25 September 2014 Volume :2 Issue :50

Southern African Students Attend Intensive Water Resources Management Course

Southern African Students Attend Intensive Water Resources Management Course
From Left: Mr Sam Mwanangombe, Ms Faith Chivava, Mr Hastings Mbale, Mr Greshan Malibe and Dr Michael Mengistu.

Four master’s students from across southern Africa are currently at UKZN to take part in an intensive 12-week course on Geographic Information Systems and Earth Observation (GISEO) in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) as part of the Waternet Master’s Programme.

The Waternet Master’s Programme is aimed at facilitating capacity-building in the management of water resources in Africa by training master’s level students at universities in specialised aspects of water resources management. UKZN, whose Hydrology discipline has been linked to Waternet since 2000, has acted as a host institution for offering one of the specialised courses since 2011.

The students who take part in the courses are all registered at either the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania or the University of Zimbabwe, and are hosted by seven universities in southern Africa for the specific courses. The programme takes on between 20 and 25 students each year, four of whom come to UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) to focus on the GISEO aspect of water resource management.

Dr Michael Mengistu, a postdoctoral researcher at SAEES, is the course co-ordinator for the programme. He oversees the lectures, field trips, assignments and tests for the four students, three of whom are registered with the University of Zimbabwe and one of whom is registered at the University of Dar es Salaam.

UKZN offers these students modules in advanced Geographic Information Systems (GIS), spatial analysis for water resources management, earth observation for hydrological analysis, and earth observation and water resources management.

Mengistu believes that UKZN offers a high quality, comprehensive course programme in a relatively short time. The programme also gives students the opportunity to learn from international experts, with two lecturers from the Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) of the University of Twente visiting UKZN over two weeks in September to impart some of their knowledge of GISEO to the students.

During their time at UKZN, the students make two field trips, one of which is to the Two Streams catchment near Seven Oaks on the Greytown Road. This site is one of the “Living Laboratories” that the Centre for Water Resources Research (CWRR) at SAEES makes use of.

Ms Faith Chivava of the University of Zimbabwe said that she elected to come to UKZN because it has the best studies in Hydrology.

‘South Africa is using advanced technology, for example, the Cosmic Ray Probe, which is rare elsewhere,’ she explained. ‘The interactions we have with lecturers here also provide options for us in terms of mentors for our research.’

Mr Sam Mwanangombe, also from the University of Zimbabwe, said that the arrangement of the course is excellent and has opened his eyes to what is lacking in this kind of course in other institutions.

‘We now have a lot of room to go and improve systems in our home countries after seeing how research in South Africa has improved water resource management; it’s really challenged us. It’s given us vision as to where institutions should go,’ he added.

The students agreed that the range of experience offered on the course has helped to create a network of discussion around issues of water resource management. Mr Greshan Malibe, who completed his Honours at the University of Zululand before registering with the University of Dar es Salaam for the MSc programme, said that seeing the equipment and research at UKZN challenges him to go back and improve things at the University of Zululand.

The students also said that they particularly enjoyed the field trips and were warmed by the friendly reception they received at UKZN. Mwanangombe said he found the lecturers willing to go above and beyond for students, and added that the available facilities and libraries are a fantastic resource.

Mr Hastings Mbale, registered with the University of Zimbabwe, said that the learning structure of the course at UKZN also facilitates retention of the knowledge they receive as there are practical aspects to their studies.

Mengistu added the University also contributed to Waternet by offering specialised short courses in Climate Change and Water Resources Management and a specialist field school in hydrological experimentation. Professor Graham Jewitt of the Centre for Water Resource and Research Management (CWRRM) is also an elected member of the Waternet governing board.

Mengistu also alluded to the importance of a programme like this in helping to enhance capacity to deal with cross-border issues across all countries in the region.

Christine Cuénod

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