Developing water resilience and integrated water resource management strategies for Angola’s drought-stricken Cunene Province

Developing water resilience and integrated water resource management strategies for Angola’s drought-stricken Cunene Province



LocationAngola Africa


A drought-prone province

Between 1981 and 2016, the Cunene Province – home to over one million people in South Angola – endured no fewer than six episodes of drought. Particularly devastating were the three drought disasters of 1989, 2012, and 2014. Heavily associated with climate change, these droughts collectively led to the deaths of many people by 2016. Moreover, in a primarily agricultural and pastoral region, the drought had wide-ranging destructive impacts on agriculture and livestock sectors; existing water tables could not be replenished in sufficient quantities to maintain the bodies of water, and community members losing upward thousands heads of cattle. The droughts also left far-reaching societal impacts – from a sharp increase in domestic violence to an increased use of child labour and the associated school drop-out and absenteeism rates to a rural exodus.

To alleviate the situation, the Angolan Government took several emergency measures: creating the Operation Coordination Centre under the Provincial Committee for Civil Protection in order to monitor the situation in the Cunene Province in real time; acquiring, distributing, and installing plastic tanks to serve rural communities without access to water; and working with local societies and businessmen to mobilise tanker trucks to aid people in those regions most affected by the drought. However, with the devastating losses and the expanding threat of climate change, there is a pressing need for a sustainable, long-term solution.

Delivering an integrated water resources management plan

Early in 2018, the local government of the Cunene Province officially commissioned Dar Angola to prepare an integrated water resources management plan, in order to adopt sustainable engineering solutions that can resolve drought-related disasters, guide the sustainable management of precious water resources, and aid the development of the entire region.

Following extensive investigations and data collection efforts, Dar’s water resource experts put together a multi-layered water resource management plan that emphasised a four-point pathway to water resilience in the region:

  • Constructing a water transfer system conveying water from the Cunene/Cubango basins to the Cuvelai basin.
  • Constructing earth dams and small dykes (represas) to store surface water and replenish aquifers during rainy periods.
  • Constructing a water transfer system conveying water from the Cunene basin (Caculuvar River) to the communes located at the right bank of the Cunene River as well as to the Curoca Basin.
  • Exploring the region’s underground water aquifers.


Top priority: earth dam water reserves and a water transfer scheme linking the Cubango and Cunene Basins to the Cuvelai Basin

In 2019, to put the integrated water resource management plan into action, officials in Angola kickstarted a priority venture which comprised the construction of earth dam water reserves along with a major water transfer scheme conveying water from the Cubango and Cunene basins to the Cuvelai basin. This priority venture itself contains a number of priority solutions to be delivered in Phase 1 and medium- and long-term solutions to be delivered in future phases.


Cubango/Cunene – Cuvelai Basins Water Transfer Scheme and Earth Dam Water Reserves

Phase 1 Priority Solutions

Future Phase – Medium- and Long-term Solutions

Project 1: The Cunene River Water Transfer System – Cafu Town to Shana Zone (Towns of Cuamato and Namacunde.

Project 1: Cubango Water Transfer System to Cuvelai Basin (includes the construction of Mumba Dam, diversions, tunnels, and the channelisation of the Cuvelai Rivers)

Project 2: Dam 128 (Calucuve) and its associated channel

Project 2: Expanding the Integrated Water Supply System serving the municipalities of Cahama, Otchinjau, and Chitado.

Project 3: Dam 71 (Ndue) and its associated channel


Project 4: Exploration of the Chiede/Ohangwena II Deep Groundwater Aquifer


Project 5: Cova do Leao Dam and Integrated Water Supply System for the Cahama, Otchinjau and Chitado Municipalities



Due to its extensive insights into the local context and the specific requirements of the project, Dar Angola was commissioned by the National Institute of Water Resources (INRH) and the Ministry of Energy and Water (MINEA) to prepare the technical, economic, and environmental feasibility study as well as the concept design and the tender documents for the implementation of the water transfer scheme and its associated dams. Dar Angola’s contributions covered:

  • Conducting a hydrology/water resources study and geological and hydrogeological assessments as well as an environmental study for the proposed water transfer systems and dams.
  • Preparing feasibility studies for the proposed water transfer systems and dams, selecting the most efficient dam sites, identifying alternative types of dams and routes for diversion channels and tunnels, projecting water demands, and providing an economic evaluation and an economic viability study for all project components.
  • Elaborating the concept design and tender documents for the selected and approved viable sustainable solutions.

Phase 1 Project 1: Transferring water from Cafu to Shana

On November 1st 2019, the first stone laying ceremony was held for the first priority project: the Cunene River water transfer system (Cafu to Shana). This transfer network comprises a system of structures and resources: a river water intake and pumping station diverting a maximum of 2 m3/s of water from the river Cunene to the town of Cafu transferring the water to the top of the river banks, a 10-km pressurised pipeline, an open channel that allows water to travel by gravity from Cafu to Cuamato, and ten reserve tanks (chimpacas).

Two new main channels then run from Cuamato – one running from Cuamato to Ndombondola and one from Cuamato to Namacunde. Overall, the project comprises 160 kilometres of concrete-lined trapezoidal channels and 30 small ponds serving as reserve tanks.

Inaugurated in April 2022, the transfer network has wide ranging social and economic impacts. First and foremost, the network reduces the problem of water scarcity in the Shana zone, by increasing the capacity of the water supply system to match the requirements of the people living in the impacted areas. Moreover, by increasing the amount of water available for irrigation and for cattle, the transfer network supports the livelihoods of local communities and ensures the sustainability of economic and social activities in the region.

  • 235,000 people supplied with water for their domestic needs
  • 250,000 heads of cattle served and nourished through the water transfer network
  • 5,000 ha of land irrigated throughout the year
  • 3,265 jobs generated for local communities

Dar will continue to support the Angolan government and local communities in implementing the essential integrated water resource management plan for the Cunene Province, through similarly transformational projects that will change lives and bring tangible benefits to the Angolan people.