Water access and governance in Namibia’s Cuvelai-Etosha basin

13 Jun 2017 - 14:30

By Omagano Shooya 

The scarcity of water and the lack of safe drinking water pose great constraints to the wellbeing of people living in the Cuvelai-Etosha basin in northern Namibia.

For my Masters’ study, I conducted interviews in the communities of Okalonga B and Onandjandja, situated in the Onesi constituency, to understand how people access water, what the barriers are to accessing potable water, and if and how people participate in water governance.

In both villages, the communities access water through hand-dug wells, private and communal taps, the Olushandja (Etaka) dam, oshana (seasonal flows of shallow surface water streams) and boreholes. However, there are numerous barriers to accessing this water, including: long distances to communal taps; limits to the amount of water a person can carry at a time; poor administration and maintenance of water infrastructure; people’s limited abilities to pay water fees; and restrictions on the times available for water collection. Furthermore, limited access to potable water means that people instead use contaminated water that makes them ill.

Though all these barriers negatively affect the wellbeing of these communities, their participation in water governance remains poor. This is because people do not know who is responsible for the management of different water sources, nor how to participate in water governance. Consequently, very few people – and mainly women and minority groups – attend water-related meetings and workshops.

Access to potable water would provide people with better economic opportunities and would improve their wellbeing and livelihood opportunities.

To improve this situation, the government (which lacks the manpower for ensuring regular engagement with communities) could encourage NGOs to help build community knowledge and capacity and to run water management interventions. In addition, the private sector could help to provide funding for community initiated projects and to determine how to reduce the dependence on the government for the provision and management of potable water.

Photo credit: ASSAR