By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Some communities in Caprivi have temporarily suspended ploughing after large tracts of the region experienced heavy flooding, since the end of last year. Villages and schools are fast becoming isolated as water levels rise, slowly making roads inaccessible to communities due to heavy rainfall. Agithas Salufu, like some farmers, had already ploughed this season and had to witness raging waters cover half of her crops. “If the floods continue, there is a possibility that I may lose more crops,” Salufu told the Regional Emergency Management Unit (REMU) assessment team that has been conducting regular visits for the past two months. It turns out that some parts of the western Caprivi, especially the Sangwali area, are under waters caused by the Kwando River which burst its banks late last year. Due to the fact that this area has many tributary river channels, the water coming from the Kwando River is flowing quite fast, resulting in floods in western Caprivi. Thus, the water is reportedly coming down to Sangwali through the river channels. According to a recent report by the Caprivi Regional Council, further observations were that “there’s water flowing between the schools and villages situated in the south and, as a result, communities from both sides have to invent means to reach each other.” Seasonal flooding is mostly evident in the eastern Caprivi, but fears are that with the western Caprivi already under water, the very same rising water could reach that part of the region as well. Most villagers have learnt how to cope with the floods. They move out of – and back to – the area each year. However, the floods can be abnormally high during some years and could cause severe damage to crops because of the heavy rains. Aware of the latest flood situation in the Caprivi, the acting director of the Emergency Management Unit in Windhoek, Gabriel Kangowa, said “the situation is under control”. He is constantly in contact with REMU in the Caprivi. “We are monitoring this flood situation in the Caprivi from this side by getting regular updates from our regional colleagues in Katima Mulilo,” said Kangowa. He noted that the flood waters affect most of the mahangu fields, preventing villagers from continuing with their ploughing. “If people don’t cultivate their land, they will at the end of the day rely on government food aid. They are now losing out on ploughing their fields because of the floods,” added Kangowa. Meanwhile, there is concern that the floods will affect more community members as the water levels rise by the day. The floods have reached the area of Linyanti, which is a bit further west from Sangwali. The water is rising even faster than in previous years: whereas in the last few years – 2003, 2004 and 2005 – the water level in the area stood at 0,67 metres, it currently stands at 4,44 metres. Most of the people are now reportedly on high ground. It is apparent that while river levels have dropped in neighbouring Kavango, they are now rising in the Caprivi. However, all monitoring and possible emergency mechanisms have been put in place by the relevant authorities to mitigate the effects of the current floods in that region. Last week, Thursday, REMU held an extraordinary meeting at which it was agreed that an assessment team would be established to verify the early flooding in eastern Caprivi as well. The meeting was prompted by reports of rising river levels in neighbouring Zambia. The last worst flood in the Caprivi was in the year 2003, which destroyed large tracts of mahangu fields.
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