Visiting ministers have tasked experts and the City of Windhoek to attend to the water challenges that Groot Aub residents have been complaining about for some time. Farmers of the settlement in the Khomas region have reportedly lost over 12 000 chickens and other animals while households’ food security and hygiene have also been impacted. Residents of the settlement say they often experience a lack of water, or a low flow.
Calle Schlettwein of the agriculture ministry and rural development minister Erastus Uutoni took a trip to the settlement south of Windhoek on Monday to discuss the water woes and get to the bottom of the matter.
The two Cabinet ministers were accompanied by experts, directors, the Khomas governor and regional councillors as well as the mayor of the City of Windhoek to find a collective, amicable solution.
One of the farmers who has been hard-hit by the city’s moratorium on drilling boreholes, the construction of structures and any other developmental activities issued when Windhoek took over the administration of the settlement, said their farming operations are affected to the extent that they were losing thousands of dollars a day.
Oscar Elago, who gave up his academic career to venture into full-time farming, said he invested to meet the government halfway with food security. However, the business has been halted due to a lack of water.
Elago told the delegation that the farmers are buying water for N$300 a day to sustain their farming activities.
“We have lost all the income from the poultry section. This is used to produce both layers and broilers,” he said.
The full-time farmer and also a fresh produce trader has secured a market, both locally and in South Africa.
“As you can see, this place is 25 hectares, but it does not have water. We can try our level best to go and buy water from the location so that we cannot sit and fold our hands. We called our surveyors to see if we have water underground. They have confirmed that there is water underground, but we could not secure permission to rehabilitate our boreholes which are already in existence,” he explained.
He said he applied for permission from the City of Windhoek in 2020, but did not get a fruitful answer as the municipality said they are not responsible for farmers.
“The problem here is just water. A week can pass by with no water at all. You have vegetables, chickens and animals. You are forced to transport water daily to sustain what you have, just because of the permission refusal made on the unconfirmed reason of pollutant water,” he stated.
Elago said he had 12 000 chickens, 400 pigs and also grew tomatoes. Due to water problems in the area, his poultry business was completely halted as chickens cannot survive without water for a long period.
“I used to supply chickens to Windhoek. I collected 10 800 eggs every day that I also supplied to Windhoek, as I have established my market. The business employed 20 permanent and 40 casual workers, who slaughtered and cleaned chickens on a daily basis. Those people are also suffering now as I retrenched them and only remained with six employees,” he continued.
The water woes forced him to only focus on piggery and tomato farming, as these can cope without water for a few days.
The City of Windhoek experts told the delegation that one of the main reasons why they snubbed the borehole rehabilitation permission is because farmers use animal excrement for horticulture, which contaminates the water. They said farmers need to put measures in place to deal with polluted water before they can grant permission.
However, Elago said the municipality’s experts are deflecting their negligence by accusing farmers of polluting the water.
Schlettwein has ordered the experts to be humane.
“Treat each case on its own merits. This is an investment, and it is not good for a farmer to see his animals dying every day. Actions must be taken as soon as possible,” he stated.
He further questioned the capacity of the existing aquifer, and whether it can assist the farmers with water at night. The experts answered that the aquifer cannot accommodate farmers, as it only opens from 06h00 to 18h00 during the day.
“At night, the borehole is recharging water that can be used for human consumption the next day. The capacity is too small and cannot accommodate everyone. We are trying to drill another borehole, but there is no money,” said one of the experts.
However, Schlettwein was not impressed, as he continued questioning the usage of the money which was allocated for the drilling of boreholes in that area. The experts indicated that they had received N$13 million, of which N$11 million was used for purchasing equipment and only N$2 million was available for operations.
Uutoni said a group of experts, under the supervision of Elijah Ngurare, a director in the agriculture ministry, is ordered to find an amicable solution.
“These people were supposed to supply the City of Windhoek with food, and now there is no water to increase productivity. Something has to be done as a matter of urgency, and that is the reason we are here. Ngurare, make sure that this matter is resolved as soon as possible,” he urged.