Eighteen months ago, the University of Namibia installed a solar power operated seawater-desalination pilot plant, to demonstrate that seawater desalination is realistic with that technology. Now, the University went a step further to install a water bottling facility to illustrate the wide range of possibilities that Namibia has if it could utilise its vast water resources along its 1,500 km coastline.
Both pilot facilities are based at the Sam Nujoma Campus in Henties Bay. H.E. Dr Sam Nujoma, Founding President of the Republic of Namibia, inaugurated the water bottling facility on 16 October 2020.
At the same occasion, Dr Nangolo Mbumba, Vice President of the Republic of Namibia and University of Namibia (UNAM) Chancellor, inaugurated a 400 olive trees plantation, which is irrigated with desalinated seawater. In attendance were Professor Kenneth Matengu (UNAM Vice Chancellor), University management, campus staff and students as well as regional and town councilors.
The Founding President expressed joy in the realisation of a vision that began in 1999. “Our vision was driven by the notion that the coastal area, although seemingly empty for some, contains huge potential,” he said. “Today more than 20 years later, I must proudly admit that our investment in this Centre has yielded results.”
Dr Nujoma challenged the Namibian nation on his firm believe that we can make our desert green, and he is certain that it can be achieved if we apply our minds. “It was achieved in other countries, why not here?”
Namibia is endowed with natural resources, and one of them is the seawater and sunlight. “These resources are in abundance, and smart technologies in desalination of seawater using solar energy have been successfully piloted on this campus,” said Professor Matengu.
“Production of potable water from salt-water is feasible, and growing of plants in the desert, especially olive trees that bear fruits and sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, is also achievable.”
The Assistant Pro-Vice Chancellor at the Sam Nujoma Campus, Dr Hilka Ndjaula, expect the olive trees to bear their first fruits within a period of about two years.
“We plan to use the olives to produce oil as well as table olives,” she said. “We look forward to a date not very far from now when we shall see olive oil with a UNAM brand in our shops.”
Both the olive tree plantation and the water-bottling unit are initiatives of the UNAM’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, and the Sam Nujoma Campus, through a project that is funded by the UK-based Royal Academy of Engineering.
Professor Frank Kavishe, who heads this initiative and the engineering campus, said that: “The Royal Academy of Engineering supports translational research and engineering projects that have an impact on society as well as those that build university-industry partnerships in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
The water bottling project has so far costed N$875 000. The financial contribution of the Royal Academy of Engineering to this project amounts to N$ 525 000, with the balance of N$350 000 financed by UNAM.
The 3 000 litres per hour seawater-desalination pilot plant, which was commissioned in April 2019, is a joint initiative between the University of Namibia and the University of Turku in Finland, and was installed by Solar Water Solutions (Finland).