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Prosopis glandulosa – source: Wikipedia

Prosopis, also known as mesquite in other countries, is a genus of flowering trees and shrubs that includes several species found in different parts of the world, including Namibia.

According to the Environmental information service of Namibia there are at least three species in Namibia. They can breed with each other and create mixes so they are difficult to keep apart in the field.

  • Prosopis glandulosa – Honey mesquite (English); ‡khòńhai.s (Khoekheogowab); |nàra.s (Damara); !khàa.s (Nama) This is the most common one!
  • Prosopis velutina – Common name: Velvet mesquite (English)
  • Prosopis chilensis – Common name: Chilean Prosopis (English)

Uses and Benefits

  1. Livestock Forage: Prosopis trees provide valuable forage for livestock, particularly in dry and arid regions like Namibia. The leaves, pods, and even twigs are consumed by cattle, goats, and sheep.
  2. Shade and Windbreak: The dense canopy of Prosopis trees offers shade, which is crucial for both livestock and people in desert environments. They also function as effective windbreaks, helping to reduce soil erosion.
  3. Nitrogen Fixation: Prosopis trees are nitrogen-fixing plants, which means they have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their root nodules. This enhances soil fertility and benefits surrounding vegetation.
  4. Pod Harvesting: The edible pods of Prosopis trees are rich in protein and nutrients. In some regions, these pods are collected and used as a food source, providing sustenance during food scarcity.
  5. Wood and Charcoal: The wood of Prosopis trees is dense and durable, making it suitable for various applications, such as construction, furniture, and tool handles. Additionally, the wood is used for charcoal production.
  6. Medicinal Uses: In some cultures, Prosopis leaves, bark, and pods are used for their medicinal properties, including remedies for coughs, sore throats, and digestive issues.
  7. Erosion Control: The extensive root systems of Prosopis trees help stabilize soil and prevent erosion in areas prone to drought and wind.


  1. Invasive Species: While Prosopis offers various benefits, it can also become invasive in some areas. The fast growth and prolific seed production of some species can lead to the displacement of native plants and disrupt local ecosystems.
  2. Water Competition: In arid environments, Prosopis trees can outcompete native vegetation for water resources, potentially affecting water availability for other plants and wildlife.
  3. Threat to Biodiversity: The invasive nature of some Prosopis species can negatively impact native flora and fauna, leading to a reduction in biodiversity.
  4. Land Degradation: In cases where Prosopis invades sensitive ecosystems or overruns agricultural lands, it can contribute to land degradation by altering soil characteristics and water availability.
  5. Fire Hazard: Dead branches and accumulated leaf litter in Prosopis stands can increase fire risk, potentially leading to more intense and frequent wildfires.
  6. Conflict with Agriculture: In certain situations, Prosopis trees can interfere with agriculture by competing for water and nutrients, affecting crop yields.
Prosopis glandulosa pods – Source: Wikipedia

Managing Prosopis

In Namibia, the management of Prosopis involves a balance between utilizing its benefits while preventing its invasive spread and negative ecological impacts. Approaches to controlling Prosopis invasions include mechanical removal, controlled burning, and selective herbicide use. Sustainable management strategies consider both the positive and negative aspects of Prosopis to ensure its integration into the ecosystem without causing ecological harm.

The Orange-Senqu River Commission (ORASECOM) is the institution responsible managing the resources of the Orange-Senqu River basin, a transboundary resource shared by Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and South Africa. It is helping to facilitate the marketing and sales of prosopis products.

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