Etunda farmers 'lied'

The Omusati governor says crop farmers at Etunda were not affected by interruptions in water supply, unlike those at Olushandja.

12 January 2018 | Agriculture

Small-scale farmers at one of the biggest Green Scheme projects in the country, the Etunda Irrigation Project in the Omusati Region, say they experienced interruption in the water supply from NamWater during November and December, which resulted in their crops failing.

The chairperson of the Etunda Irrigation Project's small-scale farmers' committee, Johannes Kalenga, told ­Namibian Sun that they have incurred huge losses running into hundreds of thousands of dollars due to this interruption.

The farm manager at Etunda, Albertus Viljoen, however refuted the allegations, saying farmers were “lying” and that Etunda never experienced water shortages or interruptions.

Kalenga said they felt betrayed by management, adding that when they started planting their crops in September as usual, government projects were not active and people were not planting. With the November and December water interruptions, he said they realised why the government projects were not planting.

He said the water shortages have affected their crop growth and production, as at times they could not water for a week.

“What NamWater and the management of Etunda have done to us is unfair. If they knew that they were planning to fix the Calueque Dam they were supposed to tell us not to plant. This water shortage has affected the growth of the produce. There is nothing we can do, but to destroy these crops and plant again,” Kalenga said.

He said that most of the farmers had taken loans from AgriBank to buy seed, fertiliser and equipment. These loans are due to be paid once they sell their harvests but according to him the current situation is forcing them into more debt. He said they complained to Etunda's management but they were told it was NamWater's fault.

“In agronomy, there is a stage were crops need a constant water supply and the moment you stop, it affects the crop's production. We found ourselves in a situation where the canal had no water for up to three days,” he said.

Viljoen said farmers were lying and only want to claim money in a dishonest way. He confirmed that farmers had indeed come to complain but after assessments were done, it was found that their complaints were invalid.

“As the farm manager I do not support these allegations. We heard NamWater was going through a water supply problem, but it never affected us at Etunda. We actually discovered that some of the crop farmers are alleging to have failed were already harvested, while others failed due to lack of fertiliser,” Viljoen said

On Wednesday, the governor for Omusati Region, Erginus Endjala, visited Etunda and the Olushandja Dam to familiarise himself with the situation. Endjala also said that Etunda was not affected by the water shortage, but at Olushandja, farmers have shut down operations.

“At Etunda the situation is normal. I even visited the asparagus farm and it is going well. The project has planted 30 hectares already. I was concerned when I heard reports that there was a water shortage, but it is not as reported, and the management assured me that all is going well,” Endjala said.

He said the only serious problem was at Olushandja Dam where 68 farmers abandoned their projects after NamWater pumped water from the dam three weeks ago to supply to its purification plants at Outapi, Ogongo and Oshakati as it was experiencing a water supply shortage from Calueque.

The 17-kilometre-long Olushandja Dam, where farmers draw water from, serves as reservoir to store water for emergency use. The water utility pumps in water and withdraws it during emergencies. Recently, NamWater could not pump water to the dam due to the supply shortage from Calueque, which has been reduced from 3.6 cubic litres per second to 1.8 cubic litres per second, making it difficult to supply the northern regions.

“This affects the economy and livelihood of the people in the region. Olushandja projects are a source of employment for hundreds of citizens and now they do not have an income and cannot make a living. I am waiting for the regional councils to resume duties so that we see how we can tackle the situation with NamWater,” Endjala said.

Etunda is divided into two segments of 450 hectares each, with commercial crop farmers using the 15 centre-pivot facilities which cover 30 hectares each.

There are 71 spaces for small-scale farmers which consist of three hectares each and 10 spaces for medium-scale farmers, also consisting of three hectares each.

NamWater said a contractor was repairing the Mota-Engil pipeline that supplies water to Namibia from the Calueque Dam in Angola.

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