Less rainfall-dependent crop schemes for Kunene

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The chief executive officer of the Environmental Investment Fund (EIF), Benedict Libanda, said this on the 21 June 2019  to The Namibian when explaining the N$130 million for three green schemes envisaged for Kunene.

He said they will utilise any opportunity to capture water before it evaporates, and use it for crop production. 

Libanda said Kunene is the driest region in Namibia, characterised by sporadic rain patterns averaging 50 mm per annum, and one would not rely on this seasonal rainfall for crop production.

“We, therefore, undertook a study of the underground water, natural springs and perennial rivers which were found to have a major influence on agricultural production and tourism in the region,” he explained. It was discovered that Fransfontein, Sesfontein and Warmquelle have a number of aquifers and land streams. It was also noted that the natural springs at the three sites have been flowing to the surface for the past 75 years.

“An opportunity was identified to harvest that water before it evaporates, and use it for crop production in the areas”, Libanda said, adding that the evaporation rate in Namibia is estimated at 80%, and capturing such resources for agricultural purposes is thus viewed as a sustainable and efficient use of water.

The initiative will assist farmers to increase agricultural productivity and incomes, adapt and build resilience to climate change, and reduce carbon pollution through crop production.

“Growing food in the desert is a reality. The integrated approach combines technologies to generate electricity from concentrated solar power, desalinate water for irrigation, and operate saltwater-cooled greenhouses for growing cucumbers and other high-value vegetable crops,” Libanda noted.

The Kunene projects' components are not limited to the three green schemes, and they incorporate early warning systems for disaster risk preparedness and communication. 

This initiative will support farmers in the region with the means to implement drought mitigation strategies, rangeland management, fodder production, backyard gardening, installing water infrastructure, and having climate resilient livestock breeds. 

The executive director in the ministry of agriculture, Percy Misika, confirmed to The Namibian yesterday that they will work together to implement the projects.

He said it is mainly to revive, upgrade and build production capacity for the projects that were started there for the communities by the government.

“We are coordinating the implementation and overall planning of the activities, with project coordinators and liaison officers running the projects. The procurement and invoice payments will be done by the EIF since they are the ones accredited by the financier (Green Climate Fund).

Misika also indicated that the projects will start this year, as soon as the funds are disbursed by the EIF.

The 5000 hectares drip irrigation system in Kunene will rehabilitate 80 000 hectares for rangelands for proper ecosystem management plans at local levels to improve grazing areas.

The project will also rehabilitate two green scheme facilities at Sesfontein with 11 hectares, and seven hectares at Warmquelle, and it will be used as a learning centre for climate-resilient agricultural production to local smallholder farmers, while the community-based green scheme will be operated at Fransfontein in the Khorixas constituency with the range of 40 000 hectares.