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Rwanda Young Water Professionals enriched on Water-Energy-Food Nexus as they mark 10 years Anniversary for their Network

Participants were eager to learn from the Seniors

By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU

Kigali-Rwanda: 15th December 2022: Within the framework of promoting water-energy-food nexus and climate resilience through research, innovative technologies and capacity development; the Water Partnership Rwanda, the Rwanda Young Water Professional Organization and the University of Rwanda through the College of Science and Technology, have organized a one day knowledge sharing conference on Water-Energy-Food Nexus to exchange on various challenges, priorities and innovations within the three dimensions and their interlinkage.

Rwanda Young Water Professionals Representative

The Conference also coincides with the celebration of 10 years Anniversary of Young Water Professionals-Rwanda, a network that brings together young water professionals to foster knowledge sharing and learning in order to fulfill the present & future needs of the water sector in Rwanda. 

The Essence of the conference

According to the organizers, Water, Energy and Food are essential for human well-being, poverty reduction and sustainable development. 

Global projections indicate that demand for freshwater, energy and food will increase significantly over the next decades under the pressure of population growth and mobility, economic development, international trade, urbanization, and climate change, amongst others. 

The interdependency of achieving water, energy and food security for economic development, while ensuring sustainable and effective use of natural resources, will be based on a proper understanding of the synergies and cooperation of trade-offs among competing uses of water, land and energy related resources.

Again, progress towards the majority of the Sustainable Development Goals is directly related to the sustainable use of resources such as land, food, water, and energy. 

In that line, WEF Nexus knowledge platforms and stakeholder dialogue can act as a “Bridging Institutions” for different stakeholders in achieving the SDGs (in particular SDG 17). 

The WEF Nexus is therefore a central pillar of Agenda 2030, as an enabler of sustainable development in its three dimensions.

In an Interview with Benigne Ishimwe, the Executive Secretary of the Water Partnership Rwanda as well as the programme coordinator for the Global Water leadership programme, this event that brought together different stakeholders around water, energy and food was called the “water, energy and foods Nexus conference” to highlight the interlinkage of those three dimensions.

Participants include stakeholders from the water sector, from the energy sector and from the agricultural sector.

Benigne Ishimwe, the Executive Secretary of the Water Partnership Rwanda as well as the programme coordinator for the Global Water leadership programme

Ms. Ishimwe said: “When we talk about natural resources, of course, we are talking about water, we are talking about energy, we are talking about land and then we are talking about food. So this is why this conference was organized to bring those stakeholders together to have conversations about their interlinkage, but also how in Rwanda, we can come together and tackle all the issues around those dimensions together.”

“So, the conference was organized by different partners. As I said, the Rwanda Water Partnership is part of them, but also part of the Rwanda Young water professionals, who are actually celebrating their 10 years of anniversary. It’s a platform for young water professionals in the water and environmental sector. This was also organized in close partnership with the University of Rwanda, we have other partners as well, including the GGGI, we have  WaterAid and different partners as well.” She explained.

Challenges that Young Water Professionals must deal with

There are different challenges for Young Water Professionals to deal with. It is well known that Water is actually important for all of us. No one doesn’t know that water is used for food, for energy, and for even climate change mitigation and everything. 

Ms. Ishimwe said “As the youth from the Young Water professionals, they have the time, they have the energy, they have the expertise to come and actually contribute to the solving of the issues that the country is facing.”

She said “Rwanda Young Water Professionals is actually a key partner in this conference because they’re already participating in implementation of project awareness raising, because awareness raising is also an important aspect to make sure that the communities are aware of the issues that are around and make sure that they know how to actually contribute to solving them. So the young professionals have the time, they have the energy, they can ensure the reaching out to the community to ensure that there is awareness raising”

According to Umaru Garba WALI,  Dean of the School of Engineering, College of Science and Technology at University of Rwanda: “The theme of this conference was extremely important especially as the global population grows.

He said “We all know that the population continues to grow. More people need to be provided with water, energy and food and other essential commodities associated with these ressources. “

Prof. Wali continued to explain that “The theme of the discussion: Water and climate change, Nature Based Solution who are on resilience, groundwater management, making invisible visible, drought and landslide Risk management, water for renewable energy and Smart Agriculture,… these topics are very suitable for the purpose” and he believes that they will meet the expectation of the young water professionals.

Young Water Professionals were eager to learn from their seniors

Before concluding his remarks, Prof. Wali said “The Vision 2050 of the Government of Rwanda and the sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations are some of the important references that we need to keep in mind as we discuss the theme of the conference.” 

The Journey to 10 years Celebration of the Rwanda Young Water Professionals

The Conference was held at the time when the Rwanda Young water Professionals Network is celebrating the 10 years Anniversary.

In his remark, Mr. François-Xavier TETERO, the Chairperson of the Global Water Partnership for the Eastern Africa Region and also the Founding member of the Rwanda Young Water Professionals told the participants that they can achieve a lot if they are really committed to their mission.

François-Xavier TETERO, the Chairperson of the Global Water Partnership for the Eastern Africa Region

He referred to the journey that was led to the establishment of RYWP, adding that in the 10 years that the group has been there, there have been many achievements in water and land management in Rwanda.

“I remember, when we started, we organized a conference here in Kigali, that was in December 2012. We were four people, no framework or budget, no accounts.” He said,

However, Mr. Tetero added that “The conference became a regional conference where more than 300 people participated in an event that took place in Serena Hotel which was the the top hotel at that time.

“There were more than 40 countries coming, especially from West Africa and East Africa, but also even beyond behind even delegation coming from Netherlands and the UK for the conference.” He said.

Mr. Tetero highlighted that the commitment and the willingness to achieve great things has led to the sustainability of the YWPR. 

He told participants, mostly young people from the University of Rwanda that “If you are really committed, the only thing I’m going to tell you is that the support will always be there. This is specifically addressing you young people, ladies and men.” 

Marc Magnifika /World Resources Institute (WRI) together with GGGI Rwanda Country Representative

“To make Young Water Professionals sustainable, We have decided to make this initiative a long term initiative, but only focusing on knowledge sharing, but also supporting each other in different development careers.” He added.

“When you see in this room, most of the founding members are not around, because they are busy with some other things. They are in the country or even outside the country. But there is another category: most of them are at school now. At least you should know one of you fresh graduates is now a head of Informatics at UNESCO. You can imagine how they manage to get the scholarships. You can’t easily write an application and get accepted if you’re not backed by an organization. That’s a common criteria in most of the universities and sponsoring organizations.” Mr. Tetero said.

“What Rwanda Young Water professionals provide is the backup for you to get admitted and the fact that we have tried to strengthen the network to make it internationally recognisable, It allows whenever someone applies for a scholarship, they get accepted” He added.

“Today Young Water Professional is branded as a chapter of the International Water Association. It’s not that straightforward. In Africa, only two chapters are accredited: South Africa and Rwanda.” Mr. Tetero revealed.

He said that among the benefits of joining the young water professional network is that many people are able to continue gaining more experience through knowledge sharing or through the extension of their academic studies.

“When you see how people shift from point A to B, I was referring to most of those who went through that journey. We have like more than 6 who are doing PhDs who went from that process.” He said.

“We have more than currently around 10 doing their masters, mostly in the UK, The Netherlands and the US. Some of them you already know. But there were many PhDs last time you saw this. Our benefit is to see how people are graduating and becoming experts.” He added.

Tapping into the the entrepreneurship access of the Young Water professional network

On the part of GGGI, it is time to enter the entrepreneurship access of the Young Water professional Rwanda.

According to GGGI Rwanda Country Representative, Okechukwu Daniel Ogbonnaya, the conference values the linkage between water, energy, and food in a changing climate. 

He said that “It brings to light the key areas of focus already mentioned in regards to what GGGI is doing.

GGGI Rwanda Country Representative, Okechukwu Daniel Ogbonnaya

 

However, Mr. Okechukwu reminded that “The work of leveraging the value that nature based solutions can play in areas like flood risk management, disaster risk reduction, while enhancing the availability and quality of water for productive use in agriculture, and renewable energy production have never been under emphasis.”

He told young water Professionals that they are a member of a network that has given them an opportunity not only to learn, but also to network and put into action. 

“The challenge to you is what more can you do to really make good use of this opportunity. Listening to the story of how this network was set up is really showing the fact that anything is possible.” He said.

“Looking at what you have already achieved in the stages, I don’t believe that the next stages will be even much greater.” Mr. Okechukwu said.

“I want to encourage you to learn more and to act more with your ability and your capabilities because they are sufficient. And I just want to congratulate you once again for this anniversary and I look forward to the continued partnership with GGGI” He concluded.

Current work of Global Water Partnership Rwanda

As revealed by Benigne Ishimwe, the Global Water Partnership Rwanda is conducting various activities. 

“This conference is also one of the activities, which is part of the themes of the Global Water Partnership Rwanda, knowledge sharing and bringing together the various stakeholders but also apart from that we are currently implementing the Global Water leadership, which is a programme that’s being implemented not only in Rwanda, but also in 10 different other countries, low middle income countries, and currently it’s being implemented in Rwanda in close partnership with the government through the Rwanda Water Resources Board, and different other stakeholders.” She said,

She added that “The Global Water Leadership Programme is also in regards to leadership around water but also bringing the WASH and water resources management together to actually tackle the issues around water.”

“So the message for the young people is that you are capable and then you have the knowledge, you have the energy, you have the passion, come and contribute. Don’t sit and wait to be called. Actually get up and get out and contribute because the country needs you. The sector needs you. “ she concludes.

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