For the past few months we have been quite busy here at ZAMADZI preparing all the activities planned for 2019 and supporting the ongoing ones. I am now taking the opportunity to update you on the last developments.
Storms on the horizon
It’s difficult not to start by talking about what happened in the Zambezi Valley since the beginning of this year. First there was Tropical Storm Desmond flooding the city of Beira at the end of January. However, nothing prepared the region for what happened in mid-March when Cyclone Idai made landfall, here you can find some very clear before-and-after images for the city of Beira.
Path of Idai throughout Southern Africa. Source.
Until now more than 600 dead bodies have been found – on the aftermath of the disaster, the President of the country, Mr. Nyusi said that 1,000 may have died. Also neighboring countries, in particular Malawai and Zimbabwe, were heavily affected in what “may have been the worst ever disaster to strike the southern hemisphere“. The problems are now providing food, shelter and water to the people affected, something very urgent considering the mounting cases of Cholera due to limited access to clean drinking water, adequate sanitation services and hygiene facilities.
Flooding in the Zambezi Valley depicted in red. Source.
Compared to what I have just presented, the impact of our project was minimal: the infrastructure of our project partners, in particular that of FCT in Beira, seems to be up and running and everyone seems to be OK. There were some delays on our activities: our annual meeting had to be postponed, some Action Research projects and short-courses were delayed but, as I said, the impact was minimal.
We are now trying to understand what we, as ZAMADZI, can do to support the ongoing and future operations around Beira, in particular, which role we can play as capacity building project. Given our focus in Integrated Water Resources Management, Water Security is a main pillar in our project and there are certainly activities and courses that we can organize and deliver that will (partially) help improving the current situation. This is something that we will be discussing in the coming months both internally and with the stakeholders in the region.
Beira’s downtown after Idai. Source.
That being said, let’s present an overview of all project-related activities in the past months.
MSc programs at UEM
The students of the first edition of the MSc program are well into their studies and have already started the optional courses. Most of the students picked the branch that deals with “Hydraulic infrastructures”, “Irrigation” and “Modelling of water resources”; and only one selected the branch covering “Urban drainage”, “Modelling of water distribution systems” and “Water and wastewater treatment”.
We are now supporting the students in identifying MSc thesis topics, supervisors and potential supporting stakeholders in the Zambezi Valley. Their research will start after July and must be based in the Valley, thus we want them to start by having a clear idea regarding what they will do, where and with whom.
Finally, back in February Luuk lectured “Drinking water treatment” and a few weeks back I lectured “Modelling of water distribution systems”, a course that makes use of the free software EPANET. This opportunity brought back all the work I did with network modelling in my MSc and PhD – I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Already in 2018 we reached out to the Requesting Organizations in order to identify people interested in following a new edition of the MSc program at UEM and we identified five potential students. In addition to this we are, at this moment, in the process of contacting stakeholders in the region in order to understand whether there is staff of these organizations who would be available to be enrolled. In any case, all identified participants will have to follow the preparatory courses in Hydraulics and Excel (see below) offered by UEM.
We have just finalized our short-duration course program for 2019 and we are very happy with it. We will be lecturing various topics around the Zambezi Valley and we have been able to bring together a great team of lecturers, including Mozambican and Dutch experts.
In particular we are looking forward to start a multi-year cooperation with Salomon Lda who, in 2019, will be offering five courses. Finally, we will continue offering EAWAG training materials, with the third edition of “Planning and design of sanitation systems and technologies” and the first edition of “Fecal sludge management”. I have been lecturing these last two courses across Mozambique for the past months and the feedback has been very positive.
This program, extending until late 2019, will keep us very occupied. We will also start the discussion with the Requesting Organizations regarding in which shape and form these materials will be used both in the lecture rooms across the Zambezi Valley and/or in extension programs led by each Institution. This is something that we will leave for the forthcoming annual meeting.
After some delays in late 2018 and some slow start after Christmas, our Action Research projects started full-speed at the beginning of 2019. However, as everything else, were impacted by the storms that affected the Valley, in particular FEAF’s project, with most of the rice fields being flooded. Fortunately, our last communications indicate that some of the projects have resumed already and that we can expect some preliminary results in the coming weeks. We’re looking forward!
Earlier this year we published a closed call for gender-related projects and we have pre-selected two proposals. We have not yet made this public since we still have to agree on some details but in any case I can already let you know that some of our Requesting Organizations will be engaging directly with girls in primary and secondary schools across the Zambezi Valley and offering capacity building activities that will provide them with very hands-on skills.
Something that we have been struggling with is the low participation of women in ZAMADZI activities. This has partially to do with the low numbers of women in technical universities in Mozambique in general and at the Requesting Organizations in particular. To change the situation we might have to leave the University-context and engage with teachers and students of primary and secondary schools.
By now Hélder is in South Africa, at UniSA working on his research proposal. His work will be based in Beira and will look into the link between water supply, groundwater contamination and sanitation services, following an Integrated Urban Water Management approach. We believe that Hélder can play a paramount role in the forthcoming planning activities following Idai: how can you plan the resilient city of the future so that you minimize environmental impact while, simultaneously, guarantee that the city dwellers have access to affordable and adequate water and sanitation services? This question does not have a simple answer but Hélder will have his change to support local politicians and decision makers in finding it.
Last but not least, investment!
All ICT equipment has been bought and has arrived at some of the Requesting Organizations. This includes computers and servers that will allow running Moodle, hosting all learning materials and digital libraries.
We have been in close contact with a South African supplier for months now and we’re about to have the final quotations. We have ordered laboratory equipment that will support our Requesting Organizations in classroom activities, action research projects and PhD research. We expect to finalize this in the coming weeks.
We are almost done with ordering the books and, as with the laboratory equipment, this should be finalized in the coming weeks.
So here it is: an overview of the activities in 2019. Stay tuned for more updates!