By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK The Directorate of Rural Water Supply (RWS) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry is in the process of implementing a RWS Development Plan in consultation with the Caprivi Regional Council. Once implemented, the project will go a long way towards improving the current water situation in that region that has several perennial water sources. Although the Caprivi is blessed with an abundance of above average rainfall, inhabitants of the region are still experiencing difficulties in accessing clean drinking water. While mean annual rainfall is 700 mm in the northeast and 600 mm in the west (Mukwe), accessibility and supply of water is an ongoing challenge. Often, water points are far from the homesteads and most sources are shared with livestock, stirring up fear amongst people who might get infected with diseases spread via these animals. At times, residents also compete with wild animals at water points, especially in times of drought. According to the Regional Poverty Profile of the Caprivi Region, the availability of water especially in the villages of Choto, Ikaba, Zilitene and Mazoba, is considered as the most serious problem facing residents. While some areas are served by hand pumps, others have no formal infrastructure at all. In the urban settlement of Choto, sand-pipes are being used and for Sangwali this has just been a recent introduction. Currently, there are 79 826 inhabitants in the Caprivi Region, with an annual growth rate of 1.8 percent. Most of them depend on good rainfall for a positive maize harvest, while also relying on fish. Open water areas are mainly that of Kwando, Linyati, Chobe and Zambezi rivers with flood plains and Mopane, Impalila and Kalahari woodlands. Yet the vegetation is such that most of the water drains easily through the sand, washing away nutrients, leaving both the soil and grass low in nutrients, which negatively affects crop production. Due to lack of proper water structures, many of the residents end up walking long distances or using ox-drawn carts. Water from the man-made shallow wells and rivers nearby is also not fit for human consumption since it is salty and brackish in taste. What makes matters even more difficult is the “low levels of mechanised abstraction equipment in the Caprivi Region (which) are shocking compared with other regions,” reads the latest regional poverty profile document. Therefore, community members made recommendations that this situation needs serious attention. Most villagers noted that the time spent on manually abstracting water for livestock robs them of the ability to engage in other productive activities. “It also takes up too much of the children’s time (when they fetch water) – to the detriment of their studies,” was another concern. However, the RWS Development Plan is seen as a long-term lifeline for the region’s residents. Based on the policy guideline of the document, there is a need for sustainable management of rural water supply through a cost recovery system. Yet committee and traditional leaders feel that the cost of water must not be recovered from those in abject poverty or those who do not own any livestock. In view of this, Cabinet recently also announced plans to subsidise water costs for the poor and marginalised. Another guideline as stated in the policy under implementation is that there should be adequate agricultural extension services for ultimate food security and poverty alleviation. Director of Rural Water Supply at the Ministry of Agriculture Abraham Nehemia informed New Era yesterday that ensuring water supply in rural areas can be challenging, especially in places where there is no development to support such structures in the first place. “Water supply is not development by itself. There is first a need for development like businesses and shops together with the water provision,” explained Nehemia, adding that water supply is linked to various aspects of development. On the other hand, limited budgets make it difficult for rural water supply authorities to carry out their plans effectively in all the regions and therefore implementation and planning takes a long time. Available resources, funding and feasibility studies first need to be carried out before rural water supply structures can be erected in a certain area. “We are now planning together with regional council’s priority needs that they have identified and incorporating this in the country’s development plans while at the same time seeking funds,” added Nehemia. The Water Supply and Sanitation Policy is part of the policy framework within which water is supplied to rural areas. Under this framework, water points are expected to be handed over to the communities they serve, for them to manage in terms of a community based system. This in turn enhances community ownership and protection of this scarce precious resource. Upgrading of all water systems also needs to be in place and no household should be more than 20 km from a water point and no one should be more than 5 km from a stock watering point. Since the RWS is responsible for ensuring rural water supply in all 13 regions of the country, it is envisaged that up to 90 percent of the rural population will have improved access to water by 2007.
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