Crisis at Hardap

15 May 2019 | Disasters

Dam levels in Namibia have plummeted because of a lack of rain and it is estimated that the Hardap Dam near Mariental will be able to supply water for less than a year.

This will affect government irrigation projects, the local economy of Mariental and farms that rely on the dam as a source of water, leading to diminishing agricultural produce and job losses. According to the first-quarter review for 2019 by the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), the Hardap Dam was 22.4% full this week, compared to 47.2% last season. Both the Mariental community and irrigation farms surrounding the dam make use of its water.

“An estimated monthly water usage from the Hardap Dam is 2% per month, and with the current status quo the dam will only be able to supply water for less than a year,” said the NAU.

It added that the low dam level also affects fodder production, which is vital for dairy production. “The small [dairy] industry has no government support, leaving it vulnerable and barely able to compete with large South African dairy industries,” said the NAU.

Comparing the 2018 first-quarter prices to those of 2019, feed costs have increased by 32.8%, fuel prices have increased by 4.5% and the cost of labour has increased by 3.6%.

“All these expense items permitted total expenses to increase by 23.0% year-on-year, while there was no change in farm-gate prices of milk.”

According to the NAU high increases in total expenses, accompanied by minimal increases or no changes in farm-gate prices, negatively affect producer income. “The Namibian dairy industry is in a predicament and support to this industry is required, otherwise should the current trend persist, jobs will be lost and this will have negative impact on the economy at large.” The union pointed out that temperatures are expected to increase by two to six degrees in the long term.

In recent years Namibia has been experiencing the consequences of climate change, which includes higher evaporation rates, water shortages, floods and recurring droughts.