Bad water management stalls progress

Poor management of irrigation schemes is hindering expansion and economic development.

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Farmers attending the Standard Bank Water Imbizo in Johannesburg have struggled to secure water rights even in areas where water is abundant.

Andre Senekal, special projects manager at Senekal farms in KwaZulu-Natal, said that while the Jozini Dam was built to irrigate 30 000ha, water for only 10 000ha is being used.

“This is because the dam isn’t being managed properly. Water licences have been granted to irrigate 30 000ha, but most are outdated and no longer in use. When we apply for more water we’re told the dam is being used at full capacity. For this reason we support the ‘use it or lose it’ proposal by government.”

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Senekal also said that if the dam was managed at 90% capacity an additional 26 000ha could be irrigated. “But they only allow the dam to run at 80% capacity, so management urgently needs to be addressed. The sugar industry is dependent on water and we’ll become a net importer of sugar if no new developments are started soon.”

Hennie Retief, co-owner of Van Loveren wine farm in Robertson, has been struggling for three years to get a water licence for a BEE project.

The project entails crop production on 1 000ha, 300ha of which have been donated by Van Loveren. The project will see around 3 000 jobs created throughout the value chain.

“This project has been stalling for so long and no one can give me answers why. I suspect the legislation governing water rights for BEE projects is not adequate so the whole application process has come to a standstill.”

Retief noted that the dam from which the irrigation water will be sourced has the capacity to provide for another 5 000ha if the dam wall was to be lifted – another issue which needed attention.