The day before the 2017 Ineson Lecture, a meeting was held in the Council Chamber of the Geological Society in London at which the project leaders, programme board members from NERC and DFID, and the Knowledge Broker team met with three of the UPGro Ambassadors: Dr Callist Tindimugaya, Ministry of Water & Environment, Uganda; Prof. Moustapha Diene, U. Cheikh Anta Diop, Senegal; Prof. Muna Mirghani, Technische Universität Berlin.
Prof. Richard Carter made opening remarks on behalf of the Knowledge Broker team welcoming everyone to the event followed an icebreaker exercise so that everyone in the room got to know each other.
The aim of the workshop was to bring together representatives from the UPGro Consortia, the Knowledge Broker team, the Programme Executive Board (PEB), and the UPGro Ambassadors to reflect on the progress of the UPGro programme to date and to set the priorities for maximising the impact of the research over the next 2 years. It was the first opportunity for the Ambassadors to share their experiences of the challenges and opportunities facing groundwater resources across Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in relation to improving opportunities for the poor.
The three UPGro Ambassadors who were present gave a short overview of their backgrounds, their current role and their personal and professional interests in African groundwater research, development and management. They were all co-founders of the African Groundwater Network.
Prof. Dr Moustapha Diene
- Senior Assistant Professor
- Started in surface water
- Interested in capacity development and practical knowledge of groundwater (manager of AGW-Net)
- Groundwater is mysterious and difficult to illustrate
Prof. Dr Muna Mirghani
- Visiting Professor lecturing in IWRM and runs WaterTrac consultancy in Sudan
- Started in civil engineering
- Interested in groundwater within IWRM implementation and governance (including catchment frameworks and transboundary issues) and drought governance.
Dr Callist Tindimugaya
- Commissioner for Water Resources Planning & Regulation
- Has worked for the Government since 1990 on water and groundwater in particular.
- Interested in getting groundwater high on the agenda of political leaders and funders.
Each Ambassador presented an overview of what they see as the key issues facing the understanding, use and management of groundwater in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Using posters that had been created at a previous UPGro workshop (in Montpellier, Sept 2016), members from each of the five projects, plus Brighid from the Africa Groundwater Atlas, gave concise overviews of what each study is trying to achieve and summary of some of the early findings that are emerging.
After the presentations in the morning, the afternoon focused on discussions that pulled together the various strands of the conversation so far and some important questions to the Ambassadors on ways that the UPGro research can create more impact:
How do we move beyond conventional dissemination pathways and in what form do we deliver that information?
- Be ready to share now what is being done, not waiting until the end. Otherwise, there is a danger that stakeholders think you have an agenda. Use national fora like Joint Sector Reviews and sector working groups to get some feedback and build appetite for your research. Remember to use simple language but not to over-simplify your message.
- Politicians need to be approached indirectly. Decisions are made at a technical level. Build confidence in the results. Politicians learn through their assistants.
Other observations on research into action:
- An important role for the Knowledge Broker is to interpret results and make them as non-technical as possible, without misrepresenting the extent to which the results answer the questions that decision-makers may have;
- Corruption: can lead to evidence being completely ignored, and is difficult to deal with;
- Political leaders have to make socially acceptable trade-offs, and are aware that citizens en masse have power through votes and demonstrations;
- It is important to be neutral and not to frame evidence to push a specific gender;
- Where are the influencing opportunities on the horizon?
- Peer-to-peer learning between countries, River Basin Organisations, governments, donors can be an important uptake mechanism for new evidence;
- Good short, punchy stories are important because they can be used as anecdotes to explain why UPGro is a great programme. These stories should not be afraid to cut-across projects where there is a common topic, such as finance, gender, climate change or governance.
Sum-up by Richard Carter
1. Integration of social and physical sciences : each project is taking a slightly different approach;
2. Synthesising: We need to get the messages right; there are some assumption about groundwater responses to wider changes (population growth, climate change) that shouldn’t be taken for granted;
3. There are variety of non-specialist audiences and we need to cater for that, from school children to senior government advisors;
4. We need to elevate the conversation beyond groundwater to the wider issues around food security, environment, industrialisation and employment.
5. We should be more confident about the positioning of groundwater – most of the world’s fresh water is groundwater so our communication should be too shy about that.
From the left – Moustapha Diene; Brighid Ó Dochartaigh, Muna Mirghani, Callist Tindimugaya, Richard Taylor, Alan MacDonald, Rob Hope, Kirsty Upton, Mohammad Shamsudduha, Tom Doyle, Michelle Truman, Jan Willem Foppen. (Not in the picture: Richard Carter, Ken Wright, Ken de Souza, Sean Furey)