Mariental Farmers Devastated

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By Surihe Gaomas Mariental Devastated farmers on the Hardap Scheme have only until 08h00 this morning to hand in their preliminary assessment forms on the extent of damages on their properties and land. Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Paul Smit yesterday had a first-hand tour of the area together with local farmers. Smit wanted to have an insight on the extent of the damage. All of the 27 farmers working on the 2 200 hectares of land had damages ranging from crop ruin to immense infrastructural destruction. Two of the farmers who had the most severe damages mentioned losses of approximately N$8 million to N$10 million each, while the lump sum collectively tops N$300 million. The only dairy farm at the town came to a complete standstill, as the cows could not be milked anymore. A dairy cow needs continuous milking. Once that procedure is interrupted, the cow can only be milked after it delivers its next calf. A herd of 50 cattle that belongs to the dairy are now roaming aimlessly on the floodplains. The distraught farmers have to deal with another blow as a whole 14 hectares of land accommodating 2 000 dates trees have been completely washed away. To make matters worse, mealie fields and grape vines are facing drought as the whole irrigation infrastructure has been destroyed. Twenty hectares of onion fields that were ready for harvesting on Monday perished in the floods. The pump station of the Visser Boerdery collapsed. It was set up at a cost of N$400 000. After his assessment, the deputy minister said: “they have experienced a lot of damage but fortunately, it’s not the whole scheme.” He added that the damage was mainly infrastructural. The farmers as well as the community are calling on President Hifikepunye Pohamba to pay them a visit. At a fully packed meeting yesterday, the hard hit flood victims of Mariental demanded that the Head of State come and see the devastation of the recent floods for himself. This motion was carried in order for the Head of State to declare the town of Mariental as a disaster area. Although the water has completely subsided, the intensity of infrastructural damage prompted the residents to vote unanimously for the Head of State to pay them a visit. Chairing the well attended meeting at the Danie Joubert Primary School in Mariental, the Hardap Regional Governor Katrina Hanse informed the community that she was in constant contact with the President, briefing him about the latest developments. She said that due to the urgency of the situation, time has come for the community to come up with concrete and persuasive suggestions that could be shown as evidence in order to convince the Head of State to declare the town a disaster area. “I also feel it will be good that the President comes and sees the devastation for himself,” said the governor, adding that the situation was far from normal as it would take some businesses up to three months to recover from the after effects of the devastation. “The damage on the people’s property is very extensive. Westbank, which is most of the CBD is also affected,” added Hanse. Addressing the highly charged meeting, the governor noted that people should “refrain from the blame game” but rather come up with concrete short and long term solutions to guard against any more flooding in the future. This is the fourth such flood to be experienced in the history of the town and from the looks of things, the residents are tired of having to deal with the same problem every six years. “We are using a lot of water to flush the mud out of our houses. Will the town council consider giving us discount for the water since this is a situation beyond our control?” asked one woman. Concerns were also raised about the need for earth-moving equipment and sandbags from the Ministry of Agriculture that would help the community to clear their properties. “New rivers have formed around the area and our cars cannot cross the mud. We need lorries, tractors and bulldozers to take out the mess,” added a farmer who also asked how best they could store their damaged belongings for the sake of insurance claims. However, experts from the Ministry of Agriculture present at the meeting urged the people to be patient because the soft nature of the soil makes it dangerous to operate heavy equipment. Suggestions were also made to build an additional dam and canal, as well as to clear up the river that could minimise flooding in future. Generally, the residents feel the town should be declared a disaster area. This would help them receive the much-needed aid from outside the country. A curfew stretching from 07h00 till 18h00 has also been announced for the affected area. Police will patrol the area and anyone found flouting the curfew would be arrested. As for now, the affected CBD area is still struggling to cope with the blocked sewerage system and lack of electricity, while schools will only start with normal classes next week Monday. Some shopping centres and petrol stations were clearing mud from their premises, citing huge financial losses. At the end of the meeting, consensus was reached that a delegation from the community be chosen to provide concrete suggestions and statistical statements of the damage incurred to the Head of State upon his arrival at the town. The delegation will consist of the affected families, the Hardap Scheme, local leadership and municipality officials. Meanwhile, NBC reported last night that President Pohamba will visit Mariental today.