Okavango facts

The length of the Okavango from its source in the Angola highlands to the mouth at the outer margin of the Delta in Botswana is 1,100 kilometres.

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Some Historical Background

OKACOM had its beginnings in Namibia, nurtured by successful agreements for sub-basins in the region.

Balisi Khupe, Piet Heyns and Abraham Nehemia talk history at 17th OKACOM Meeting
Balisi Khupe, Piet Heyns and Abraham Nehemia talk history at 17th OKACOM Meeting
Founding Commissioner Piet Heyns of Namibia recalls the events that led up to the OKACOM Agreement:

“After the independence of the Republic of Namibia on 21 March 1990 the new Government made a reassessment of the validity of the Namibian Water Master Plan that was originally developed in 1973 and called for the eventual importation of water from the perennial rivers on the northern and southern borders of Namibia into the arid interior of Namibia. This need was confirmed, but Namibia became a sovereign State, and it was realized that the plans made under the South African Administration to abstract water from the Cunene, the Okavango, and the Zambezi in the north of Namibia and the Orange in the south, had to be discussed and negotiated with the other sovereign riparian States whose territories covered parts of those river basins."

"At that time it was perceived that the best possible means to start with such a dialogue was to propose the establishment of technical water commissions that could study water development projects and advise the respective Governments about the most appropriate course of future action. This policy led to the re-instatement of the Permanent Joint Technical Commission (PJTC) between Angola and Namibia on the Cunene River in September 1990 and the establishment of the Joint Permanent Water Commission (JPWC) between Botswana and Namibia on water matters of mutual interest. This included of course the Okavango, the Zambezi, groundwater and other water related issues such as environmental protection of the Kwando – Linyanti – Chobe river system through the joint Salvinia Molesta (Kariba weed) control program."

"An opportunity arose to discuss the possibility to establish such a commission for the Okavango Basin when the PJTC and the JPTC had meetings in the same week in Windhoek in June 1991. At both meetings the Namibian Delegation suggested that the possibility to establish a new water commission on the Okavango should be discussed between the Parties and due to the fact that all three Parties involved had an interest in the future development of the Okavango, time was made to fit in a joint meeting between the Parties. The principle to establish a water commission was agreed upon and the draft agreement was accepted as a basis for further negotiation.” Okaflow newsletter, July 2007

Original OKACOM Logo
Original OKACOM Logo
Piet Heyns drew on his engineering skills to design the logo for the new Commission, the design reflecting the Cuito and Cubango rivers flowing through Namibia to form the Okavango Delta.

Between 1994 and 2002, work of the Commission was challenged by Angola’s civil war that restricted activities in the Cubango-Okavango Basin. Nevertheless, the Commission’s members never wavered in their determination to work together to plan for joint use of the Basin’s resources, and continued to meet, rotating responsibility for organizing meetings among the three countries, and supported administratively by the countries’ water ministries.

Signing of a peace accord in 2002 meant that OKACOM could move forward with work in the Basin. The Global Environment Facility had stepped in with funding to support a Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis, and USAID came forward with a programme of interventions and administrative support, IRBM, that was to take the institution to a whole new level of functionality.

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