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)

 

Finalising Obed’s fieldwork in Dodowa

By:  Obed Minkah

Final fieldwork activities in Dodowa included the establishment of monitoring network which consist of 40 wells to monitor groundwater fluctuation and to help us determine the groundwater flow direction. In order to know the groundwater flow direction, the monitoring wells were levelled to each other using a total station. It was daunting task to level wells scattered on about a 13.5kmsq area but the task was done within 3 days with support from my colleagues (Isaac and Eric) from The Hydrological Services Department. The water levels of these wells were also measured weekly to know the groundwater levels change over time and from the monitoring it was observed that water levels in the wells were decreasing gradually over the course of fieldwork.

 

Obed working during the levelling of the monitoring wells
Continue reading Finalising Obed’s fieldwork in Dodowa

Water quality is interesting!

By: Carlos Enrique Aponte Rivero on T-group.science

Yes! It is very interesting for these kids, obviously amazed by the strange equipment put into the water. As soon as I started to set up the probes and to do the water quality measurements, I was suddenly surrounded by children, getting closer and closer trying to find out what is this about. It was in Osunyai Street, where I took a sample from a borehole close to Sombetini Primary School. The children are students of this school and they were just walking around when I arrived to continue with my data collection. The T-GroUP Project gave me the opportunity to mix my technical background in chemistry and water quality with social science, an exciting challenge with an interesting experience working in the field.

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Continue reading Water quality is interesting!

Exploring cases of community participation in (ground)water governance in Dodowa

By: Shona Jenkins (from t-group.science)

By the end of February, I will have spent 3 weeks conducting interviews with community members, community leaders and representatives from the local government across 11 communities in Dodowa. Throughout the interview process, I have attempted to better understand the water reality in each community: what sources of water are used and for what purpose(s) and how this impacts their day-to-day lives. As the interviews progress, I have tried to identify pressing problems in each community, which sometimes includes access to water and quality of water, but is not always the most pressing issue identified. As the interviews conclude, I have tried to gain a better understanding of whom community members look to for solutions to pressing community issues and I have tried to identify both formal and informal actors in each community who are critical in undertaking any community improvement project.

Continue reading Exploring cases of community participation in (ground)water governance in Dodowa

Who gets what water in Arusha?

from: http://t-group.science/2016/01/who-gets-what-water-in-arusha/

By Shabana Abbas

Arusha is officially a small city of over 400,000 people (according to official census) but urban authorities believe this to be vastly underestimated and the number could be over 700,000. As part of my research on urban water supply, I visited some of the most unplanned and low-income parts of Arusha city where there is a large population growth, as these low income areas house many recent migrants and offer the most affordable housing, and lowest land prices.
Continue reading Who gets what water in Arusha?

T-Group MSc. Research Students Arrive in Tanzania

by: (on T-group.science)

Three students from the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education have arrived in Dar es Salaam and will commence their master’s thesis field work in the coming week. Shabana Abbas, Carlos Aponte and Tlhoriso Morienyane will be based in Arusha for three months to study different aspects of groundwater. Their thesis work is expected to contribute to different objectives of the T-GroUP project.

The students will study everyday practices of water access, actors and institutions governing groundwater use and groundwater flow systems in low income settlements of Arusha. The students are looking forward to a great learning experience in Arusha!

T-GRoUP kicks off

By Thloriso Morienyane and Jan Willem Foppen (reposted from: t-group.science)

From 1-3 September, the T-GroUP kick off workshop took place at UNESCO-IHE in Delft. The main purpose of the workshop was to get to know each other, to learn more about Transition Management and Learning Alliances, to discuss data collection programs, to identify overlaps and differences between the three focal areas in Ghana, Uganda, and Tanzania, and to detail individual year plans of each team member.

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Part of the team listening to the workshop introduction by Jan Willem Foppen

Transition Management and Learning Alliances

Continue reading T-GRoUP kicks off

T-GroUP: A Visit to Dodowa!

The T-GroUP team have been getting to grips with groundwater in Ghana:

Dr. Jan-Willem Foppen visited Dodowa from 22 to 29 of July. In his visit, Jan Willem met with Dr. George Lutterodt from Central University College (CUC) in Accra, who heads the Local Transition Team (LTT). Together with Dr. Sampson Oduro-Kwarteng from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), who is also part of the LTT, they visited Dodowa, met with local leaders, invited local consultancy firms and drilling firms, and discussed project phases. Also, the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission and the Ghanata Senior High School, two of the associated partners in the project, were visited.

Below a short video clip with impressions and a number of observations:

Re-blogged from: t-group.science