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People and the River



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Rainfed and Floodplain Cultivation  

The importance of rainfed agriculture to rural livelihoods in the Kunene basin is highest near the source of the Kunene River in the far north, gradually decreasing further downstream. Seasonal floodplains (called iishana in Namibia and chanas in Angola) in parts of the middle basin provide favourable conditions for crop production.

Subsistence farmers working their plots.
Source: Tump 2004
( click to enlarge )

The sub-humid highland climate and fertile soils in the far north of the Kunene River basin, provide excellent conditions for relative productive rainfed crop farming which constitutes the principal base of rural livelihoods there. Further downstream, progressively lower rainfall, higher temperatures, and lower fertility increasingly constrain rainfed crop farming and reduce its contribution to rural livelihoods. In the middle and lower sections of the basin, rainfed crop production is possible only in specific locations (along rivers and around springs), complementing transhumant livestock-based pastoral systems (see section on Livestock Farming) to ensure a more diversified diet and enhance food security.

During the rainy season, heavy rain in the upper section of the basin gives rise to seasonal flooding in parts of the Middle Kunene. As seasonal waters move down the Kunene River and its numerous tributaries, the rivers begin to meander and divide up into systems of channels collectively forming floodplains, as the steeply sloped terrain of the Upper Kunene basin gives way to the flatter land in the Middle Kunene basin. These resulting seasonal floodplains (referred to as iishana / chanas) lend themselves to seasonal crop production, using recession irrigation systems and water conservation techniques.

For information on major crops grown in the Kunene River basin under rainfed conditions see Agriculture.




Explore the sub-basins of the Kunene River

Video Interviews about the integrated and transboundary management of the Kunene River basin

View a historical timeline of the Kunene basin countries, including water agreements & infrastructure

Video scenes about the limited access to water of the San in Kunene Province