UNSW Sydney has formed a partnership with the University Eldoret in Kenya to deliver a new short course for leaders in the African water sector working on the challenges of transnational water resource management.
At a ceremonial signing, UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Ian Jacobs was joined by Kenyan High Commissioner H.E. Mr Isaiya Kabira, University of Eldoret Vice-Chancellor Professor Teresa Akenga and University of Eldoret School of Economics Dean Dr Paul Okelo Odwori. It was a welcome return for Professor Akenga – an alumna of UNSW who completed her PhD in Organic Chemistry in 2000.
“Mutual partnerships of this type are one of the top priorities for UNSW,” said Professor Jacobs. “The focus of this new partnership is on water, and the very real challenges the world and Kenya faces in relation to water.”
Finding solutions to global challenges
The Memorandum of Understanding reflects the commitments of Australia and Kenya to find solutions to regional and global challenges, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6: to ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030.
Under the agreement, UNSW and University of Eldoret will deliver a new Transnational Water Resource Management short course for professionals across the African region. It is the first of its kind supported by the Australian government as part of the Australia Awards program in Africa.
Dr Sarah Cook, Director of the Institute for Global Development (IGD) and one of the leads on the project, said the agreement reflected the goals of the Institute.
“We have an opportunity to take interdisciplinary research and excellence in a particular area [water resource management] and link with partners to really drive a process that leads to impacts and results that we want to see,” said Dr Cook.
Facing the challenges of water
The short course, which is expected to commence September 2019, will enable African professionals to share knowledge, evaluate problems and find solutions to the water challenges they face. Multicounty management of water resources is a key focus of the course.
Mr Isaiya Kabira, Kenyan High Commissioner H.E., said this aspect of water management was a challenge.
“In Africa, we think there will be a fight for water resources. This course will empower our country. We are confident it will go a long way to pre-empt the conflict we foresee if we don’t manage the resource accordingly,” Mr Kabira said.
Professor Greg Leslie, Director of the Global Water Institute and joint lead of the project, spoke of the interdisciplinary nature of the issue and the importance of taking a community approach.
“Water management is inherently multidisciplinary,” said Professor Leslie. “Encouraging cooperation to ensure countries have access to water for sanitation and health, the environment, agriculture, and industry are the main issues.
“Solutions must be culturally and geographically appropriate. Our experience with communities such as Walgett in western NSW teaches that community leadership is essential. You cannot transplant water solutions – they have to be developed and led by the community.”