Agriculture, water and land reform minister Calle Schlettwein last week told parliamentarians that government cannot afford to implement the intended 5 000-hectare irrigation scheme outside the Neckartal dam aimed at increasing food security and economic development in the //Kharas region.
Schlettwein said this while responding to questions by National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) parliamentarian Utjiua Muinjangue who wanted to know the current status of the envisaged Neckartal irrigation scheme.
The scheme was expected to produce a valley of green lush lands where high-value crops like wheat, maize, vegetables and fruits as well as animal fodder could be produced for own consumption and export to other markets.
Schlettwein explained that the irrigation project was conceived to be developed in two phases.
He said the first phase was the feasibility study, design and construction of the dam which was completed last year.
“The second phase is the feasibility study, design and the construction of the 5000ha irrigation project of which the feasibility study and design were completed,” he said.
However, Schlettwein said due to the economic conditions the country has been facing, the government could not proceed with the development of the irrigation scheme because the design of the existing green scheme project entails that the government first identify land, clear and fence it off before developing irrigation infrastructure for small and medium-scale components of the farm.
“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,” he added.
Schlettwein also said that soil suitable for the irrigation project in not in abundance in the subject area.
“The positioning of the irrigation project therefore mainly depended on the location of suitable soil,” he said, adding that the ministry has identified farm Schlangkopf (1 900ha), farm Dagbreek (1 700ha) and farm Schaapplaats (370ha) as having suitable soil for irrigation development around Neckartal.
He said an additional 1 030ha of suitable irrigation land is still needed to be confirmed, because the government’s ultimate goal is to identify and develop 5 000ha around the dam. “We will continue to identify additional land in the surrounding areas of the dam to reach a target area of 5 000ha required in order to maximise the utilisation of the harvested water,” he said. For now, Schlettwein said, the water reticulation system to the green scheme irrigation project is currently not in place, however, water from the main dam to the balancing reservoir is in place.
“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,” he said.
The Neckartal dam, which is Namibia’s largest dam, reached full capacity in January this year following good rains, which resulted in an overflow.
Construction of the dam commenced on 11 September 2013 and it was officially handed over to the agriculture ministry on 25 September 2019.
During construction of the dam, 3 000 Namibians were directly employed whilst 2 500 indirect employment opportunities were created in Keetmanshoop and the surrounding areas, of which 65% of all employees hailed from //Kharas.
The total cost for construction amounted to N$5.5 billion.
As the largest dam in Namibia it has a storage capacity of approximately three times of Hardap dam’s volume. At full supply level, it has a storage volume of 857 million cubic metres of water.
The dam furthermore stretches for more than 38km upstream and has a circumference at full supply level of more than 290km.
In addition, it has the potential to will generate 3.5 MV of power which will then be ploughed back to the national power grid. The dam will furthermore cater for water supply to settlements, as far as the drought-stricken areas of Grünau and Aus.