The Beating Heart

As the region’s largest town, Vredendal is the go-to place for stocking up whether you’re a visitor on a road trip or a farmer on a remote land. Its economy is based on agriculture and the mining of minerals from the sand.

As you explore, look out for the produce – grapes, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, pumpkins, watermelons, and sweet melons: all made possible by the development of the water-transporting Olifants River Irrigation Scheme.

Olifants River irrigation scheme:
Namaqua West Coast doesn’t get much rain. It is however among one of South Africa’s thriving agricultural regions thanks to an incredible network of canals, hundreds of kilometers in length. The construction represents a historic and engineering feat known as the Olifants River Irrigation Scheme and is the country’s oldest. The scheme’s open concrete canals to transport water throughout the region.

They start at the Bulshoek and Clanwilliam dams. The scheme was formally established in 1911 but has a history that goes back to the middle of the 19th century. Initially comprising hand-dug trenches, the canals were later solidified with concrete – a job that Italian POWs were engaged in during World War 2. Amazingly, there is not a single pump along the entire course of the canals. Like the Roman aqueducts, water flows from its source to dams spread across the region, by gravitation only.

The canal is the lifeblood of an agricultural and industrial sector that creates thousands of jobs and is a substantial tax contributor to the South African economy.
The irrigation scheme visible across the Namaqua West Coast is 321km in length and comprises a central canal of 261 km with 11 branches. It supplies 26 000m³ of water
per hour, for irrigation to 680 farmers, municipal drinking water to towns, and industrial processes to major companies.

The upgrades underway at the Clanwilliam dam will make additional water available, allowing for amongst others the expansion of farms and emerging farms, and is anticipated to benefit riverine habitats as well.

Did you know?

The town was originally known as Bakkeley Plaats, apparently due to an altercation between the Dutch and the Khoi in 1668. Once peace had been declared, the name was changed to Vreedensdaal – Valley of Peace.


P.O. Box 1000,
3 Church Street, Vredendal, 8160

+27 (0) 27 201 3376

24-hour line: 082 608 7554