The year in retrospective – 2019’s edition

It’s that period of the year again: Christmas is coming and we start looking back and understanding what we did, what went well and what we should do differently in 2020.

The impact of Idai

We wrote about Idai’s impact before but it’s impossible to talk about 2019 and skipping Idai or overstating its impact. Idai was a very destructive storm that killed hundreds of people across the Zambezi Valley, in Mozambique and in Zimbabwe and even now, more than six months later, you still see its marks, from the streets of Beira to the slopes of Mount Binga, in the Chimanimani Reserve. The scars of Idai can be seen everywhere and they underline, on the one hand, the sheer strength of nature and, on the other hand, the importance of solid knowledge in Integrated Water Management. This last point was the foundation of ZAMADZI and Idai only reminded us, again, of its relevance.

Narrow streams on the Chimanimani Reserve (50 km SW of Chimoio, on the border with Zimbabwe) became wide rivers during Idai. The flow return to its original levels but the river bed remains a statement to the storm’s impact.

During Idai UCM‘s ICT infrastructure was under water and most of it was destroyed. This had a great impact on two of our partners, FAGRENM and FENG: there was limited access to management services such as HR tools and Moodle. To minimize this, as emergency measure, ZAMADZI teamed-up with two other NUFFIC-funded projects to support the acquisition and installation of new ICT infrastructure which will be deployed at the beginning of 2020.


Hélder is well underway with his PhD project and he just recently he defended his PhD proposal at UniSA.  Hélder is planning to study the impact of intermittent water supply, a common practice in Mozambique, on water quality, particularly looking into organic matter content and its interaction with chlorine in the network. This work is very relevant for science as intermittent supply systems are seldom studied, and for FIPAG (a prospective project partner) in Beira and elsewhere in Mozambique.


First batch

The first batch of MSc students are now in the process of starting their MSc theses but before they will have to get better grades in some modules. This is expected to be finalized in the first semester of 2020 which means that the first theses will start to be drafted in the second half of the year. In the meanwhile, the proposed title and objectives for the various theses show a wide array of topics from non-revenue water, to water productivity in sugar production and hydrological modelling.

Second batch

The second batch of ZAMADZI MSc students started their studies a couple of months ago and are now well into their third module. As before it’s a two year program and this will bring the number of ZAMADZI MSc students to 11. Very good news!


Second edition

This year’s edition of the short-course program was a huge success and I partially covered this earlier regarding the cooperation with EAWAG. I am not going to go into a lot of detail as I am planning a thorough post about the program alone once I get the comprehensive feedback from the participants. In any case, we had this year more than 150 unique participants in 13 courses that took place all around the Zambezi Valley. We had a mix of Mozambican and Dutch lecturers and the feedback has been frankly positive. I am thorough analysis of the program for the beginning of 2020.

In any case, a few weeks back I was at FEARN in Chimoio to lecture Fecal Sludge Management and it was the first time that we offered this course. The participants enjoyed the course and the location allowed us to see first-hand the Action Research project, related to fecal sludge, based at FEARN.

The creation of Shit-flow diagrams was covered in the Fecal sludge management course and was a highlight of the training. You can see this diagram below.

A picture tells a thousand words and a Shit-flow diagram is a great way of conveying the message in a very simple way: in the diagram red arrows indicate unsafely managed fecal sludge stream; green arrows depict safely managed fecal sludge stream. For the city of Chimoio it there’s a lot to be done as far as sanitation planning and infrastructure are regarded: roughly 95% of the fecal sludge produce in the city is not adequately treated. The diagram was produced by one of the groups during the training.

Third edition

We are now working on the third edition, and last, of the short course program. The approach for 2020 will be very similar to that of 2019 and we will probably repeat some of the courses. The main difference will be centered on the teaching approach and we will be looking into co-development of training materials with the project Requesting Organizations as a way to potentiate its uptake in the existing curricula and to support the improvement and development of new curricula.

Action research

First edition

Action Research has been one of the focus areas of ZAMADZI and the four initial projects have produced some interesting results. Just recently I visited Chimoio and had the opportunity of witnessing first hand fecal sludge drying. The relevance of this project for Mozambique is very high: fecal sludge is a very diverse product and the quality of fecal sludge varies (much more than that of wastewater) across countries and even across neighborhoods in the same city. This means that infrastructure has to be planned and designed for local conditions and that simply using textbook values is a first good estimate but should be complemented with good quality local data. This is exactly what our colleagues at FEARN are aiming at and we can expect some scientific publications from the project.

Data gathering at FEARN to characterize fecal sludge drying.

Dried fecal sludge collected from the drying beds built at FEARN.

Second edition

As last year we got a very high number of proposals for Action Research projects of which we selected four. This year we did something different and the selection process also included review from staff of the Requesting Organizations. This brought them to the center of the decision making process and allowed them to better understand it. We made this change based on feedback gathered during 2019’s annual meeting. The selected proposals came from four different Institutions and none of the researchers awarded in 2018 were awarded which is a testament to how hard it is to write a winning proposal. Our colleagues at FEARN will look into gender issues in Integrated Water Resources Management. At FCA the focus will be on ferti-irrigation. Finally, while FEAF will study tomato production, ISPM will build and pilot biodigestors. As last time this is a very diverse collection of projects and we are expecting some interesting results throughout 2020.


I left gender for last because 2019 was gender year for ZAMADZI. Gender received, throughout this year, a lot of attention and more funding. We supported various gender activities led by ZAMADZI Requesting Organizations. In particular I would highlight the Mestre de Obras project at FEARN which I had the opportunity of visiting a few weeks back while visiting Chimoio. In the courses the participants learn basic principles of civil construction, in particular house building. When I visited the institution the students had been busy with making building blocks and with putting up the walls. It was looking good! For more information about the project I recomend reading its own page.

Some of the participants in the Mestre de Obras project at FEARN, most of them are young girls from the vicinity of the institution.

Final words

Next year will be the project’s final and we are now starting to look into how can all the knowledge gathered, produced and shared can be used to improve the ROs’ curricula, and the current state of Integrated Water Resources Management in the Valley. This change in scope means that our approaches will also have to be slightly adapted. For example, as far as the short-course program is concerned, for 2020 we are planning to involve much more the project Requesting Organizations in co-producing and co-lecturing the courses that will be on offer as a way of improving the local capacity in Integrated Water Resources management across the Zambezi Valley.

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