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Prospects for agricultural water management
Given the water scarcity of Namibia, it is natural that there is competition for water According to the WASP of 1993, the first priority for water allocation should be accorded to municipal use, while irrigation has second priority together with mining and industry. It was also proposed that irrigation should be regarded as an interim use until the water is used for higher value consumption with higher economic returns.
While most irrigation problems are technically manageable, in terms of dealing with proximate causes (such as excessive use of water and lack of maintenance of drainage systems), it is essential to address the ultimate causes such as low water costs and lack of user responsibility for irrigation scheme infrastructure, so as to encourage farmers to change their management practices.
To ensure a sustainable and economically viable future development of irrigation, the following issues would need to be addressed:
- Passage of relevant legislation;
- Introduction of pricing policy on cost-recovery basis;
- Promotion of high-value crops instead of the currently irrigated low-value crops in order to increase, or achieve, economic viability;
- Increase of water use efficiency;
- Essential upgrading of irrigation infrastructures so that responsibility for maintenance can reasonably be handed over to irrigation boards;
- Establishment of irrigation boards;
- Establishment of management agreements between the government and irrigation boards.
It is estimated that the country’s total water demand will reach about 475 million m3/yr by 2015, against 300 million m3 at present, made up of 93 million m3 for municipal purposes (including industry and tourism), 342 million m3 for agriculture (including irrigation and livestock) and 40 million m3 for mining.