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Camaria Holder

Camira Holder

Project Engineer

Caribbean Water Treatment Ltd                                                         

 

Master of Integrated Water Management
(with Ken Thiess-GWP Scholarship)

Currently studying

 

Camaria's story

The critical principle which best guides my approach to leadership in water management, is that while challenges may be similar in nature; societal, environmental and geographical factors will often necessitate uniquely different solutions.

Very early in my career I was thrust into developing and executing field projects. In 2009, I targeted USAID funding to develop a system that demonstrated improved treatment of household sewage in the village of Codrington Barbuda, which is situated on an eco-sensitive lagoon. Over a nine-month period I integrated myself into the community and worked to gain trust and provide education on the effects that direct septic run-off had on the lagoon. At its conclusion, the motivated community pooled resources to help build and test a raised sand filter which provided secondary septic treatment. The success of this project and the impact I witnessed drove me to take on even greater leadership roles. 

As I developed greater aptitude, I began working with Water Utilities across the Caribbean to increase their ability to meet growing consumer demand with energy efficient solutions that deliver quantity and quality potable water.  I have supervised feed well construction, infrastructure and equipment installation and participated in operator training.  I successfully manage the maze of relationships these project entail and ensure that each one is delivered on time and budget.

Then, in 2013 when I went into Haiti to manage the Water Operations Unit of a start-up business, I was confronted by even greater water management challenges that were unique to the impoverished local communities.  This experience helped me to cement where I’d like to settle in the water world and further use my leadership to impact change.

 "I will continue to address wastewater management issues and work towards empowering disadvantaged communities to embrace change and adopt healthier practices."

Taking an interdisciplinary approach to water management

After working exclusively in the private sector as a water engineer, I was often motivated to find solutions that resulted in the best capital benefit when addressing critical issues.  However, I have come to appreciate that creating lasting impact and improving the water sector as a whole requires collaboration. Moreover, since water touches the very core of every aspect of our lives, it is evident that cross-disciplinary cooperation is vital to success.

This became extremely clear to me while preparing the UN Water Mid-term Report on Antigua’s adherence to the MDGs. The data gathering process involved meetings with representatives from diverse backgrounds, including the government, key businesses, environmental groups and local communities. While it was easier to see how engineering and the sciences factored into water management decisions, I tended to overlook the political, legal and cultural aspects. However, on closer examination of the stakeholders who could ultimately fuel or defeat proposed solutions, it became clearer that each individual group needs to be brought into discussions from the inception. I found that government officials were focused on budgetary constraints and satisfying the electorate, whereas utility managers were motivated by meeting the demand with ailing infrastructure while simultaneously dealing with limited finances from low tariffs. Contrastingly, local communities only saw how their everyday lives were impeded or could be improved.

To encourage cross-sectoral involvement we all brought these stakeholder groups into roundtable discussions and encouraged them to examine the current issues from a holistic point-of-view. My greatest takeaway from these discussions was that water leaders with interdisciplinary training are better equipped to see the entire cycle rather than fragments of it; and thus they can capably address competing interests and present better solutions.  This realisation was my catalyst to aspiring to become a well-rounded leader in my field.

Beginning the MIWM journey

In 2013, while deploying water kiosks in peri-urban Haiti, I was confronted with social, political and cultural issues that challenged me to rethink the predetermined solution I had developed prior to arriving in country. While I’m a proficient engineer, I still lack the skill set that would allow me to navigate these unique circumstances; and I have concluded that I would need to undertake specialised training to complement my engineering background and position me to confidently take a leading role in other similarly complex water projects.

The content and structure of the MIWM will prepare me to enter other eco-sensitive, high poverty, under-developed communities with projects that promote community involvement, disseminate knowledge and aid in sustainable wealth creation. Post-graduation I plan to target funding opportunities that would seed the development of ventures that address wastewater treatment and hygiene in highly populated urban areas and the treatment and reuse in agricultural zones. To this end, I have identified potential partners with whom I hope to build two separate projects to address the treatment of trucked sewage that is currently being dumped in a local landfill and distillery vinasse which has for decades been disposed of directly into the St. John’s Harbor.

In addition to the taught material, interaction with colleagues from varied professional backgrounds should enhance my learning experience; while field trips would facilitate the hands-on and practical assessment of critical areas of interest within the water sector. After completing the MIWM I would be better equipped to utilise proven scientific methodologies to investigate issues, conduct impact assessments and provide leadership in achieving change. I look forward to continued work that employs better management strategies and produce more effective results that would ultimately benefit vulnerable communities.

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The International WaterCentre Master of Integrated Water Management creates water leaders by drawing on international teaching and research from many fields to provide a transdisciplinary, whole-of-water-cycle approach to water management.  

IWC International Scholarships to study the Master of Integrated Water Management in 2018 are currently open, learn more and apply here.

 

IWC Masters Scholarships

 

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