Imagine you turn on the tap and nothing comes out. No plumber can help you. You need a new borehole. All your hopes rest on a dowser who “senses” underground water veins. – The pupils and teachers at Nabasib Primary School don’t have to imagine it. They have experienced it.

With the help of BüllsPort Lodge & Farm, the Naukluft Foundation and the Rotary Club Büdingen near Frankfurt. Because the long-term solution required knowledge and experience, good planning and an appropriate budget. All this was far beyond the means of a state primary school in the countryside.

Naukluft Foundation has been helping Nabasib since 2005

Back to the problem in November 2020: no water, the pump doesn’t want to work anymore. What to do? The acting head of Nabasib Primary School, Matthew Nguluve, picked up the phone. BüllsPort, just 15 km away, has been supporting his school for decades. In word and deed. And also financially, through the Naukluft Foundation, which BüllsPort founded in April 2005 together with Ababis Guest Farm.

Owner Ernst Sauber is a farmer with heart and soul and has more than 40 years of experience. When he inspected the borehole on Nabasib, his suspicions were confirmed: like everywhere else in the area, the groundwater level here has dropped. No wonder. There has been drought for years.

Nabasib goes on holiday early

The pump has been drawing air and shutting down again and again so as not to overheat. But the school needed water. So, the pump was switched on again and again. Finally, it burnt out.

Fortunately, it was the middle of November. The summer holidays would start at the end of the month. So acting headmaster Nguluve could close the school and the dormitory, just a few days earlier than planned anyway.

Bigger pump does not help during next drought

Meanwhile, Ernst Sauber bought a new pump and had it installed a few metres lower than the previous one. Its capacity is somewhat lower. An interim solution. The school, dormitory and teachers’ quarters had to limit their consumption until the government would deliver a stronger pump.

This happened six months later. In the meantime, abundant rainfall had caused the groundwater level to rise again. Ernst Sauber took the small pump to BüllsPort. As a reserve. The costs of N$ 32,000 (currently 1,900 euros; current value in euros; 1 Rand = 1 N$) for the pump and installation were borne by the Naukluft Foundation.

Water even with climate change

But this did not really solve the problem. Because droughts happen again and again. In the course of climate change, they are even likely to intensify. You could deepen the borehole. But that would not guarantee more water inflow. So, a new, more productive borehole had to be drilled.

But where? To answer this question, you need an expert like farmer Philip van Wyk from Farm Lichtenfelde east of Maltahöhe. He is an experienced dowser. In November 2021 he came to Nabasib. With the ends of a forked plastic strand in both hands, he criss-crossed the open space at the pump house.

Dowsing rod indicated three water veins

Philip van Wyk dowser Nabasib Primary School Naukluft

Farmer Philip van Wyk has a success rate in dowsing of more than 80 percent. Photo (November 2021): Sven-Eric Stender

Whenever the rod moved sharply downwards, Philip van Wyk drew a line in the sand with the tip of his foot. Within less than ten minutes, he had already identified three water veins. An empty Coke bottle, standing on the palm of his hand, indicated the direction of flow by slowly tilting.

The point where the veins cross was marked with a car tyre. Philip van Wyk estimated the run of the deepest vein at a depth of 22 metres, and the total strength of the borehole at 1,500 to 2,000 litres per hour. That would be enough: Nabasib needs 10,000 to 15,000 litres of water a day.

Van Wyk’s dowsing service normally costs N$ 5,000, including call-out. However, he did not charge the Nabasib school anything.

But was he right? His success rate in more than 20 years of dowsing is more than 80 per cent, he said. So, the odds were 4:1.

Drilling team on Nabasib

Four months later. The moment of truth. The drilling team arrived with the drilling rig. They removed the car tyre and positioned the drill at the marked spot. It started moving with a roar. Dust swirled out of the drill casing because the rock is crushed with air pressure.

Drilling rig Borehole Drilling Primary School Nabasib Naukluft

Drilling rig on the grounds of Nabasib Primary School. Photo: Ernst Sauber

At a depth of 11.5 metres, the drill hit water for the first time. At 13 metres for the second time, at 16.5 metres for the third. Hole-in-one! Thanks to Philip van Wyk. Ernst Sauber let the team continue drilling. Because the rock formation changed: Good chance that another water-bearing layer might follow.

New borehole and pump house for Nabasib

Borehole Drilling Nabasib Primary School Naukluft

Water! Successful drilling on Nabasib. Photo: Ernst Sauber

It is also always advisable to drill one pipe length, or three metres, deeper. Why? Because the water level in the borehole drops when the pump is started. It takes a little time for water to flow into the hole from the veins.

Therefore, the water column above the pump must be high enough so that the pump does not draw air during the starting phase. There should also be enough space under the pump to allow sand and other debris to accumulate without affecting the yield of the borehole.

At a depth of 31 metres Ernst Sauber gave the sign to stop. Now the borehole had to be fitted with a special plastic casing. The pipe protects the borehole from pressing soil and penetrating roots.

Borehole Drilling Soil samples Primary school Nabasib Naukluft

Soil samples taken during drilling at the Nabasib Primary School site show changing rock layers. Photo: Ernst Sauber

Then the pump from the previous borehole was installed in the new well. And finally, a new pump house had to be built.

Rotary Club Büdingen bears all costs

The total cost was about N$ 84,000 (currently 5,000 euros; current value in euros; 1 Rand = 1 N$). N$ 32,000 for the small pump and its installation, N$ 36,000 for drilling and casing, N$ 16,000 for installation and pump house.

The entire sum was raised by the Rotary Club of Büdingen for this project and made available through the Naukluft Foundation. Its support for faraway Nabasib had to be valued all the more highly because at the same time, due to the flood disaster in Germany, help was also urgently needed on their own doorstep.

Long-time partner of the Naukluft Foundation

The Rotary Club has already helped several times – with the construction of the kindergarten, with renovations and repairs, with the purchase of furniture. The total value of the support now adds up to about N$ 240,000 (currently just under 14,300 euros; current value in euros; 1 Rand = 1 N$).

The decades-long partnership between the Naukluft Foundation and the Rotary Club of Büdingen harks back to Georg Erk. Formerly president and treasurer of the club, he is now an ordinary member. At the same time, he is the chairperson of the Southern Africa Committee of the Rotarians in Germany. He has been a regular visitor to Namibia for more than 30 years.

Nabasib also helps itself

By the way, Nabasib Primary School does not just sit back and rely on the help of others. To generate additional income besides scarce state funds, the acting headmaster Matthew Nguluve and his team organise fundraising events from time to time.

The teacher Augustinus Ortmann also leads a group of pupils who perform traditional Nama songs and dances. Visitors can experience the performances as part of an exciting tour of the school and dormitory – for a donation. BüllsPort is supporting this initiative, also by recommending this experience to guests.

For a photo story of the successful drilling for water for Nabasib Primary School, see our post on Facebook.


borehole Philip van Wyk dowser Ernst Sauber BüllsPort Georg Erk Rotary Club Büdingen Matthew Nguluve Nabasib Primary School Naukluft

Full of hope for a productive borehole (seated, l.t.r.): Philip van Wyk (farmer and dowser), Ernst Sauber (BüllsPort, Naukluft Foundation), Georg Erk (Rotary Club Büdingen, Germany), Matthew Nguluve (Nabasib Primary School), surrounded by teachers and pupils of the primary school. Photo (November 2021): Sven-Eric Stender

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