Life after UPGro: an interview with Early Career Researcher, Shabana Abbas

SHABANA-3The UPGro programme is an amazing opportunity for young researchers to get experience at the cutting edge of interdisciplinary research that is focused on tackling poverty.

We caught up with Shabana Abbas, who was part of the T-GroUP project and is second author on a new UPGro paper entitled:The emancipatory promise of participatory water governance for the urban poor: Reflections on the transition management approach in the cities of Dodowa, Ghana and Arusha, Tanzania.

UPGro: Where are you from and how did you get involved in UPGro?

SA: I am from Pakistan. I got involved in UPGro in 2015, when I was pursuing my MSc at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands.

UPGro: What research activities did you do as part of the T-GroUP project?

SA: I was offered the opportunity to undertake my masters research under the T-GroUP project, one of the consortium projects of UPGro. My research was about urban water supply and groundwater governance in Arusha city in Tanzania. I took a multi-scale approach and collected mostly qualitative data through in-depth interviews at ward, city and at the basin level.

Some of the key actors that I interviewed were residents from six different wards (lowest administration units within the city), Ward administrators, employees of the Arusha Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Authority, Arusha City Council and of the Pangani Basin Water Board. I also interviewed selected industrial/commercial users of groundwater such as bottled water companies, breweries etc. Moreover, I interviewed drilling companies operating in the city.

Through all my research activities including document analysis, I aimed to understand who is using groundwater, where, why and what does it say about the overall use of groundwater in Arusha. I tried to explore how this use is governed (if) for both environmental and social needs.

UPGro: What were your highlights of being part of the UPGro programme?

SA: For me there were three things:

Firstly, the opportunity to collaborate with researchers from different institutes/universities such as the team at IHE Delft, Netherlands, Dr. Maryam Nastar (Lund University, Sweden) & Dr. Hans Komakech (Nelson Mandela Institute, Arusha, Tanzania), who are all part of the T-GroUP.

Secondly, the entire experience of living in Arusha for three months with two other IHE students, also working under the project. All three of us looked at different aspects of groundwater in Arusha. I enjoyed the process of finding out new details every day and discussing/comparing these with the fellow researchers.

Finally,  the chance to work with Dr. Michelle Kooy & Dr. Margreet Zwarteveen, my supervisors who have inspired me and supported me throughout my research.

UPGro:  What did you take away about the links between groundwater use (or lack of it) and poverty? 

SA: There are two sides to it:

Firstly, most of the boreholes and wells in the areas I visited were mostly owned by people from higher socio-economic class and that prices that they charged to other households (mostly to ones who could not afford to have their own wells and boreholes) varied and were unregulated.  This makes me wonder if groundwater is really for the urban poor if they have to spend quite some amount on it?

Secondly, I found the higher concentration of fluoride in groundwater in Arusha limits its use for non-potable uses only. This means that if groundwater supplied at fair price to the poor can actually lessen their overall expenses on water. . I learned that groundwater plays a big role in the different household water supply combinations. For instance, in the six different areas of the city, people (both from high and low socio-economicbackground) used 28 different household water supply combinations and about 50% of these included water from boreholes and wells.

UPGro: What did you do next, and where are you now?

SA: After graduation, I joined Aqua for All in the Hague, Netherlands. Here, I work on a water innovation programme (VIA Water) that supports innovations addressing urban water & sanitation challenges in seven countries in Africa. One of the key areas of innovation that we support is for ‘sustainable use of groundwater resources’ and we have some interesting innovations being piloted in these countries. You can find out more about these projects here: www.viawater.nl/projects

Then in my spare time (!) I am President of the Water Youth Network and lead the Advisory Board. I am also one of the Junior Global Advisory Panel members for Oxford University’s REACH programme.

UPGro: How did being part of the UPGro T-GroUP project help you, or steer you in new directions?

SA:  Prior to my masters, I worked on rural water supply projects in the north of Pakistan. There, water was mostly sourced from springs. Participation in T-GroUP allowed me for the first time to study groundwater in detail. I was able to see what groundwater means for urban water supply in Arusha and in other African cities.It was all very new for me. I was quickly able to find out how serious the issue of groundwater governance is in many developing countries.  My research in Arusha made me very curious and interested in water issues in Africa. It also motivated me to take on the job I am doing at the moment.

UPGro: What advice would you give to other young people who would like to get involved in African water issues?

SA: Go out there with an open mind; Don’t be afraid to ask the ‘why?’ questions and remain critical.

UPGro: What can programmes like UPGro do to support young researchers and young professionals in their careers?

SA: Offer more opportunities to young researchers to share their  work through webinars and other mediums. Moreover, after students finish their research work, offer them some sort of fellowship for translating their work into knowledge products for wider/non-academic audiences.

UPGro:  Finally, what changes would you like to see in the way that groundwater is managed across Africa?

SA: First, I would like that groundwater be recognized as an essential resource that needs to be governed in a socially equitable and ecologically sustainable way.

And second, I would like that local actors take responsibility of ensuring that groundwater is not overexploited. They should make efforts to utilize the UPGro/other research work and see how policy level changes on groundwater can be informed by that.

You can download Shabana’s MSc thesis presentation here.

Are you a Young Water Professional or Researcher with a good experience to share or would like to find out how to the take the next step in your career? Join the new Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) Young Professionals Network

[photo credit: S.Abbas]

Facilitating community members in Dodowa to envision their communities in the future

by Jan Willem Foppen (Re-posted from T-GroUP)

End of 2017, the Dodowa Local Transition Team facilitated the process of envisioning, one of the most important steps in the Transition Management process, through the organisation of (four) workshops for (four) local communities.

Each workshop started with a short summary of the results of previous meetings and sharing of expectations. The participants were then invited to work in different groups and were encouraged to imagine themselves, their families and their communities in the future.

Hereby, emphasis was put on the future of water, sanitation and waste systems in their communities.

In some of the groups, participants were somewhat shy and more time was required to feel at ease and to share openly their opinions. Also, in other groups, participants discussed very enthusiastically various aspects of the envisioning exercise from the very beginning.

The groups chose different ways to represent their future images, e.g. drawing, writing key words or by developing more descriptive sentences. T-GroUP facilitators noticed that during the exercise the participants had the tendency to list actions rather than future images and it was more difficult to imagine the future, especially when far away.

Nevertheless, at the end of the exercise many visions were developed from each group of participants: clean environment, good sanitation for all, sensitized and educated community, good quality water for all, and a healthy and clean community free from waste.

A representative per each group had the opportunity to share the developed visions and everyone was encouraged to ask questions and add comments. After the meeting, participants told us they appreciated the opportunity to learn from each other and express openly their views through their active participation in the process.

Photo: Participant group of the Zongo community (photo credit: T-GroUP/IHE Delft)

 

Golden Jubilee Award for T-GroUP researcher: Dr Robinah Kulabako

On 8th March, Dr Robinah Kulabako, Makerere University and UPGro T-GroUP project, was awarded a Golden Jubilee Media during International Women’s Day by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. The award recognises her contribution to research and teaching in environmental engineering and natural sciences and that she is an internationally recognised expert she is an inspiration to girls and young women looking to have a career in science.

(hat-tip to AfriWatSan)

photos: scanned from unknown

Supporting community members to structure local problems and reflect upon them. The case of four communities in Bwaise area in Kampala.

by Giorgia Silvestri, re-posted from t-group.science

In March 2018 the local transition team in Kampala organized the first three Transition Management arena meetings engaging participants from seven communities of an informal settlement area of the city. These first community meetings aimed at supporting the selected participants to structure the problems in their communities.

Continue reading Supporting community members to structure local problems and reflect upon them. The case of four communities in Bwaise area in Kampala.

The Transition Management process is underway in Dodowa (Ghana)

by Giorgia Silvestri, reposted from t-group.science

The Dodowa local transition team organised the first Transition Management arena meetings, which took place on 28th and 29th of September 2017 in four different communities of the Dodowa peri-urban area.

These first meetings represented the starting point of the overall Transition Arena process consisting of a series of monthly meetings.

Continue reading The Transition Management process is underway in Dodowa (Ghana)

Disseminating T-GroUP research result findings in Dodowa (Ghana)

by Giorgia Silvestri, re-posted from t-group.science

In February 2017, the Dodowa transition team organized several meetings with the inhabitants of four communities and the active members of two community based organisations (CBOs) in Dodowa (Ghana) with the purpose to disseminate the research results of the T-GroUP project and, more specifically, to inform all about the status of groundwater quality in the area. The dissemination activities in the communities also aimed at identifying potential participants to take part in the Transition Management process. This means that during the meetings the local researchers paid particular attention to identifying those people that showed interest and motivation and therefore could be potential participants of the Transition Management arena process.

Continue reading Disseminating T-GroUP research result findings in Dodowa (Ghana)

UPGro webinar today: Safe #water in towns and peri-urban areas: challenges of #self-supply and water quality monitoring

A quick reminder that today’s RWSN webinars feature presentations from UPGro research:

“Safe water in towns and peri-urban areas – challenges of self-supply and water quality monitoring”

 Tuesday, 24th April 2.30 pm CEST (Paris)/ 1.30 pm BST (UK)/ 8.30 am EDT (Washington DC)

Webinar in English: https://meetings.webex.com/collabs/#/meetings/detail?uuid=MEC5JM6L2PG15ELV2E4KRNLG40-BUDR

La salubrité de l’eau dans les villes et zones péri-urbaines: les défis liés à l’auto-approvisionnement et le suivi de la qualité de l’eau

 Tuesday, 24th April 11h00 CEST (Paris)/ 9h00 GMT (Dakar)

Webinaire en français: https://meetings.webex.com/collabs/#/meetings/detail?uuid=MDZ2FEQ4F99KOZKTSAGKS9IQFC-BUDR

Speakers:

  • Dr Jenny Grönwall (SIWI/UPGro T_GroUP)
  • Dr Dan Lapworth (British Geological Survey/UPGro catalyst/Hidden Crisis/GroFutures)

Chair:

  • Dr Anne Bousquet (UN-Habitat/GWOPA)

For more details on the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) 2018 Early webinar series visit the RWSN website.

Knowledge dissemination at community level in Kampala

by JW Foppen, IHE Delft/T-GroUP, re-posted from t-group.science

Every first Sunday of the month, Kawaala zone holds community meetings in which various topics are discussed. The meetings are facilitated by mr. Wilberforce Sserwaniko, the local chairman, and his committee and are well attended. The T-GroUP team took advantage of this already existing communication vehicle and asked for a dedicated meeting to share our findings with the community.

Continue reading Knowledge dissemination at community level in Kampala

New UPGro paper calls for city planners and utilities in Africa to diversify water supply solutions

A UPGro paper has been published by Dr Jenny Grönwall (SIWI) and Dr Sampson Oduro-Kwarteng (KNUST) of the T-GroUP project, entitled “Groundwater as a strategic resource for improved resilience: a case study from peri-urban Accra”

Water insecurity is a growing concern globally, especially for developing countries, where a range of factors including urbanization are putting pressure on water provisioning systems.

The role of groundwater and aquifers in buffering the effects of climate variability is increasingly acknowledged, but it can only be fully realized with a more robust understanding of groundwater as a resource, and how use of it and dependency on it differ.

Accra, in Ghana, and its hinterland is a good example of an African city with chronic water shortages, where groundwater resources offer opportunities to improve resilience against recurring droughts and general water insecurity.

Based on a mixed-methods study of a peri-urban township, it was found that for end users, particularly poor urban households, resilience is an every-day matter of ensuring access from different sources, for different purposes, while attention to drinking water safety is falling behind.

Planners and decision makers should take their cue from how households have developed coping mechanisms by diversifying, and move away from the focus on large infrastructure and centralized water supply solutions.

Conjunctive use, managed aquifer recharge, and suitable treatment measures are vital to make groundwater a strategic resource on the urban agenda.

Download and read the open paper here

photo: Dr Grönwall

“Groundwater is the key to Unlocking Green Growth in Africa”

On 25th October, the prestigious keynote Ineson Lecture 2017 at the Geological Society in London was given by Dr Callist Tindimugaya, head of Water Resource Planning and Regulation in Uganda’s Ministry of Water & Environment, and one of four UPGro Ambassadors. In his speech he highlighted the importance understanding and managing groundwater well, not for its own sake but because it is a natural resource that underpins most, if not all, African societies and economies.

However, he expressed his frustration that the economic contribution of this resource has not yet been properly quantified so that its invisible contribution is made plain to all, from ordinary citizens to political leaders. Nevertheless, he was encouraged by the many initiatives across the continent to address the knowledge gaps and to improve the visibility and use of groundwater – in particular the importance of the UPGro programme and GRIPP. He concluded: “You cannot milk a cow, if you do not feed it”, likewise if the potential benefits of Africa’s aquifers are to be realised, then investment is needed in research, monitoring, regulation and – most of all – in education and training.

The day-long event was well attended and as well as a lively debate and a presentation by Guy Howard, DFID WASH policy team leader, there were numerous inputs from across UPGro, including: presentations by Prof. Richard Taylor about GroFutures and the Chronicles Consortium; from Brighid Ó Dochartaigh about the Africa Groundwater Altas; from Prof. Alan MacDonald about the Hidden Crisis project; and an array of posters from UPGro Catalyst and Consortia research, including a poster on the AMGRAF project by David Walker (Newcastle University) supported by UPGro and REACH, which had won the award for best Early Career Researcher poster at the recent 44th IAH Congress in Dubrovnik.

A huge thank you to Brighid Ó Dochartaigh and all the organisers at  IAH BGS, and Geol. Soc.