My RWSN mentoring experience

This is a guest blog by RWSN mentee Edwin Kiprotich Kiplagat , who is currently enrolled in the 2021 RWSN Mentoring Programme .

I am Edwin Kiprotich Kiplagat, a young and an ambituous Civil Engineer by training from Kenya. I currently work as an intern for the Water Infrastructure function at SMEC in Kenya. SMEC is a global engineering consultancy that provides design, supervision and project management services in the fields of water infrastructure, roads, urban and social development. The company is Australian based with several regional offices around the world. I am based in the Kenyan office in Nairobi which is the East African regional office serving the countries of Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.

I got to know of Rural Water Supply Network through LinkedIn social media network. I later got access to the information on RWSN mentorship program via a post shared in the same platform. It was an exciting prospect for me and I could not wait to choose a mentor.  I registered for the program and outlined my objectives for participating in the program. My choice to participate in the program was propelled by the need to get a role model who would guide my goal to grow and apply engineering and management skills in providing clean water, sanitation and positive impact in the society. The aforementioned choice was further guided by the following objectives which I look to achieve: to gain advice on areas and avenues to further my education in postgraduate studies and professional courses relevant to water supply, to gain motivation on community development as I aspire to use engineering knowledge to develop and support community water supply projects in future and to wrap it all since I am a Christian, I am interested in leveraging my faith and my career in impacting people’s lives which I believe can be achieved by providing clean water as part of Christian mission work.

I found a mentor from Guyana in South America named Elon Ryan Sooknanan. My motivation to choose him as my mentor was spurred by the fact that we share a career in common and also through LinkedIn I discovered that he had ever participated in a church-related volunteering experience which drew my attention. I was convinced that he will assist me in achieving my objectives. Since we established touch towards the end of March, Elon and I have always opted to interact via WhatsApp which we found it efficient for both of us. We had an inaugural call where we familiarized with each other and from there agreed on the manner of interactions going forward. Since Elon also mentors other mentees in RWSN forum, he has divided his time to have a call with each mentee monthly. Due to the difference in time zone of seven hours between Kenya and Guyana, Elon and I have always agreed on a suitable day and time for both of us to have a call and discuss on matters relevant to the mentorship program.

Through the mentorship program, I have learnt through the interactions I have had with Elon. He advised on changes needed to upscale the competitiveness and presentation of my CV. One thing I remember him stressing on is the vitality of a CV in giving a clear impression of oneself to a stranger who has never met the owner of the CV.  He also shared with me a water related short course opportunity offered by an Italian Institute known as Hydroaid that delved on climate change and water. I applied for the short course but unfortunately as a result of the restricted number that made it competitive I fell short of the selection. I hope to one day participate in the Hydroaid Program and also other short course that are in tandem with my goals. Furthermore, Elon has allowed his RWSN mentees to interact with one another through a WhatsApp group created and a monthly zoom meeting forum where each one shares highlights and resources in the field of water supply and sanitation. This has helped me connect with a network of professionals from different fields in the water sector. Elon also introduced me and other mentees to a Christian leadership development programme called God’s Apprenticeship Programme that helps develop faithful leaders around the world who can use their influence to transform their nation.

I am grateful I not only found a mentor but a friend who has inspired me. By the end of the program I hope to achieve milestones such as having an up-scaled competitive resume of myself; broadened knowledge in water, sanitation and hygiene plus leadership skills to mentor others in future. In a nutshell, personally and professionally I have been introduced to the idea of growth through sharing of ideas and challenging oneself to create an impact in the society which I believe is possible in the water sector.

About the author and his mentor

Edwin is a Civil Engineer by training working as an intern for the water infrastructure function at SMEC in Kenya. He has a BSc degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Nairobi. His training has equipped him in the field of hydraulics, hydrology, water resources management, structural engineering, highways and transportation engineering. He has been engaged previously in feasibility studies of small hydropower projects and currently assists in preparation of proposals, tender documents, Expression of Interest, design reviews and reports for various projects in the water function in SMEC International Kenyan office. He is enthusiastic to learn more of computer applications in engineering to solve societal needs and is passionate of the water sector in engineering.

Elon Ryan Sooknanan is an accomplished Civil/WASH Engineer with 10+ years of office and field experience, knowledge and skills. He hails from Guyana, South America and currently serves as the Head of Infrastructure & Projects at the Environmental Protection Agency in Guyana.

About the RWSN Mentoring Programme

For more information on the RWSN Mentoring Programme, please see here. RWSN is grateful to the SENSE Foundation for its support of the mentoring programme in 2021.

My RWSN mentoring experience

This is a guest blog by RWSN mentee Gaurav Thapak and RWSN mentor Pallavi Bharadwaj, who are currently enrolled in the 2021 RWSN Mentoring Programme .

Mentee’s Thoughts

I am an architect and urban planner with the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), New Delhi, India. I work extensively in the urban areas on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services as one of my main focus areas. My postgraduate thesis was also focussed on water supply and its economics in an urban area. Earlier this year, I discovered the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN). A few months after I joined RWSN their mentorship programme was launched. I signed up for this programme in anticipation of growing by learning from an expert. I wish to develop a career in water economics and governance, and anticipated that this mentorship programme would be a great opportunity to steer myself in the right direction.

I  envisioned what I sought for myself out of this programme and stated in my application that I would like to work with a mentor, who could broaden my horizons in water supply and management in rural and urban areas. Ms. Pallavi Bharadwaj accepted my mentorship proposal. Pallavi lives and works in the United States of America, and has over a decade and half years of experience working in the global WASH sector. I was extremely glad to be accepted for the mentorship and consider myself fortunate to have Pallavi as my mentor. 

We scheduled our first meeting close to the deadline of mentorship agreement submission. It was a short introductory meeting for about half an hour. Despite the time zones difference, I was excited to meet with her. I had not set forth clear goals and outcomes of my mentorship arrangement. However, through our discussion, Pallavi understood where I was in my career and what I sought. She helped me identify my learning goals. We started out by setting three broad goals for me:  

  • pursue a Ph.D in water governance and policy, 
  • engage with social sector in water and wastewater sector, 
  • a particular case development and exploration of how gamification can help nudge and model consumer behaviour.

We agreed that a monthly video meeting for an hour or so would work to touch base and evaluate my progress. 

As I write this blog post, it has been over two months since the mentorship began. We have already met three times along with having numerous conversations on email, phone and social media. I regularly reach out on email and LinkedIn to seek suggestions and share ideas for various projects and competitions. Pallavi has always been kind and prompt to provide her inputs, comments and resources to facilitate my work, even if that might not have been a part of my original learning goals. Since we are now connected on LinkedIn, Pallavi often shares content to aid my professional development, suggests interesting events and talks to attend, shares job opportunities and connects me to her network. She has already facilitated an introduction with a student in Mumbai to further foster and develop collaborations for my professional growth. 

My mentorship’s scope has extended above and beyond what my mentor and I had originally agreed upon. I am glad that Pallavi is available to answer my questions and shares interesting as well as thought provoking content with me on an ongoing basis. I find it easier to connect and collaborate with people, whom I am comfortable to have a dialogue with. Through our conversations Pallavi has made it easier for me to discuss ideas and concepts that are new and nascent for me in a clear and professional way. 

I recommend every young professional in this sector, who has any doubts or confusion and wants to explore beyond their horizons, to sign up for this mentorship programme. I am very grateful to have Pallavi as my mentor, and thank RWSN for initiating this relationship.

Mentor’s Thoughts:

I have been part of RWSN’s mentorship program for two years now. Gaurav was the second mentee that reached out to me for working together and I agreed to be his mentor in 2021. 

Through this relationship, I am not only sharing my knowledge, but also global experience as a WASH professional. In return, Gaurav is helping me learn even more about current trends in WASH management systems and challenges facing the underserved communities. I appreciate his ideas on utilizing the power of technology, such as gamification, for solving challenges in real time. For the remainder of this mentorship we will work together to connect his work to policy and advocacy, in light of United Nations Sustainable Goal 6 (SDG6), clean water and sanitation for all. It is my hope that through this mentoring relationship, Gaurav and I will be able to utilize our time working towards providing solutions for in-need communities. 

About the RWSN Mentoring Programme

For more information on the RWSN Mentoring Programme, please see here. RWSN is grateful to the SENSE Foundation for its support of the mentoring programme in 2021.

Mi experiencia en el programa de mentores de la RWSN

Esta entrada fue realizada por Mayte Molina, una joven profesional inscrita en el Programa de Mentores 2021 de la RWSN.

Se dice que el inteligente aprende de sus errores, pero el genio aprende de los errores de los demás. El programa de mentores de la Red de Suministro de Agua Rural (RWSN) es una excelente oportunidad para conectarse y aprender de especialistas del agua, saneamiento y salud de alrededor del mundo.

Mi nombre es Mayte Molina, nicaragüense e ingeniera ambiental. Hace poco más de ocho meses logré conseguir mi primer trabajo en el sector WASH como Asociada de Operaciones en una ONG internacional. En este período me he encontrado distintos desafíos que van desde comprender la realidad de las comunidades rurales, entender ciertos tecnicismos hasta el incorporarme como joven mujer profesional en un sector dominado por hombres.

Lo cierto es que la universidad no te prepara para responder a ciertas situaciones que solo se viven en el ámbito laboral, por eso contar con un mentor que comparta sus consejos puede hacerte más fácil el aprendizaje. Sin embargo, acercarse a un experto puede ser complejo e intimidante. No todos tienen la disposición y voluntad de ayudar a los jóvenes a crecer sin tener un beneficio directo.

Mis intenciones de mejorar mi perfil profesional y encontrar oportunidades me llevaron a entrar al programa de mentoría.  En mi caso, yo quería un mentor que tuviese experiencia en WASH tanto en el sector ONG como la academia para que me comentara sus experiencias, me asesorara sobre desarrollo profesional y creación de redes, así como buscar becas de grado.

Después de ver varios perfiles a través de la plataforma PushFar, encontré a Elon Sooknanan, un ingeniero civil de Guyana con más de 10 años de experiencia, actual Jefe de Infraestructura y Proyectos en la Agencia de Protección Ambiental (EPA). Escogí a Elon como mi mentor porque su perfil estaba completo, tiene experiencia como mentor en años pasados y tomó una maestría en WASH en la Universidad de Leeds en el Reino Unido.

Afortunadamente, Elon respondió a mi solicitud en junio 2021 y decidimos que nuestro medio de comunicación sería vía correo y videollamadas por Whatsapp. Quiero agregar que no solo a mí me pareció que el perfil de Elon es excelente, otras nueve personas más le pidieron que él sea su mentor.  Actualmente estamos diez jóvenes profesionales de Afganistán, Austria, Francia, Guyana, Kenia, Nueva Zelanda, Singapur, Sri Lanka, Uganda y Nicaragua bajo la mentoría de Elon.



Videollamada entre Elon y yo por Whatsapp


Hasta el momento hemos tenido dos sesiones, en la primera me contó su experiencia en la maestría en Inglaterra y como obtuvo dos becas para poder financiar sus estudios en el extranjero. También, me explicó brevemente su tema de investigación sobre los costos del saneamiento urbano y las dificultades que pasó él y su compañero de Perú en el proceso de levantamiento de información. Por otro lado, yo le comenté los proyectos que ejecuto en la ONG y sobre mi iniciativa de jabones artesanales Hydrolution’s.

La segunda sesión consistió en establecer nuestros objetivos de mentoría para los próximos seis meses. Acordamos las actividades siguientes:

  • Asesoría para mejorar el CV y carta de presentación,
  • Compartir recursos para oportunidades laborales y académicas,
  • Proveer asistencia para la aplicación de becas de maestría,
  • Reunión individual una vez al mes de 30-45 minutos,
  • Reunión grupal mensual con todos los aprendices donde cada uno lidera una temática.

Como podrán imaginar, hacer una sesión grupal con personas de diferentes zonas horarios requiere planificación, por lo que tenemos un grupo en Whatsapp y un cronograma en Drive donde cada uno pone su disponibilidad. Acá hay que estar abierto a un poco de desvelo para alcanzar los objetivos.
Durante mi mentoría Elon me ha enviado una serie de enlaces, plataformas y recursos para desarrollar mis conocimientos sobre WASH. Aún tengo mucha lectura por hacer, pero puedo confirmar que es contenido valioso. Asimismo, me compartió su CV y carta de presentación para que lo tome de referencia y pueda pulir los míos. Otro beneficio de la mentoría es que puedo practicar mi inglés y ganar vocabulario técnico.

Al final del año espero conocer mejor a mis demás colegas y mi mentor, continuar intercambiando experiencia y crecer como profesional para crear proyectos que respondan a las necesidades de las familias rurales y la realidad de mi país de la mejor forma posible. Aunque el programa de mentoría oficialmente termine en seis meses estoy segura que vamos a seguir en contacto para compartir nuestros logros y aprendizajes. Le escribiré a Elon cuando reciba las buenas nuevas de la beca para cursar mi maestría en el exterior.

Sobre el programa de tutoría de la RWSN

Para más información sobre el Programa de Mentores de RWSN, consulte aquí. La RWSN agradece a la Fundación SENSE su apoyo al programa de tutoría en 2021.

The need for professional associations for water well drillers

This is a guest blog by RWSN Young Professional Uyoyoghene U. Traoré, geologist and freelance consultant in water and environment. This article was originally published in GeoDrilling international and is reposted with thanks. You can read the original article here.

Groundwater accounts for over 97% of the world’s fresh water with over two million people depending on it for their Survival. In Africa, it is estimated that groundwater provides over 75% of the population with a drinking water supply, and has been said to be essential in securing equitable water access for the rural and urban poor around the world. It has been established that groundwater has a major role to play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for drinking water. Though very important, groundwater is not properly captured in national or international monitoring. As an unseen resource, it is easily forgotten, making it undervalued and not properly managed.

As an entry point towards the progressive and effective management of groundwater, I undertook a study on the challenges of water well drillers and drillers association in six countries – Angola, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda and the United State of America was carried out. I tried to understand groundwater issues within these countries from the perspective of drillers themselves. Drillers are in direct contact with the resource, and some have recognised the importance of having a drillers association.

As at the time of the study (2019) only three water well drillers association exist and were active only in Nigeria, Uganda and the USA. In the case of the others (inactive), there is an informal working group in Angola, an organised body in Burkina-Faso and Mozambique.  Where they exist, drillers associations were an entry point to support national, international and local partners in groundwater management, were able to advocate and lobby for sustainable policies and realistic contracts. They also sensitised the public on the resource and helped reduce the presence of unqualified drillers from the sector.

In the study, I identified eight main challenges for water well drillers, namely – capacity, contracts and standards, procurement, finance and payment, corruption, data, logistics, and the availability of spare parts. I also learned about the advantages and disadvantages of having an association, as well as what makes them successful or not. A lack of clarity with respect to groundwater policies, and a lack of capacity by national institutions to implement policies or engage in groundwater monitoring was apparent in four (Angola, Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Nigeria) of the six countries.

So, what did the study reveal?

  • With the exception of the USA, there is a lack of capacity of drillers and national institutions in the countries studied. Drillers often lack the capacity to drill water wells in a sustainable way. In most of the cases, this is due to the absence of dedicated training institutions on groundwater issues or the inability of organised drillers association to engage in the development of its members.
  • Poor contract management, lack of transparency and corruption in procurement processes were mentioned. These have adversely affected the quality of drilled wells leading to a short lifespan of these wells. “Turn- key contracts” (Burkina Faso & Uganda), “No water no pay principle” (Mozambique & Nigeria) and “the gentleman’s agreement” (Angola) are some forms of poor contract identified. The client passes all, or most of the risk of finding water to the drillers – even in places where good groundwater resources are not easy to find.
  • Delayed payments by clients poses danger to the long-term viability of drillers’ businesses. This is a particular challenge in countries where the government is the major client (Angola, Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Uganda).
  • The absence or lack of groundwater data means underestimation of prices of drilling in certain terrains as well as drilling with uncertainty. The USA and Uganda are the only two countries with some form of groundwater data.
  • Drillers associations struggle to sustain themselves on a long term due to lack of finance resulting from low membership. In Mozambique and Burkina Faso for example, some drillers still do not see the need for an association while, there is no dedicated member to run the informal working group in Angola.
  • It was noted that there is a lack of transparency in existing associations except the USA. Leadership find it difficult and costly to be accountable to members and non-members alike.
  • Except for the USA, and more recently Uganda, the associations have not been able to engage in continuous capacity building, or training programs for its members. This has been identified as mainly being a result of lack of funds.

A major concern observed is the future of groundwater. In all six countries studied, it was found that there are very few or no young professionals in the field. This indeed put the future of groundwater development at a very high risk. In addition, very few women were observed to be in the profession.

From my work, I have two sets of recommendations:

  • In the short term, it is imperative that drillers association in other countries be investigated. Prioritise the establishment of drillers associations in countries where there are none and support rekindling inactive ones. The capacity of drillers and national institutions should be strengthened – advocate for compulsory internship programs on a continuous basis. Also, develop school curriculum on water with emphasis on ground water. Create a global platform for young professionals dedicated to training, learning, including internships with local firms.
  • In the long term, there is need to create a global platform for drillers, experts and institutions working on groundwater water issues in collaboration with existing institutions to learn and share best practices. Develop in study and exchange programmes, including creating mechanisms for international internships and volunteering.

I hope, that my study will help to inspire developmental organisation, funders, national institutions and above all drillers themselves to recognise the importance of using professional drillers and to support, and collaborate with water well drillers associations.

The study was carried out by Uyoyoghene U. Traoré as a volunteer for the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) under its 2018-2023 young professional engagement strategy. The full study can be downloaded here.

My experience at the World Water Week Conference: Water for Society Including all

This is a guest blog by Benson Kandeh, winner of the RWSN@WWW competition for young professionals.. For more information on RWSN’s activities for Young professionals, see here.

My name is Benson Kandeh and I am a young water professional from Sierra Leone. I work on providing water supply for rural communities in my country through the EMAS technologies and by training technicians to enable self-supply by and for communities. You can find out more about my organisation here and my work here.

This year, I won a competition for young professionals organized by RWSN to attend World Water Week in Stockholm. Getting to Stockholm from Sierra Leone was a challenge: I had to apply for a visa to Sweden in Nigeria, where I had to stay over two weeks waiting for the outcome of the visa process. My visa was initially denied by the Swedish authorities and later approved thanks to an appeal from the RWSN Secretariat. I got the news that my visa has been appealed on Monday 19th August, and two days later, on Wednesday I was on a plane to Abuja to collect my visa and fly out to Stockholm the next day. It has been a whirlwind and quite an adventure for me!

This year’s World Water Week conference was held from August 25-30, 2019 and organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) with over 3,300 people from 130 countries – including Sierra Leone. The 6-day programme consisted 270 sessions with the Theme: Water for society – including all”. Two of the highlights of the event were the Stockholm Water Prize ceremony, and the Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition honouring outstanding young people between the age of 15 and 20 who have made an innovation in the water sector. 23 countries were represented this year in the Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition but only Nigeria and South Africa represented Africa as a whole. I was fortunate to meet with the Stockholm Water Prize winner, Dr Jackie King during the conference.

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Meeting Dr Jackie King, winner of the 2019 Stockholm Water Prize

The conference gathered many experts, practitioners, decision-makers, business innovators and young professionals from a range of sectors and countries. It featured many interesting sessions, of which I was fortunate to attend the following, and learn and interact with many water professionals:

  1. Shared and Public Toilets: Equitable access everywhere
  2. Joined-Up thinking: Sanitation in the Broader context of slum improvement
  3. From success to scale: improving rain fed agriculture in Africa
  4. Entrepreneurship driving water impact for all (3/3)
  5. Water and Sanitation solutions for the people left behind
  6. Remote WASH: Quality and Lasting services for rural communities
  7. Entrepreneurial model for rural, domestic water for all
  8. Sanitation for Society, including for all (1/3)
  9. Safely Managed Drinking Water Services for Rural People, where I served as a panelist

Here are some of my highlights of World Water Week:

Shared and Public Toilets: Equitable access everywhere

This session was very important especially for organizations and individuals that have interests in rural communities for water and sanitation. The presenter was able to clearly outline the shared sanitation model as it is important when considering household access as well as access outside the home. Toilet/latrine access is a challenge in the African region especially in institutions (schools, religious buildings, medical or other institutions). However, with this model, it can reduce the disparity greatly as it considers students, workers and anyone who lives outside their home.

According to the presenter, the quality of these services is often poor, because of limited monitoring standards, and the funding needed for such work is inadequate. The presenter made it very clear that shared sanitation is not just a service needed at one’s home but people need to access safely managed sanitation facilities, while they are away from home, whether at school, work, a market, or anywhere else they might go.

A pitching competition for 9 young water professionals

Thanks to the Water Youth Network for organizing an interesting and educative short pitching competition among nine young people, who work in the water sector.  In fact, the group work was so amazing after the problems were presented to participants with the aim to discuss and offer solutions on how to make sure that water supply projects use an entrepreneurial approach to overcome inclusion challenge. We also talked about the difference between water accessibility and use.

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My pitch at the Water Youth Network event

Key projects highlighted during the discussion were mini-grid piped water schemes in Bangladesh, scalable water services in Uganda and a Football for Water project in Kenya (Aqua for All), all reaching rural, poor, underserved households. During the various young water professionals’ presentations, I was able to learn about the impacts colleagues are making in their various countries to improve access to water and sanitation.

Safely Managed Drinking Water Services for Rural People – the Last Mile

This was one of the most important sessions for me during World Water Week in Skockholm. I served as a panelist, representing the rural communities among other personalities from the WASH sector with the topic: “Safely Managed Drinking Water Services for Rural People”.

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Speaking as a panelist with Clarissa Brocklehurst (Water Institute at UNC) and Peter Harvey (UNICEF)

I shared my experience using the EMAS technologies in the Sierra Leone context. The EMAS technology is a self-supply concept that entails local public or private initiatives by individuals, households or community groups to improve their own WASH supplies, without waiting for help from governments or non-government organizations. Self-supply is more about self-sustained initiative, rather than donor subsidies or external support. It empowers individuals and communities to gradually improve their WASH supplies at their own pace with regard to technical and financial capacities. Once the basic services are available, families make their own decisions on how to improve those services based on affordability and technical capacities at local level.

The most interesting part about this session was the mixed backgrounds of the presenters (knowledge, skills, cultures, etc.). All were centered on the water crisis and solutions with an emphasis on sustainability, affordability and accessibility for everyone everywhere.

Finally, the different presentations were able to examine the various technologies and hand-pump types that are utilized in various countries and provided evidences for technology options that can yield much for ease of maintenance, accessibility and sustainability.

Conclusion

Participating in World Water Week has been a great opportunity for me to present my work, make contacts, and contribute my perspective as a young professional from Sierra Leone. I am looking forward to staying in touch with some of the people I met during World Water Week, and hopefully this will help me on my mission to provide safe water in rural communities in my country.

Since coming home I have created my own group for young water professionals in Sierra Leone. I am trying to connect with other young professionals in Sierra Leone, to see how we can come together and contribute to the water sector. Any young professional interested in water in Sierra Leone is welcome to join here. I believe we can do a lot!

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Meeting with RWSN Young Professional Kenneth Alfaro Alvarado from Costa Rica

And the winner is…

This year, RWSN is offering the chance for a young professional to attend Stockholm World Water Week.

From 25 June- 9 July 2019, we ran a competition to find a young professional with a knack for communicating complex topics to broad audiences, social media –savviness, and a passion for working on water issues at the local level. Their mission: to attend and disseminate the information relevant to young people to RWSN members via our social media accounts, online communities and blog – but also to share their story or experience in relation to the Theme of World Water Week: Water for Society – Including all.

We received over 20 entries from all over the world, from Cambodia to Peru via South Africa – all of them really inspiring from some amazing young people from around the world.

And the winner is… Mr Benson Kandeh, from Sierra Leone!

The jury thought that Benson demonstrated creativity and commitment through his social media posts highlighting his day-to-day work as a young professional in Sierra Leone, working on self-supply in remote areas to provide water for all. He shared videos and photos of his work, and also wrote a summary story post explaining his views on what ‘Water for Society – including all’ means to him.

Benson’s reaction on winning RWSN’s World Water Week competition:

After reading the email stating the result and me being the winner, I was shocked! It was like a dream! I am very thankful and excited to share my efforts, while learning from other international participants and water professionals. This opportunity will help increase my knowledge of the water sector and apply it in my professional activities in rural water supply in my country, Sierra Leone.

Benson will be reporting from World Water Week and sharing his perspectives with our members through our blog and social media account. He will also share his experience with World Water Week attendees through a talk at the RWSN booth (C10) on “Providing safe water for all in Sierra Leone: experience of a young professional” (day and time tbc). If you are in Stockholm, call by our booth to meet him!

Thank you to all the participants who took the time and effort to enter this competition. There were so many interesting stories, and we will share a few of our top entries here on the RWSN blog in the lead-up to Stockholm World Water Week.

For more information on RWSN’s activities for Young professionals, please see here. We thank the Swiss Development Cooperation for making this support possible.

 

Introducing our new RWSN member organisation: Red de Jóvenes por el Agua Centroamérica

This is a guest blog by Kenneth Alfaro Alvarado about our new RWSN member organisation Red de Jóvenes por el Agua Centroamérica (Youth Water Network for Water Central America) and its activities at LatinoSan in April 2019, which were supported by RWSN. For more information on RWSN’s support for Young Water Professionals, please see here.

From April 1-5 2019, the Red de Jóvenes por el Agua Centroamérica (Youth Network for Water in Central America, also known as RJxA CA) held a Water and Sanitation Week in Costa Rica, which included our participation on the 5th Latinosan Conference and our 3rd Regional Meeting.

RJxA CA is a regional platform with representation in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panamá, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Belice. Our network promotes the involvement of young people in Integrated Water Resources Management, by strengthening the capacities of young people, political advocacy, environmental education and volunteering. We are also committed to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG6. In the network, each country has its own working areas; in Costa Rica, the focus is on Rural Water Supply and Management.

Activities at the 5th LatinoSan conference

During the first day of Latinosan, we had the opportunity to meet and exchange experiences with a group of representatives from the Rural Water Supply and Management sector. We encourage the involvement of young people in the rural water supply and sanitation sector; some of our members are leaders in this sector.

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Youth members of the RJxA CA  network and Rural Water Supply Managers. Photo credit: Kenneth Alfaro

During the second day , we organised a session dedicated to “Young Professionals of Sanitation” that I had the opportunity to moderate, thanks to the support of the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewerage (AyA) and COSUDE. We listened to the experiences of 4 young people from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Perú, all of them working and implementing projects in the rural sanitation sector.

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Panelists at the Young Professionals of Sanitation session. Photo credit: Douglas Montano

We also supported the session “Community management of water and sanitation as a model for accelerating the closing of the urban-rural divide” organized by the Avina Foundation and the Latin American Confederation of Community Organizations for Water and Sanitation Services (CLOCSAS) ; we facilitated a workshop using the “World Café” methodology in order to extract ideas from the participants. Some of the main ideas that emerged from the session included the need to improve communications with all institutions, that funds for projects be better administrated, and to take into account spatial aspects in order to better plan for the future use of water.

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Discussions during the session “Community management of water and sanitation as a model for accelerating the closing of the urban-rural divide” . Photo credit: Kenneth Alfaro

 

Activities during the 3rd Regional Meeting and 2nd National Costa Rica Encounter of the Youth Network for Water Central America

The 3rd Regional Meeting was held at the National University of Costa Rica, located in the province of Heredia, with the participation of more than 130 young people from over Central America and other Latin American countries on April 4th, 2019.

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Group photo of the 3rd Regional Meeting and 2nd National Encounter of Costa Rica of the Youth Network for Water Central America. Photography: Kenneth Alfaro

This event begun with a panel called “Youth and Community Water Management“, moderated by Geisel Sánchez, national coordinator of Costa Rica. The panel included the participation of Karen Guzmán (administrator of the Sierpe Rural Aqueduct in the Osa region, Puntarenas), Ricardo González Chávez (administrator of the Rural Aqueduct of El Mora de Turrialba, Cartago), Gabriel Villalobos and Mónica Romero (members of the Board of Directors of the Milano Rural Aqueduct in Siquirres, Limón), and Dariana Dávila, of Honduras. All are leaders in their communities and with their experiences, they sent a message of motivation to those present, about the need for young people to get involved in community processes and to contribute from their experience, enthusiasm and ideas to the gaps in the management of drinking water in the country and in the Central American region.

red5Opening panel participants. Photo credit: Douglas Montano

At the end of the day, we read and approved our youth declaration, which was built based on the results of a Virtual Consultation we conducted in march 2019. The Declaration on “Youth Acting for Sanitation to Not Leave Anyone Behind” was adhered to by 190 young people.

We call upon governments to act upon the following three most important requests:

  • To implement spaces of participation for all civil society sectors, including youth, as actors in decision-making.
  • To implement accountability mechanisms that must be accessible, inclusive and transparent to allow us to measure the fulfillment of the SDG6. These mechanisms should be consulted and validated to ensure their relevance and efficiency.
  • To strengthen Community Organisations of water and sanitation services in every country because they play an important role in ensuring drinking water and basic sanitation, especially in rural areas.

 

Tour to the San José de la Montaña Communal Aqueduct

As part of the 3rd Regional Meeting, we wanted a group of young people to learn about the experience of community water management in Costa Rica, where the Communal Aqueducts supply more than one million people and account for almost 30 % of the administration and management of water supply throughout the country. On April 5th, a visit was organized to the Rural Aqueduct San José de la Montaña, Heredia where young people learned about its operation, water sources and infrastructure, the actions they carry out to protect the water resource and the plans they have for the community with their environmental education programme.

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Tour to San José de la Montaña Rural Aqueduct. Photo credit: Jason Salgado.

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Tour to San José de la Montaña Rural Aqueduct. Photo credit: Jason Salgado.

After this week, our commitment to work and support the empowerment of young people in the rural water sector is even bigger.

About the author

Kenneth Alfaro Alvarado is an Environmental Engineer, and Coordinator of the Youth Network for Water Central America in Costa Rica. The Youth Water Network for Water Central America is a RWSN member organisation. Find out more about the network here.

Contacts:

Introducing Justine Olweny : a Ugandan WASH entrepreneur and resource centre founder

My name is Justine Olweny, and this is my story:

Where I came from:

Being born to a water engineer and a teacher in a town in Northern Uganda strategically molded me for who I am today. At 12 years old I was practicing and solving problems using a Pentium II computer desktop. I undertook vocational study (Certificate – Degree) and gained a BSc. in Information Systems and Technology (Dev’t & Integration). At this time, I founded Youth Against Poverty (a community based organisation) and wrote an article on ‘Youth Successes in Northern Uganda’. As an ICT freelancer I was able to market my work and landed a couple of opportunities one of which was Geophysical Survey using Vertical Electrical Sounding with Water4.org.

Continue reading “Introducing Justine Olweny : a Ugandan WASH entrepreneur and resource centre founder”

Investing in the next generation for universal rural water services

Word from the RWSN Chair: Kelly Ann Naylor, UNICEF

This month we celebrated International Youth Day (on August 12th). More than half of the world’s population today is under 30:  1.8 billion people are between the ages of 10-24. And nine out of 10 people between the ages 10 and 24 live in less developed countries (UNFPA, 2014). These demographic trends mean it is vital to ensure full participation of young people in rural water supplies.

Whilst 1% of the global workforce works directly in water and sanitation jobs (UN, 2016) attracting skilled workers to rural areas remains a key constraint: according to GLAAS (2014), of the 67 countries that reported on systems operation and maintenance, only 11 had the capacity to operate and maintain their rural drinking systems.  And globally women make up less than 17 percent of the water, sanitation, and hygiene labour force (IWA, 2016).

Young people clearly have a role to play to ensure the Global Goals for rural water become a reality by 2030. Yet, 75% of young people in developing countries are either unemployed or in irregular or informal employment (viS4YE, 2015). The recruitment and development of young professionals will be critical to the future of the rural water sector.

RWSN’s new Strategy 2018-2024 has embraced our work as an opportunity to engage with young people and empower them to be agents of change.  This current generation of young people will be the ones leading the way- in our communities and countries- towards the achievement of the SDG vision of universal access to safe drinking water.

Recent activities:

Already this exciting agenda has been launched into action and we have some exceptional young water professionals leading the way:

  • 6 early-career UPGro researchers from Kenya, Malawi, Ethiopia, Uganda and New Zealand had the opportunity to tell the story of their groundwater research to a packed auditorium at the 41st WEDC Conference in Nakuru,  Kenya
  • Shabana Abbas, from Pakistan, has gone from being a junior researcher in the UPGro programme to a full-time job at Aqua for All, in the Netherlands. Shabana is also the President of the Water Youth Network and a member of the REACH programme Junior Global Advisory Panel
  • Muna Omar is an Ethiopian refugee and a young water professional, living and working in Sana’a, Yemen, undertaking monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian programmes in WASH. Muna took part in the RWSN-CapNet online course on Drilling Professionalisation. Read her story on the RWSN blog.

More Coming Up: 

There will be other opportunities to get involved in Young Professional events in the months ahead.

 @Stockholm World Water Week

  • The Youth for Water and Climate “Quality Assurance Lab” (Wednesday 29th): young fellows/ entrepreneurs will pitch their projects and present their posters to a series of reviewers who will work with them giving feedback on their projects.
  • An informal event at the Swiss Water Partnership booth (Wednesday 29th from 4 pm to 6 pm): where 14 young entrepreneurs will pitch their project/ social enterprises to people present.

@UNC Water & Health Conference

Two RWSN Sessions are an opportunity for rural water and WASH professionals, young and old, to engage with the issues and meet each other:

  • Pipe dream or possible: Reaching the furthest behind first in the WASH sector?
  • Monitoring & Data for Rural Water: Different perspectives, common goals

Join our growing community of Young Rural Water Professionals!

The RWSN network has over 10,000 members and provides a unique platform to bring together young professionals and seasoned sector experts and practitioners from around the world.  

 We encourage you to reach out to your colleagues who are Young Professionals to help shape the future next generation of RWSN!  If you are under 35, Sign-up here: https://dgroups.org/rwsn/rwsn_yrwp

 

Favouring Progress: Yemen’s Water Scarcity Dilemma of the 21st Century

Our RWSN Guest blogger Muna Omar takes a critical look at the issue of dwindling water supply in Yemen’s capital city

The population of Sana’a, the capital city of Yemen, depend on deep wells that are usually dug to a maximum depth of 200 meters for their drinking water. The wells draw on a cretaceous sandstone aquifer northeast and northwest of the city, with a third of the wells operated by the state-owned Sana’a Local Corporation for Water Supply and Sanitation drilled to 800 to 1,100 meters. The combined output the corporation’s wells barely meet 35% of needs of Sana’a growing population which includes displaced people, asylum seekers, refugees and other newcomers.

Public piped water delivery is once every 40 days to some houses, while others don’t receive piped water at all. Sana’a’s population is thus supplied either by small, privately owned networks, hundreds of mobile tankers and water from people’s own private wells. As water quality has degenerated, privately owned kiosks that use a water filtration method to purify poor-quality groundwater have spread in Sana’a and other towns. Many people rely on costly water that is provided by private wells supplying tankers. These tankers don’t really consider appropriate cleaning, so the quality of the water is questionable.

Despite the challenges with pumping due to a shortage of fuel and with rising prices, private well owners are trying to capture the remains of the valuable groundwater resources before their neighbours do. Coupled with the on-going war, drought sees Yemen facing a major water crisis. Water table data is based on old research which can be challenging to verify now. Given the data and the current severe situation as water use exceeds aquifer recharge, it is estimated that the water table drops by approximately 2-6 feet annually.

Although Sana’s groundwater is probably the best water in Yemen, it is considered below acceptable standards for human consumption as water infrastructure has been damaged by warplanes and the sanitation workers went on strike because they didn’t get their salary. The latter left plenty of garbage on the streets that led to contamination of drinking water supplies. Meanwhile wastewater began to leak out into irrigation canals and contaminate drinking water supplies. Inadequate attention to groundwater pollution has directly affected the quality of Sana’a’s drinking water supplies.

It Yemen, as a whole, it is estimated that about 14.5 million people don’t have sustainable access to clean drinking water. Inadequate water supply has affected the country with the worst outbreak of cholera in the human history. Over 1 million suspected cases of cholera have been reported in Yemen from 27 April 2017 to present day. Other water-borne diseases include a recent peak in diphtheria that reached 1,795 probable cases with 93 Associated Deaths and a case fatality rate (CFR) of 5.2% by 19 May 2018.

Yemen’s water problem is not only immediate with groundwater resources under pressure as never before to meet not only drinking water needs, but also demands for irrigation. In Yemen, the pressures of climate change, demographic change and the on-going conflict place an immense burden on professionals working in the country. The enormity of the urgent needs mean that water resources management is neglected, despite being absolutely essential for the future of Yemen’s population.

Sana’a groundwater resources are significantly depleted in many areas and acknowledged globally as one of the world’s scarcest water supplies. Sana’a may be the first capital city in the world to run out of water. Looking forwards, how can the country produce more food, raise farmer incomes and meet increase water demands if there is less water available?

Clearly, there are several interrelated aspects contributing to the current water crisis in Sana’a specifically and Yemen in general, and the population has to innovate to find solutions. Future supply options include pumping desalinated water from the Red Sea over a distance of 250 km, over 2,700 meter-high mountains into the capital, itself located at an altitude of 2,200 meters. However, the feasibly of this is questionable with the enormous pumping cost would push the price of water up to $10 per cubic meter. Other options to supply Sana’a from adjacent regions are fraught due to water rights.

Groundwater data is the critical foundation for water managers to both prevent problems and formulate solutions. Data is lacking in many of Yemen’s groundwater basins. Even heavily used basins have no record of how much groundwater was withdrawn and remains in the aquifers, where it was pumped from? Nor are adequate data available on groundwater quality or aquifer characteristics. Furthermore, while the drought and other cutbacks on surface water supplies are motivating groundwater users to drill new or deeper wells in increasing numbers despite the fact that well owners don’t know how their aquifer is doing and so can’t anticipate changes. There is lack of data on private wells.

Lack of groundwater data in Yemen is not the result of ignorance about its importance, but is rather the victim of chronic underfunding and politics, which have been exacerbated by the on-going conflict. The war has made it almost impossible to measure and manage groundwater development and secure its long-term sustainability.

Having just completed the online course on “Professional drilling management” led by Skat Foundation, UNICEF, and the United Nations Development Programme Cap-Net, I have learned about the need to develop our knowledge in this regard. The course highlighted important immediate and long-term actions for Yemen:

  • Raise awareness within Yemen of the groundwater issues faced by the country.
  • Find practical ways to better understand groundwater, regulate its extraction, introduce control mechanisms and engage with the local population to develop effective actions.
  • Build capacity of government, NGOs, consultants, policy makers and beneficiaries through training in groundwater management.
  • Invest in building rain-water harvesting facilities in rural areas so the people don’t have to walk miles to collect water.
  • Invest in re-building infrastructure alongside improving water resources management.

Muna Omar is an Ethiopian refugee and a young water professional, living and working in Sana’a, undertaking monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian programmes in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), health and nutrition sectors such as a cholera-response project, and an executive assistant with a local NGO.

This article was first published in GeoDrilling International and is reproduced with permission and thanks.