12 February 2018

Namibia: Reservoir Dries Up Threatening Fresh Produce Hub

Windhoek — The future of the Agro Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA) fresh produce hub in Ongwediva is currently hanging in the balance after horticultural farmers in the vicinity of the Olushandja dam gave up on their irrigation projects due to inadequate water supply from the reservoir.

Insufficient water in the 17km long, 2km wide reservoir that was constructed to hold water pumped from the Kunene River and replenished by inflows from rainwater, is being blamed on the Namibian water utility NamWater.

According to farmers, NamWater apparently failed to pump more water into the reservoir, forcing many small-scale farmers to give up on their gardens and lay off workers.

Paulus Amutenya, the chairperson of the Olushandja Farmers Association, confirmed the dam was indeed the only source of water for about 100 horticultural farmers near the reservoir and that the dwindling water supply has negatively affected irrigation schemes along the dam.

"Some farmers have already closed their projects, while some are preparing to wind down operations. Due to the water scarcity our crop production has dramatically gone down, which means there aren't enough products to sell to the market, it is bad," he said.

The water scarcity has not only affected farmers but the burden is also being felt by the buyer of their produce, the AMTA fresh produce hub at Ongwediva, which is a one-stop shop for fresh produce traders and customers.

Fresh produce business hub regional manager Jacob Hamutenya told New Era that although the temporary storage facility was supposed to receive all sorts of fresh produce from all over Namibia, with specific focus on the northern, north-eastern and central regions, horticultural farmers along the Olushandja dam were meant to be the main suppliers.

"The water shortage in that area has affected our business. In the past we used to get 70 percent of the fresh produce from those farmers and now that the majority have pulled out, we are no longer getting the produce in quantity and some of the produce quality is also not up to standard," explained Hamutenya.

Hamutenya said the fresh produce hub is currently sourcing goods from commercial farmers as well as Sikondo green scheme in Kavango West, and sometimes from South Africa.

He was however optimistic that with the prediction of good rainfall this year and efforts being made by NamWater to the refill the dam there might be light at the end of the tunnel as farming activities along the dam might return to normal.

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