Water access remains critical for rural Nam

by Lahja Nashuuta, originally posted on April 7, 2016


Windhoek – Namibia is still a long way from achieving a higher percentage of access to clean water for its rural areas even though it has manage to supply 80 percent of its urban and peri-urban population with potable water by end of 2015, thereby reducing the proportion of the population without access to safe water.

The higher percentage of population with access to water also means that Namibia is among the four countries in the southern region of the continent who have achieved that feat – with Botswana, Malawi, and South Africa.

Despite being a semi-arid country with limited and unevenly distributed water resources, Namibia has made commendable achievements in the water sector. According to the 2013 Namibia Demographic and Health Survey Report, over 87 percent of the households in Namibia have now access to safe drinking supply. Water coverage in urban is 97.5 percent while in rural areas stands at 75.5 percent.

But the challenges remains, as Namibia’s rural areas still experience chronic shortage of water, both for human, and animal consumption as well as agricultural activities, according to Agriculture, Water and Forestry Minister John Mutorwa who has attributed the 80 percent access to safer water achievement to “sustained commitment and effective implementation approaches.”

The challenge has people in the rural areas resorting to utilising saline and unhygienic water for drinking and household chores. The most affected are those in Omusati, Ohangwena and Kunene regions. Ohangwena region, located on the northern west of the country on the border with Angola is faced with critical water shortage, according to Governor Usko Nghaamwa.

Most residents depend on water from boreholes and wells, but due to poor rainfall, most of the water sources are empty. People in areas such as Eheke, Omundaungilo, Ondobe and Epembe are fully depending on earth dams for water while in other parts people have to work long distances to fetch water, he said.

“The situation is very serious especially in those areas. The main reason is that they are very far from the main water pipe,” said the governor, adding that water availability for livestock is poor in most parts of the regions as many earth dams have dried up due to lack of rain.

“Many farmers in these areas have already started moving their livestock to cattle post areas where there is water and grazing,” he said in telephone interview. Nghaamwa also expressed his dismay over failure by companies that were awarded contracts to drill more boreholes, but failed to deliver on the work that they were paid to do, while some produce sub-standard work.

Omusati region is also struggling with lack of water.

While applauding the government for the decentralization of water infrastructure in the region, Governor Erick Endjala raised his concern over the closing of community water taps by the country’s water utility, Namwater, over unpaid water debts.

“I can confirm that we don’t really have enough water to sustain ourselves and the livestock during dry season. There is water infrastructure but many of them like water taps have been closed because the community cannot afford to pay,” Endjala said in telephone interview.

Endjala said “most of our livestock are depending on earth dams and since there have been no proper rehabilitation done on them for so long, some of them are now filled up and can no longer hold water for so long.

“There are also lots boreholes in the region but the water is too salty and cannot be consumed by both human and livestock,” he said.

Endjala noted that there is need to make water more affordable to the majority, while calling on Namwater to be sensitive and desist from cutting off community water point.

“It does help when you have water infrastructures around the region that are closed. People are pressurizing the regional office to give them water but there is nothing the office of the governor cannot do as the capacity to do that,” he said.

To avoid future water stress, the Omusati Regional Council is looking at modalities to see how they can start harvesting rain water for household use and irrigation.

Endjala said the region has already presented a proposal to the ministry of agriculture, water and forestry to consider rehabilitating earth dams and to revamp the Olushandja dam that got potential to hold water for many years.

With a surface area of 29 square kilometres, the capacity to hold 42.3 million cubic metres of water, Olushandja Dam, which was constructed in 1990, is an important water source in the region, including horticulture.

Water scarcity is affects every continent. According United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) to Around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation.

Another 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage where countries lack the necessary infrastructure to take water from rivers and aquifer. Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest number of water-stressed countries of any region.

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