Lifeline for Hardap farmers

12 February 2020 | Disasters

The water supply to the Hardap irrigation scheme will be restored for the time being, bringing some relief to desperate farmers.

NamWater CEO Abraham Nehemia said yesterday that the Hardap Dam had received an inflow of 2.6 million cubic metres of water over the weekend.

The dam level stood at 6.8% on Monday according to NamWater's latest dam bulletin. The previous week the dam was 5.9% full.

Nehemia said water was likely to reach the irrigation scheme yesterday.

“The problem was that the canal was without water and it was now overflowing so they have to tread carefully that they do not waste any water.” According to him NamWater calculated that one million cubic metres of water could be supplied to the irrigation scheme.

“It will therefore depend on how quickly the producers use this allocated water before we close supply again. We do not know how much water they will be using per day. But this will likely be able to keep plants alive for about a week.”

Asked if any further inflow was expected this week, Nehemia said: “The forecast for this week is zero, but for next week it looks better and inflow can then be expected again.”

Namibian Sun reported yesterday that the suspension of water supply to the irrigation scheme was catastrophic for the dairy industry, as no maize was expected to be produced in the region this year.

The Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) said the country's annual milk production had declined by 9% since 2018, when 23 million litres of milk was produced, to 21 million litres last year.

“Hardap producers alone supply 80% of the milk nationwide and with the closure of the Hardap Dam you can imagine the catastrophe that this will lead to,” the NAU stated. The union said milk production was decreasing in most dairy-producing regions because of unaffordable feed costs.

Another reason is that producers are selling some of their milk cows and this affects the supply of raw milk.

According to the NAU dryland crop production is also critical but producers remain hopeful that if the rain comes they will be able to harvest in some parts of the country.

“With the closure of the Hardap Dam, they do not expect any harvest of maize from the Hardap Region this year. Hopefully some wheat will be planted if it rains in the coming days,” the union said.

ELLANIE SMIT

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