Wednesday, August 4, 2021

OKAVANGO DRY SPELL PERIOD THREATENS HORTICULTURE

The Okavango Delta dry cycle is said to be posing a threat to horticultural projects meant to empower communities.

The horticulture projects which are the brainchild of the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Strategic Action Plan (SAP) have been hit hard by the drying of tributaries such as Thamalakane and Boteti river.

The project was meant to empower community residing within the Okavango river basin to produce and sell produce to high end tourism camps, which rely largely on importing horticulture produce from South Africa.

The Okavango Delta, which has a history of drying and wetting season, has not received enough water this year posing threats to the biodiversity in the delta.

There are different school of thoughts over the drying of the tributaries that are fed by Okavango Delta. Some point to effects of climate change while others argue that it is a normal process.

UNDP-OKACOM projects that were meant to empower communities to use natural water resources for irrigation in multiple horticulture projects along the basin are in limbo.

SAP project which was aimed at strengthening the utilisation of the natural water resource and improve the livelihood of communities living along the river basin has been crippled.

The horticulture project, which is part of the tripartite agreement among the three member states, Angola, Botswana and Zambia on the utilisations of shared water resources in the Okavango basin in the uplifting of marginalised communities, has not been spared by the dry cycle.

OKACOM, Chief Executive Officer, Phera Ramoeli, admits that Okavango delta experienced drier conditions in terms of flows.

He said that the three countries have met about the drier conditions in the Okavango river basin and all have stated that the flow in river mainstreams in their respective countries were very low.

He could not say whether effects of climate change were behind the drying up and low water flow into Okavango delta, arguing that it is a natural phenomenon.

He said that since they could no longer draw water from the river mainstream they have opted to drill boreholes to help horticulture farmers along Thamalakane and Boteti rivers.

Ramoeli further noted that the alternative sources such as the ground water were the only available resources to help farmers who benefited from SAP project which is the brainchild of OKACOM and UNDP. He indicated that they are already providing water to horticulture farmers to produce crops and thereafter linking them to the available market in tourism camps in the delta.

Through SAP, project horticulture farmers who own farms along the river basin benefited from the project as they were strengthened with farming skills and financial funding.

The horticulture project has been rolled out in neighbouring Namibia and Angola, focusing on a different agricultural benefit in line with the countries national action plans.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper