Namacunde is a simple town and, like many towns in this area, it is strung out along a road. The road here is busy as it is the principal route between the crossing into Namibia at Santa Clara (which the Namibians call Oshikango) and Ondjiva, the largest town in Cunene province and the location of the regional government.
From the road the ‘town’ comprises a few low level brick built buildings, numerous jobbing shop garages, a police station, a small medical facility, a handful of buildings which house some limited form of manufacturing and a number of shacks from which small business enterprises operate.
The land for miles around is flat. There are substantial numbers of majestic trees, although they are reasonably far apart and couldn’t be referred to as woods or forest. The land is dusty and sandy, although there are areas of richer soil.
The rainy season is from late November to April and in June 2010 pools of water still sat alongside parts of the road although these pools had clearly diminished in size since April and would probably dry up in due course. In the first half of each of 2008, 2009 and 2010 Cunene province suffered terribly from flooding. The floods are destructive, sweeping away crops, roads and homes, leaving tens of thousands homeless. Ondjiva has a number of tented camps housing flood victims, with many people waiting years to be rehoused. Currently, Chinese labourers are building enormous dykes around Ondjiva in order to keep flood water out of the town. Namacunde has no such protection. Perhaps, in due course, some of the diverted water will be captured and used to provide a more permanent water supply.
Prior to the Civil War (1975-2002) Cunene province was a reasonably fertile area and perhaps it might be again in the future. Commercial farming has stagnated because of marketing and transport difficulties; shortages of seed, fertilizer; and the impact of the Civil War on planting, harvesting, and yields. Land mines and fear of attack forced many farmers to reduce the areas under cultivation, especially fields distant from villages, and to abandon harvesting some planted areas. Also, the movement of country people to safer urban areas resulted in the over cultivation of lands and reduced farming yields. In contrast, on the Namibian side of the border one can see much more extensive arable areas, a wider variety of crops and a more successful farming regime, so perhaps over time this position can be mirrored in Cunene province.