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Integrated biosystems

Installing the sub-surface pipes involved digging trenches to ensure the pipelines run well below the cultivation level. (Photograph courtesy of Hanns Seidel Foundation)

Installing the sub-surface pipes involved digging trenches to ensure the pipelines run well below the cultivation level. (Photograph courtesy of Hanns Seidel Foundation)

The Institute of Management and Leadership Training in conjunction with the local leaders of the Tses community in the Karas region successfully implemented an irrigation system based on the Integration bio-system (IBS). The IBS venture evolved around channelling the purified water from the sewage system into an irrigation system. This was accomplished successfully and the water is being used for the growing of fodder.
The Tses sewage system, like that of many in Namibia, is a biological purification process containing aerobic and anaerobic stages that leave the water with minimal faecal matter but rich in sulphates, potassium and nitrates. Water that was initially left to a standstill (sewage ponds) is now channelled through sub-surface pipes that are used to irrigate fodder literally at grass root level. This system eliminates loss in water content as a result of evaporation which is common with most overhead irrigation systems.
“The idea is simplistic. The IBS is meant to create projects that re-use semi purified water which could be a negative externality from production, to fuel various projects such as irrigation for crop production.” explained Mr Jan van Harmalen who is the current project manager. He said that the idea of IBS is to turn the production process into a cyclical model where the waste is used for production.
The project faced certain challenges. The main challenge was the high salinity of the soil which made most of the area in Tses unsuitable for cultivation. Another major issue was lack of community integration. According to Mr. Harmalen, the community members would argue concerning the intentions of the project and where the overall benefits would be directed. This was observed when a community member burned up to 18 bags of fodder soon after they had been harvested.
Despite such setbacks, the concept remains revolutionary. Pilot studies have been conducted in several other towns with the aim of extending IBS to other parts of Namibia. Currently the project is being extended to Luderitz where the fodder production will be used as feed for dairy cattle. The idea is to make the town self sufficient in terms of milk and hopefully cheese supply in 5 years time.
With Tses’ successes the project will be extended to introduce an aquaculture system. The idea is to create tank beds which will be used to produce a variety of vegetables which can supply the local community with basic sustenance. These tank beds will have water circulating through them constantly supplying rich nutrients to the roots of the plants. The residual water from the beds will then be re-integrated into the irrigation channels for the fodder production. This is in line with the concept of IBS which explains that each stage of production needs to add value. Furthermore, IBS    shows that production should not be viewed in a linear manner with strict inputs and outputs but rather the traditional isolated stages of production can be connected providing an efficient way to produce.

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