SU leads NEPAD Water Initiative

Over the next three years Stellenbosch University (SU) will take the lead when it comes to network expansion in Southern African water research and training communities.

This follows the recent appointment of SU as coordinator of the NEPAD Water Centres of Excellence Initiative. Through this initiative a consortium of centres of excellence focusing on water research in countries such as South Africa, Malawi, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique and Namibia was established, funded by the European Commission.

The Water Initiative is also supported financially by the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST) and enjoys high-level recognition by the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), a group of ministers tasked with water affairs in countries across Africa.

The Water Initiative aims to promote cooperation and knowledge transfer between organisations involved in water research in the region in order to improve resource management, policy formulation, the provision of high-quality water sources in rural and urban areas and water purification technology, in particular. It also aims to limit the damage caused by flooding.

“The initiative focuses on people and strengthening networks, and not on funding specific research topics as such,” explains the Dean of the Faculty of Science, Prof Eugene Cloete, who chairs the executive committee heading the initiative on behalf of SU.

The universities and research institutions that have already been awarded the status of Centre of Excellence in Water Research all have proven experience in the areas of training, scientific research, consultation and policy formulation. It is expected that the network will be expanded to include other relevant institutions in the region.

Besides SU, other South African institutions such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal also form part of the initiative.

The first meeting of the initiative’s executive committee took place in Stellenbosch last week to determine the general aims.

These include strengthening the water researchers’ network in the region, as well as capacity-building projects such as the provision of bursaries for staff and postgraduate students, and technology and knowledge transfer through workshops and conferences.

At the meeting the European Commission was represented by Dr Murray Biedler, EuropeAid’s programme administrator tasked with water and energy affairs, and Dr César Carmona-Moreno of the Joint Research Centre.

The initiative contributes to the European Commission’s goal of supporting policies on water management in developing countries across the African continent through science and technology.

According to Prof Cloete, the decision to appoint SU as the coordinator of the initiative acknowledges the quality of leadership and research of the academics at the University who are involved in water affairs.