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Desert Dragon’s agricultural potential still on ice

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Neckartal, nicknamed the Desert Dragon is a curved gravity dam in the famous Fish River of southern Namibia. With three times more capacity that the Hardap Dam, Neckartal is the largest dam in Namibia. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

Desert Dragon’s agricultural potential still on ice

WhyAfrica took an off-road detour yesterday to visit the Neckartal Dam, in the IIKaras Region close to the town of Keetmanshoop in Namibia.

Neckartal, nicknamed the Desert Dragon is a curved gravity dam in the famous Fish River of southern Namibia. With three times more capacity that the Hardap Dam, Neckartal is the largest dam in Namibia.

The dam was completed in 2018 and was built to support a 5000 hectares irrigation scheme nearby but due to the government not being able to secure the land necessary for this scheme, it has not been commissioned yet. Nearby Keetmanshoop gets its drinking water from the Naute Dam in the Löwen River. After Neckartal and Hardhap, Naute Dam is the third largest dam in Namibia.

Italian company Salini Impregilo was awarded the 2.8 billion Namibian Dollar tender to build the dam in August 2013. The project was delayed by a court case and labour unrest but overflowed for the first time on January 19, 2021. The structure, across the Fish River, has a crest length of 520m and a height of 80m, capable of storing 850Mm³ of water. Over 1 Mm³ of Reinforced Cement Concrete was needed to complete the dam wall.

Consulting engineers Knight Piésold was tasked with designing the irrigation scheme. Once the scheme gets underway, the dam water would irrigate agriculturally developed land, aligned to the government’s “Green Scheme Policy,” approximately 21 km away.

From a downstream abstraction weir, pumped water is piped to a reservoir above the irrigation area, then gravity fed to farms. Controlled release of the dam water to the weir fills the reservoir and, simultaneously, generates hydropower.

In the initial phases of the project, Knight Piésold researched old feasibility studies and then conducted additional ones to determine whether a governmental irrigation scheme would be possible in the very dry //Kharas Region in the southern part of Namibia. Once the Ministry of Water, Agriculture and Forestry approved the preliminary report, Knight Piésold was tasked with designing the full scheme.

Sub-consultants were contracted to assist with the appropriation of land, agricultural designs, mechanical equipment designs and inspections, electrical designs and inspections including liaison with NamPower to provide the electricity to the scheme and hydropower designs and inspections.


The WhyAfrica Southern Africa Overland Road Trip will take us through five countries in 44 days. During this time, we will drive more than 9700km on the good roads, the bad roads, dirt roads and tarred roads, to visit close to 30 projects in the mining, agriculture, energy, infrastructure, tourism, conservation, and development sectors.

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 Leon Louw is the founder and editor of WhyAfrica. He specialises in natural resources and African affairs.        

WhyAfrica provides you with business intelligence that matters. WhyAfrica specialises in African affairs and natural resources. Africa is our business, and we want it to be yours too. To subscribe to WhyAfrica’s free newsletter or digital magazine, and for more news on Africa, visit the website at www.whyafrica.co.za or send a direct message. WhyAfrica launched its first ever digital magazine in November 2021. The company will undertake a road trip through South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana in June and July 2022. If you are interested in sponsorship or advertising opportunities, please contact me at leon@whyafrica.co.za. We have a wide range of different packages and combo deals to give your company the greatest exposure to a rapidly growing, African readership.  

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AgricultureEnvironmental Management & Climate ChangeEnergyESGInfrastructureMiningPolitical EconomyTourism and ConservationWater Management