Slump in economy delays Neckartal irrigation scheme

03 March 2021 | Agriculture



Due to the economic situation the country has been facing, government cannot proceed with the development of an irrigation scheme at the Neckartal Dam.

In total, 3 970 hectares have so far been identified to be suitable for the development.

However, an additional 1 030 hectares of land must still be confirmed, with the ultimate goal to develop 5 000 hectares around the dam.

This is according to agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein who answered questions about the dam and the irrigation scheme in Parliament.

Schlettwein said the dam is by far the largest in the country, with a total capacity of about 880 million cubic metres of water.

By comparison, the Hardap Dam has a capacity of 330 million cubic metres and is managed at 70%.

The Neckartal Dam has a surface area of 2 500 hectares, with a catchment area of 4.5 million hectares.

“The Neckartal Dam and the Green Scheme Irrigation Project was conceived to be developed in two phases. The first phase being the feasibility study, design and construction of the Neckartal Dam, which was completed last year,” the minister said.

'Not tenable'

Schlettwein said the second phase is the feasibility study, design and construction of the 5 000-hectare irrigation project, of which the feasibility study and design was completed.

“However, due to the economic condition the country has been facing, the government could not proceed.”

The reason for this is that the design of the existing green scheme project entails that government must first identify land, clear the land, fence it off and develop irrigation infrastructure for small- and medium-scale components of the farm, he said.

“It should be noted that such a design will rely on government providing all financial resources required for the development of the medium- and small-scale components. This was not tenable under the current economic conditions.”

According to Schlettwein, the soil suitable for the irrigation project is not in abundance in the area.

The positioning of the project was, therefore, mainly dependent on the location of suitable soil.

He said the ministry then identified three distinct areas with suitable soil for irrigation development around Neckartal.

These are Farm Schlangkopf (1 900 ha), Farm Dagbreek (1700 ha) and Farm Schaapplaats (370 ha)

He said the ministry will continue to identify additional land in the surrounding area to reach the target area of 5000 hectares.

For now, the water reticulation system to the project is not in place, he said. However, water from the main dam to the balancing reservoir is.

“Off take from the balancing dam to the irrigation plots will only be developed during the second phase of the project which is the construction of the irrigation scheme.”

Positive impact

Schlettwein further elaborated on the positive impact the construction of the dam has had.

During the project's peak in March 2018, the project employed approximately 1 486 people, of which 51% were from the //Karas Region, 38% from other regions in the country and 11% were foreign nationals, the minister said.

“Unfortunately, there are no concrete records to provide an overview of the revenue created, but it is known that the contractors and employees based at the construction site procured their basic necessities, construction materials and other equipment locally from businesses in Keetmanshoop.”

He added that foreign nationals and other staff not from the area rented various accommodation facilities, including houses in Keetmanshoop.

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