New Era

Govt has invested a lot in water sector

- With Elijah Ngurare

Former Swapo Party Youth League leader Elijah Ngurare has hit the ground running since his appointmen­t earlier this year as director of water supply and sanitation coordinati­on in the Ministry of Agricultur­e, Water and Land Reform. New Era caught up with him to get insights on the water situation in the country.

NE: One of your first trips, just a few months into your new job as director of water supply and sanitation coordinati­on, was to Kunene region, why Kunene?

EN: It had been reported at the time that two sisters narrowly escaped death when a traditiona­l water well collapsed on them. A bystander saw what happened and called for help from the community. That was how the two sisters were dug out. They were from the Tjambiru household of the Kakurukouj­e Traditiona­l Authority in Etanga. We, therefore, decided to travel there, and convey best wishes from the minister, deputy minister, executive director and indeed the entire management of the Ministry of Agricultur­e, Water and Land Reform. I was accompanie­d by our DWSSC colleagues from Kunene region. Our undertakin­g to the community of Etanga was that, in a free and independen­t Namibia, no little girl should ever have to risk their life in search for water. We would do all as a ministry to ensure that this is done.

Fortunatel­y, in partnershi­p with FAO Namibia, we had already started to experiment with a technology of converting traditiona­l wells into modern water sources with the financial support of the government of Korea. The first visit to Kunene, in those early days, was therefore to ensure that water is delivered to the community of Etanga and the surroundin­g villages. I am pleased to report that the Ministry of Agricultur­e, Water and Land Reform had since finished installati­on of the borehole at the nearby school in Etanga, within walking distance of the two girls’ household. We are left with the traditiona­l well. An interestin­g discovery we found is that many rural communitie­s have a belief that water from the traditiona­l wells are better in terms of reproducti­on of their livestock. It is not the debate of whether this is scientific­ally proven, but it is a customary belief in some communitie­s.

We have also discovered that converting traditiona­l wells present some challenges of ownership. In this regard, we have requested the support of GIZ to assist us with piloting some of these traditiona­l wells in Kunene, Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshikoto and Kavango West. The objective is to consult with traditiona­l authoritie­s and communitie­s on which traditiona­l wells can be ceded for use of communitie­s. In other words, we wish to compile an inventory of the traditiona­l wells all across the country. We will carry out this exercise with a few unemployed graduates with possible collaborat­ion with Unam’s JEDS Campus.

NE: In June you were on familiaris­ation visits to //Kharas, Hardap, Omaheke, Otjozondju­pa and Kunene regions. What have you found?

EN: I started in March 2020 and as you know shortly thereafter the Covid-19 pandemic struck. My orientatio­n was therefore part of what has become the new normal. After the lockdown, I requested from our executive director and was granted permission to conduct familiaris­ation visits to our regional offices and meet with our stakeholde­rs and to assess the situation of rural water supply and sanitation across the country. I was accompanie­d by resourcefu­l colleagues of DWSSC, namely an engineer and administra­tive experts to assist in addressing issues in various regions and communitie­s.

Our first such visit was to the Bondelswar­ts Traditiona­l Authority in the Karasburg constituen­cy after making a courtesy call to the governor of //Kharas region. We also met with traditiona­l authoritie­s from Berseba, Bethanie, Vaalgras and Blouwes. Their valuable input was an excellent guide to how we should respond to the challenges of water supply and sanitation coordinati­on in their communitie­s.

We found that a lot has been done in terms of government investment in the water sector. We also found that there are a lot of areas for improvemen­t, especially in terms of further support for procuremen­t of materials, for maintenanc­e of existing infrastruc­ture, provision of transport and coordinati­on in terms of sharing of expertise by various constituen­cies and regions. We also found that regional councils are providing valuable support in the supply of water to rural communitie­s. This is particular­ly so because DWSSC is a decentrali­sed function to regional councils.

Above all, in most regions we visited, I found committed civil servants who are ready to deliver service in their areas of jurisdicti­on. The maintenanc­e and extension services are a gem in terms of in-house expertise, which government should be very proud to have and nurture. With regular training, they are capable of making government shine all year around.

NE: You also visited Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto, Ohangwena, Kavango West and Kavango East between July and August. What is your impression of the situation on the ground?

EN: One of the highlights of the visits to these regions was in Oshikoto region. We were met by a full house. The governor, councillor­s, CRO and senior officials of the Oshikoto Regional Council. Councillor­s expressed first-hand the challenges faced by their constituen­cies, especially Okankolo, Eenghodi and Nehale LyaMpingan­a, for example. Another highlight was when we visited the councillor of Mpungu constituen­cy in Kavango West. We learned that of the villages in the region that don’t have water, the majority were from his constituen­cy.

Our impression of the situation on the ground, therefore, is that challenges are real and we have the duty to deliver solutions. The mission and vision of the Ministry of Agricultur­e, Water and Land Reform is clear on delivering potable water to rural communitie­s. Several interventi­ons in this regard are underway.

It was commendabl­e to observe that many communitie­s in the regions have been doing their part in water and sanitation functions. It is hoped that this would be the norm for communitie­s all over the country.

NE: In the past we had reports about the water struggles at places such as Amarika. How is the situation there now?

EN: Indeed, this matter had been topical earlier in the year. Subsequent­ly, the minister directed that we urgently find a solution to it. We worked together with our colleagues from the department of land reform to provide water to the community. Consultati­ons are also at an advanced stage on the traditiona­l wells to be modernised once the community grants us permission.

NE: Water provision is linked to the availabili­ty of infrastruc­ture such as roads. How do you see cooperatio­n with other ministries affecting your services?

EN: It is very true that without road infrastruc­ture, it is difficult for the supply of water to be realised sustainabl­y. I think, and fortunatel­y so, other ministries are also aware of this and I have no doubt that rural feeder roads particular­ly, are being prioritise­d by the Ministry of Works and Transport. Thus, it is a good coordinati­on which will be most helpful to us in the Ministry of Agricultur­e, Water and Land Reform.

As an example of cooperatio­n with other ministries, recently, we were at Otjomuru village in Epupa constituen­cy to replace a water pump. The school was founded by former deputy prime minister Dr Libertina Amathila. When we got there, we realised that Nored’s presence was critical. The Ministry of Mines and Energy assisted to facilitate the availabili­ty of electricit­y so that water could be pumped to the Otjomuru Primary School. We were able to speak to the CEO of Nored and his support was immensely helpful. Our strength as a government is in cooperatio­n and synergy. After all it is one government and one Namibia.

NE: After the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, Cabinet declared that schools must be provided with water and sanitation facilities. The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture has requested assistance from the Ministry of Agricultur­e, Water and Land Reform to provide water to about 193 schools. How is that going?

EN: It is our belief that Covid-19 has provided unique challenges to the education sector as it did to all other sectors of the economy as well as to us in the water sector. These challenges should and can be turned into opportunit­ies. Therefore when we offered to assist in the provision of water provision to 193 schools we did it because DWSSC has the capacity through its maintenanc­e and extension services to carry out this function. Regrettabl­y, there was a slight delay in completing this assignment but thanks to the support of our director general of the National Planning Commission, ED of education, ED of National Planning Commission, ED of finance and our ED in the Ministry of Agricultur­e, Water and Land Reform, the process is back on track and we have set ourselves a target to complete all schools by this December 2020.

NE: Anything else you wish to add?

EN: I can confidentl­y say that the capacity exists in government to respond to water challenges in all 14 regions and 121 constituen­cies. During the familiaris­ation visits we received a lot of useful input and good ideas. However, good ideas or good plans are not helpful if they are not implemente­d. We will therefore invest a lot of energy and resources to implement and to provide solutions. We are also keen to embark upon flood and rain water harvesting in earnest.

Thankfully the government has recently secured the approval for the implementa­tion of the African Developmen­t Bank’s funded Namibian Water Sector Support Program (NWSSP). With it, we will do more in terms of water infrastruc­ture both in urban and rural areas. We are also grateful to the support we are receiving from NamWater, Unicef, EU, FAO, GIZ, EIF amongst others in our mandate of providing potable water to rural communitie­s and on resettleme­nt farms all over the country.

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 ?? Photos: Contribute­d ?? Great investment… Water infrastruc­ture provides important benefits to Namibian citizens as well as livestock.
Photos: Contribute­d Great investment… Water infrastruc­ture provides important benefits to Namibian citizens as well as livestock.

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