The Gobabeb Research and Training Centre is an internationally recognized center for dry land training and research. It is located in Namibia in the Namib Desert, 120 km by road south-east of Walvis Bay.
Gobabeb was founded by the Southern African Museums Association with strong backing of Austrian entomologist Dr Charles Koch in 1962. Since 1998 Gobabeb has been a joint Venture between the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) and the Desert Research Foundation Namibia (DRFN). Gobabeb conducts research in a wide variety of fields ranging from archaeology and anthropology to climate and ecology in its broadest sense to geology, geomorphology and desert conservation and restoration. Further it tests, demonstrates and promotes Appropriate Technologies. By conducting training courses Gobabeb aims to improve the public awareness and knowledge of dry land ecology and environmental issues. The station consists of permanent researchers, students, and interns, as well as short time visitors such as researchers, school and university groups, and tourists. Gobabeb also hosts film crews, journalists and artists.
To learn more about Gobabeb and climate-related research, watch "Science in the Sand".
Gobabeb is a catalyst for gathering, disseminating and implementing understanding of arid environments.
Gobabeb is located at the site of an abandonedcommunity called !Nomabeb, which means place of the figtree. In 1958 the Austrian entomologist Dr. Charles Koch accompaniedan expedition to the Namib Desert, when he discovered the large diversity of beetles found in the area. Several years later he convinced the Southern African Museums Association, led by the South African Transvaal Museum, to found a research station in, what was at the time known as, South West Africa (today Namibia). In 1962 the Namib Desert Research Station (NDR) was founded, with Dr. Charles Koch appointed as the first director of the station. The government of South Africa, which controlled South West Africa, supported Gobabeb by giving the ground on leasehold for 50 years and financial support of R2000 per year.
In 1963 the construction of a few staff houses, small laboratory, office block, garages and a small water tower was completed. In 1965 a partnership between Gobabeb and the South African Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) led to the foundation of the Desert Ecological Research Unit (DERU). The partnership provided R25000 for the station which was invested in additional buildings.
Five years later, in 1970, the director Dr. Charles Koch passed away and the biologist Dr. Mary Seely took over the directorship. In 1983, the first Open Weekend was held at Gobabeb, beginning a tradition that continues to this day. In 1989 the first course for Namibian university students in Ecology Methods was held at Gobabeb. Scientific research in the 1960s, '70s and '80s was principally focused on climate ecology, physiology, geology and geomorphology of the desert landscape, and archaeologicaly of early inhabitants.
With the Independence of Namibia in 1990 the DERU became the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN). The main seat of the DRFN moved to Windhoek, but the research station remained in Gobabeb. The Foundation grew from the need to expand the activities of DERU beyond the Namib and to apply arid-land expertise to environmental issues in Namibia and the southern African region. The resources available at Gobabeb are of great value to Namibia, a country of which 97% is arid to semi-arid, where desertification and environmental change loom on the horizon as a potential threat. In March 1998 Gobabeb Training and Research Centre (Gobabeb Centre) was founded as a joint venture between the DRFN and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). Additionally, the German Ministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development) generously contributed to establishment of training facilities.
Since the formation of the joint venture, Gobabeb has operated as a research, training and education center. Researchers from all over the world study subjects including desertification, water procurement, and the adaption of animals and plants to the desert environment. In 2002, after 32 years directorship at Gobabeb, Dr. Mary Seely passed the position on to Dr. Joh Henschel. The new director arranged the building of several new accommodation units for visitors and concluded the building of the Community Resource Center at Gobabeb.
From 2002 to 2004 Gobabeb's energy system was overhauled as a part of the Demonstration Project at Gobabeb of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (DeGREEE). In May 2005 Prime Minister Nahas Angula officially inaugurated of the Gobabeb Training and Research Center.
Gobabeb is an international focus for desert research as many scientists from various countries have visited or worked at this site over the decades. This research has yielded over 1800 scientific and popular articles, making the Namib one of the most thoroughly known deserts in the world.