Neckartal nearing completion – ministry finalising purchase of irrigable land and construction camp
Shedding some light on the protracted negotiations to turn the Neckartal project into reality, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Mr Percy Misika this week said several communal farmers had to be relocated with compensation while the land for the intended irrigation scheme had to be purchased from its previous owners.
The project for the construction of the Neckartal damwall and completion of the first phase to supply bulk water, has been administered by the ministry from the start when social and environmental impact assessments were required to determine the reservoir’s impact on local communities.
In the first assessment, the ministry found that fourteen households on almost 4000 ha will be affected once the reservoir starts filling up. The Berseba Traditional Authority was engaged to find a suitable area for relocation but it transpired that this will place undue strain of the grazing available to other farmers in the communal area.
Eventually, with the assistance of the Ministry of Land Reform, it was decided to resettle eighteen of the larger farmers on commercial farms with compensation of just under N$1 million. This was paid under the cabinet-approved Compensation Policy Guidelines for Communal Land.
The irrigation scheme that will be based on about 5,000 hectares of commercial farmland downstream, presented its own set of unique obstacles which had to be resolved through negotiations. The suitable land is spread across nine commercial farms, of which the owners had to be consulted individually. All affected farmers accepted the offered price of N$625 per hectare. The total consideration came to just over N$3 million.
Misika said Treasury approval has been obtained and the payments will be made as soon as the land has been transferred to the ministry per registered deed.
For the construction phase of the damwall, the contractor, Salini Impregilo of Italy, had to construct a small village near the site to house approximately 1500 workers at various stages of the construction. This settlement has turned into an asset in its own right. For the duration of construction, the camp is managed by Salini based on an agreement between the contractor and the land owner. While the actual damwall is located on Berseba communal land, the construction camp is on private land outside the communal area.
“Given the strategic position of the camp site and the infrastructure that was constructed thereon, it is the view of the Ministry and that of the Office of the Attorney General that the government should engage the farm owner with a view to purchasing that portion of the farm,” stated Misika adding that the owner has been engaged in the mean time to start formal negotiations.
According to Salini, when full, Neckartal will hold almost 900 million cubic metres of water and inundate nearly 40 square kilometres of land, roughly three time more than Hardap which to date, is Namibia’s biggest reservoir. The irrigation scheme is envisaged to become a major producer and exporter of fresh produce.