The government will need approximately N$75 million for the next five years to develop a long-term water support project for the northern regions.
The project, which lacked implementation due to the absence of a memorandum of understanding, aims to develop a long-term integrated flood and drought management plan for the Cuvelai-Etosha basin where thousands of Namibians are often displaced and left food insecure when floods occur.
The needed budget follows the commitment of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to implementation of the project as part of the roadmap agreed upon in 2011.
The parties who met on Monday endorsed the project framework document and agreed to accelerate its implementation, of which government already availed N$10 million to develop master’s degree programmes at the University of Namibia (Unam) and the University of Science and Technology (NUST) to build staff capacity to effectively manage the recurring natural disasters.
The programmes are expected to kick-start next year.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry permanent secretary Abraham Nehemia on Tuesday said the project aims to capacitate young experts, water professionals and practitioners within the programme at an early stage and to establish a national platform for water security involving universities and relevant stakeholders.
The project came about following the severe floods Namibia experienced between 2008 and 2011, which saw thousands of people displaced due to their homes being submerged.
“The floods come and just take over the Cuvelai. Towns of Oshakati, Ongwediva, Oshikango and Outapi and everyone is under water. We will look into what kind of engineering work we will put in place and assist to minimize these flood risks. And when drought comes, it’s also the Cuvelai that is most hit where cattle are dying in Oponono and Etaka. People in the north are left with no food as they depend on mahangu, which is a rain-fed crop. So we should be working towards capacitating ourselves to deal with floods whether in the Zambezi, Orange or Kavango rivers,” Nehemia noted.
As a result of the floods, Nehemia said, UNESCO decided to see how they can assist. UNESCO experts visited the affected areas in the north and agreed to assist to build capacity in dealing with natural disasters such as floods and drought.
“What happens now is that we wait for February and March, then we go and do assessment if people don’t have food. Then we go to Cabinet and the president declares a drought. We should be at a level where we say for the next three years –looking at the meteorological behaviour – we are expecting this, therefore let’s put this and that in place. That is why we have key stakeholders such as the universities,” he noted.
Equally, he said, the project aims to demonstrate the implementation of flood and drought management policies in an applicable and transferable manner in the Iishana sub-basin.
He admitted the project has taken too long while people are suffering yearly due to floods and drought, but said funds are hard to come by, as government has other pressing issues to address.
According to him, this is the right time to think about water and come up with concrete projects.
“Let us have people from a young age as engineers. This is time for water – if we fail now, we will not get it right. All politicians are thinking about water now. This is the right time to push everything through to get the water project going. It is not always easy. Time will come when you are told ‘no, no, you wait – we need to fix this thing of getting the beef to America first, that’s our priority now.’ We have to come up with concrete plans that have to be implemented,” Nehemia noted.
UNESCO chief of hydrological systems and water scarcity, Abou Amani, said many African countries face natural disasters but they address them through crisis management (response, recover and reconstruction).
“This is not the way to address this issue. We need to move away from crisis to resist management. We need to have science to mark those vulnerable areas. Experts will help with these issues and for us it really is about bringing a network of expertise. You can’t address something you don’t know properly,” he said.