The Desert House
The Desert House is an integral part of the National Botanic Garden, and is administered by the National Botanical Research Institute, which resides under the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry. It is the only area in the Botanic Garden where desert plants can be grown and displayed. The majority of plants displayed in this area are from the arid western and south-western parts of Namibia, an area that receives less than 50mm rain annually. In addition, most of them are rare or protected species which occur nowhere else but in Namibia, often being confined to remote and/or inaccessible places (for example the Sperrgebiet) which many people - even Namibians - don't get to visit.
The desert house provides an opportunity for Namibians and tourists alike to see some of these rare and threatened species without having to travel great distances to remote places. It provides the right environment to successfully grow and showcase these special plants, as they need to be protected from excessive rain and cold, as well as from the rock hyraxes that roam the garden. The desert house plays a vital role in environmental education, creating an appreciation and awareness for our fascinating plants. Throughout the year, schools and learners from tertiary institutions as well as members of the general public visit the garden to learn more about Namibia's flora. It is also a popular tourist destination, as evident from the fact that half of the total number of visitors are tourists. For Windhoek residents and Namibians in general, it may serve as a demonstration and inspiration for water wise gardening. Last but not least, the desert house contributes towards plant conservation and research through its ex situ collections.
The desert house was under development for 3 years, between 2005 and 2007. Although the basic structure has been in place since 1998, it was never utilised to its full potential, and desperately needed to be revamped. The re-landscaping process was kick-started in 2004, when VKE Consulting Engineers, the Engineering Company working on the upgrading of the Aus-RoshPinah road, offered to deliver a truck-load of rocks to Windhoek. Rössing Uranium Ltd. and UraMin duly followed and each sponsored a truck-load of dolomite rocks from the Namib Desert. In total 23 tons of rocks and 6 tons of sand went into this project. Plants were obtained through so-called rescue operations within NamZinc's and NAMDEB's mining concession area. After 3 years of hard labour the landscaping process was completed.
The official opening ceremony was held on 6 September 2007 and was attended by various sponsors and stakeholders as well as representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the tourism industry and the Windhoek Municipality. The official opening was done by Mrs Johanna Andowa, the Deputy Director of Training in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water & Forestry. The media was present to cover the event.