Namibia + 6 more

Recurrent drought needs a regional panacea

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The effects of climate change are apparent if the consequences of successive debilitating droughts in the entire southern Africa and beyond in recent years are anything to go by. This vicious climatic cycle is any farmer, policymaker, investor and the general public’s worst nightmare, more so in Namibia an arid country renowned for its successive droughts and very hot and dry conditions.

To put matters into perspective, Namibia just emerged from its worst drought in 90 years making 500 000 people mainly in rural areas where crop farming is mostly rain-fed to be food insecure and to rely on drought relief aid, funded by the government and external sources such as foreign donors.

For now, Namibian policymakers are scrambling around to possibly consider the alternative of desalinating water from the ocean, which is a very costly undertaking. This in light of a limping economy resulting in belt-tightening and a massive cost-cutting exercise in the public sector.

As a country time is not on our side because dams watering the central areas are also running dry because they have not been receiving sufficient water inflows while the ground water sources that have also been another source of water for urban areas such as Windhoek have also shrunk.

Countries in the entire SADC region such as Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa have not been spared the ravaging drought and were warned to be on alert and activate drought contingency measures to protect loss of human life by the SADC Climate Service Unit.

Cape Town in South Africa was plucked from the brink of disaster as it faced its worst water crisis and there was talk the town would have run dry – and it had to restrict water usage to 50 litres per person. The panic was such that some observers predicted civil unrest and an apocalyptic scenario.

A nightmare of apocalyptic proportions is unfolding in the entire SADC region because of successive droughts. There is a prospect the hydropower project at Kariba could face imminent closure if the water levels remain low. This could spell disaster for both Zambia and Zimbabwe that rely on this project for power generation. If this project is shut, the consequences will be far reaching for countries such as Namibia that imports power from Zambia that is coping through the dreaded load-shedding.

Load-shedding could become the norm in southern Africa if policymakers rest on their laurels. But there is hope if the regional’s politicians put their heads together to address drought and water insecurity as a regional problem that needs a regional solution. In years gone by there was talk SADC would pool its resources to invest in a Grand Inga hydro project that has the capacity to generate more than 40 000 megawatts (MW) of electricity – enough to meet SADC’s electricity needs.

There is an African proverb that says unity is strength, division is weakness. Inga has enough water to supply Namibia and other drought-stricken SADC countries but as we pointed out earlier, countries in the entire region should work collectively to bring Inga to fruition as working in isolation will not work in the interests of any of the drought-hit SADC countries. Inga project is the way.