainability of the project and to become more independent of donors. Currently, the majority of publications are externally funded. However, NaDEET has moved from a publication-to-publication approach to funding to a longer-term, project-based funding approach that includes the publications as key to the programme’s overall objectives.

For some publications, the programme has gained permission from the original funders to sell copies in order to generate additional income, which it uses to fund more books for participants. This approach has been especially successful with the It’s Time to Identify booklet, the next print run of which has been fully financed by book sales.

In addition, because the project is integrated within existing methods and approaches, and operates in a variety of settings, the local capacity to sustain the work is strong. The track record over 11 years shows that this method works and makes good results achievable.

While no other organization replicates what NaDEET does, many partners have been motivated to change their approaches to environmental education by the environmental literacy project. More than 9,000 children and adults have attended NaDEET’s centre to participate in the programme, with a very high rate of return among partner schools. The Bush Telegraph and It’s Time to… booklet series are widely distributed and have twice won first place in the Namibian EcoMedia Awards. Many past interns now work as environmental educators around the country.


One of the most innovative features of the NaDEET approach is its philosophy of ‘practising what is taught’. NaDEET takes pride in integrating the principles of sustainability into all facets of its operation, whether programme-related or administrative.
The NaDEET centre gives participants an opportunity to learn about the principles of sustainable living, and environmental audits are conducted to monitor water, energy and waste consumption.

The same approach is reflected in the environmental literacy materials. It is an inspiration to participants, who, in turn, share what they have learned with their communities. A recent example is an issue of the Bush Telegraph on solutions to pollution, which provided step-by-step instructions to assist in the construction of alternative fuel ‘bricks’ from paper litter. Participants learn about this at the NaDEET centre and can use the publication to demonstrate what they have learned to their family and community members, thereby increasing the environmental awareness and understanding of the whole community.


Research studies/reports about the programme:

Documents, films and other audio-visual material about programme:


Viktoria Keding
Email: vkeding (at) nadeet.org
Telephone/fax: 081-367-5310
Address: PO Box 8702, Swakopmund; 3 Antonius Garden, Nathaniel Maxuilili Street, Swakopmund, Namibia
Website: http://www.nadeet.org

For citation please use

U. Hanemann (Ed.). Last update: 12 October 2018. NaDEET Environmental Literacy Projects, Namibia. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. (Accessed on: 7 August 2020, 15:05 CEST)

PDF in Arabic

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