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Home The River Basin People and the River Governance Resource Management
Resource Management
Water Demand
Water Infrastructure
 Dams and Associated Infrastructure
 Bulk Transfer Schemes
 Groundwater Services & Infrastructure
 Irrigation Infrastructure
 Irrigation in Angola
Irrigation in Namibia
 Operation and Maintenance of Infrastructure
 Rehabilitation and Future Development
 Wastewater Infrastructure
The Value of Water
Resource Monitoring
Research & Development



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Irrigation in Namibia  

In 2000 the total water consumption in Namibia was 300 million m³. Agriculture accounted for 213 million m³ of this, of which 136 million m³ was for irrigation and 77 million m³ for livestock watering (see Water Use and Agriculture). It is estimated that agricultural water demand will rise to 342 million m³/year by 2015.

Irrigated agriculture is limited to selected sites along the border rivers to the north and south and in areas with abundant groundwater and suitable soils, such as Grootfontein-Tsumeb. The greatest water consumption for irrigation is in the south of the country.

The total national irrigation potential is estimated at 47 300 ha (0.2 % of the estimated arable area). In 2010 an estimated 9 000 ha of this were equipped.

The majority of irrigated areas currently produce low-value crops, although some high -value crops such as grapes, dates, cotton and melons are grown. The value added per m³ of water for irrigation is therefore generally low compared to manufacturing and service sectors, about US$1.20/m³ compared to U$44/m³ and US$93/m³ respectively (FAO 2005b).

Irrigated Farming Types in Namibia

There are four basic categories of farming in the irrigation sub-sector:

  • Smallholders, generally on 1 ha plots, receiving substantial government support, with free extension support, water and inputs, including land preparation;
  • Medium-scale commercial farmers have been settled on 30 ha blocks and are able to obtain safe loans from the government through the Land Bank;
  • Large-scale commercial farms are the major participants in the sub-sector and consist of private landowners who have undertaken irrigation on their own account, albeit often with support from the government;
  • Parastatal or state farming, carried out by the National Development Corporation (NDC). These farms are commercially operated as State Farms, with management and paid labour. Several schemes under the NDC have been settled by farmers on 3 to 4 ha plots.
Source: FAO 2005b

The Kunene basin in Namibia is in a remote and isolated area. Irrigation occurs mainly within the Etunda Irrigation Scheme near Ruacana, which opened in 1995-96 and lies just outside of the basin. This scheme has around 640 ha of a potential 1 200 ha equipped for irrigation.

Water is supplied to the Etunda Irrigation Scheme as part of the Bulk Transfer supplies taken from the Calueque weir in Angola, upstream from the Ruacana Falls. The abstraction system for the Etunda scheme was designed for 2.1 m³/s, although only 50 % of the scheme is in use, and thus the maximum demand is currently 1.05 m³/s. There are however plans to extend the scheme to its full potential (GoN 2010a).

Off-take from the Calueque-Oshakati drinking water supply canal for the Etunda irrigation scheme.
Source: Tump 2008
( click to enlarge )

Etunda Irrigation Scheme

Etunda irrigation farm is located at Ruacana, approximately 150 km west of Oshakati, in the Omusati region. The farm is about 600 ha in size, with one half dedicated to commercial farming and the other half for small scale farming. Maize is the main crop on the commercial plot (300ha), whereas varieties such as wheat, potatoes, cabbage, onion, melons and bananas are cultivated seasonally throughout the year by small scale farmers. 
The farm workforce comprises a total of 126 workers of which 45 are males and 81 are females.

Small Scale Farmers

The Scheme has about 82 small scale farmers. Each of the small scale farmers has a field of about 3 ha for irrigation. However, there are 6 small scale farmers who were given about 6 ha. The six farmers were selected based on their level of production and because of the way they maintain and manage their crops. This serves as an encouragement to them and a motivation to other small scale farmers. They are considered as the best farmers who are accountable in terms of paying their accounts. Small scale farmers are growing maize, cabbage, tomatoes, onions, butter nuts, ground nuts sweet potatoes and water melons. The best small scale farmers are now growing wheat because of the additional ha provided.

Since most of the small scale farmers were not able to pay their accounts, they got a loan of about N$ 3 million from Agri Bank in January 2007. They are using a voucher system with a loan, each get about N$ 20 000 to N$ 100 000 depending on the programme. This loan is from MAWF and given to Agri Bank to manage it.

Service Providers

The service provider has ten center pivots and each pivot covers a large area of about 30 ha. They are growing the same crops that small scale farmers are growing except bananas and wheat. The government is assisting service providers through the provision of infrastructures. The center pivots, tractors, trucks and cars are all from the government. 


The service provider has the advantage of marketing his/her crops. They know where to sell both in and outside the country especially to South Africa. Small scale farmers on the other hand sell their products in Oshakati and around Etunda. They are provided with a truck to market their goods.

Etunda irrigation Scheme Second Phase

There is a second phase of the project which will have about five to six center pivots. The area has already been cleared and electricity and water pipes are already installed. There is an advert looking for an expert who is willing to be a service provider at this phase. When they get the service provider then work will begin. It is at this site where some of the farmers who are being trained at Mashare will be resettled.

Source: GoN 2010b

It should be noted that all water abstracted from the river above the hydroelectric power station at the Ruacana Falls is in direct competition with hydro-power generation and the Economic Value of Water will play an important role in deciding if and how the scheme may be developed.

The only other area of potentially irrigable land along the river is at Otjindjangi some 250 kilometres down stream from the Ruacana Falls. The development of this remote area is thought to depend on the development of hydro-power development in the lower Kunene. From an economic perspective however it currently appears doubtful that further irrigation schemes can be justified in the Namibian part of the basin (GoN 2010a).




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