- Research project
- – Western Pacific
Najibullah Loodin from Afghanistan and Annelise Herman from Belgium have been selected as the Master of Integrated Water Management international scholarship recipients for 2020.
Dr Brian S McIntosh, the International WaterCentre’s Director of Education, headed the scholarship selection panel, who worked through the hundreds of scholarship applications. “We had a very high-quality field of applicants this year, which made the evaluation and decision process particularly difficult,” says Dr McIntosh.
“Both winners stood out in terms of their scholarship applications. Najibullah is focussed on water resource management, flood risk management and social justice. He also founded an NGO in Herat that works with street children. Annelise has a biotechnology background and a diverse range of interests and passions, including water security, water governance and water foot printing. We are very excited to welcome them to our next cohort of future water leaders.”
Najibullah is from Afghanistan in Central Asia, a region rich with history. Prehistoric sites suggest that humans were living in what is now Afghanistan at least 50,000 years ago, and that farming communities in the area were among the earliest in the world. The country sits at a unique nexus point where numerous civilizations have interacted and often fought.
Afghanistan is now home to almost 36 million people, with 79% people living in rural areas. Despite having a large amount of available water resources, the country lacks the integrated water resource planning and necessary infrastructure to address the country’s water needs in the short, medium or long terms.
“According to the Hydrate Life, around 27% of the country’s population have access to improved water resources, but the estimates decline to 20% in rural area of Afghanistan, which is the lowest percentage in the world,” says Najibullah.
“After four decades of civil unrest in the country, water infrastructure in Afghanistan has been severely damaged. In addition, the decades of civil war have resulted in Afghanistan’s exclusion from trans-boundary water resource treaties and accords during and after the Soviet era in Central Asia. Objectively speaking, Afghanistan does not have a strong voice in hydro-politics compared to other Central Asian countries, such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, when it comes to trans-boundary water resources negotiation. This is because the country lacks water resource experts and water policy makers to address the issue of regional water cooperation.”
“Considering all of this, and the fact that my country lacks a holistic approach to tackling the issue of water resource planning and management, I have decided to further my understanding of water policy and management in Afghanistan. That pushed me to apply for the International WaterCentre’s scholarship to study integrated water resource management in Australia.”
Najibullah is confident that the Master of Integrated Water Management program will help him to develop a deep understanding of integrated water resource management, and he is already looking forward, to completing his degree and returning to Afghanistan to build local capacity.
“After completing the master’s program at the International WaterCentre, I will return to my home country where I work as the Deputy Minister of Water Sector to the Ministry of Energy and Water of Afghanistan and I am quite sure that I will be pushing forward the national agenda of the country’s water planning and management in a more effective way. Further, I will be leading the Inter-Ministerial Committee of National Water Resources Management, which addresses the issue of sustainable water management and planning in Afghanistan.”
Najibullah hopes to learn from Australia’s examples of water resource management and apply those ideas back home. “Australia is one of the best countries in water resource management and planning. I would like to visit the country’s water infrastructures and learn how Australians apply sustainable water management in agriculture. I would also like to learn more about the application of innovative technologies in water resource management and planning and how such innovative technologies help Australia became one of the leading countries in sustainable water management.”
“As non-academic work, I look forward to engaging with the local people and communities and learning more about [the Australian] people’s culture and sharing Afghan culture and traditions with them.”
Annelise, who grew up in Belgium in Western Europe, has always known that she wanted to work protect the environment. But it wasn’t until she visited Brazil as part of a student exchange program and she was confronted for the first time with real water scarcity that she settled on a career in the water sector.
She says her time in Brazil was her lightbulb moment. “That is when I decided to dedicate myself to solve water issues. After Brazil, I moved to the Netherlands, where the ‘blue gold’ is in abundance, to gain more practical expertise in water treatment and management. With my enthusiasm and creativity, I want to do my bit to make the world water wiser.”
After two years of working in the Dutch water sector as an environmental technologist, mainly with DNA -technologies for rapid microbial water quality testing, Annelise applied for the Master of Integrated Water Management program at the International WaterCentre, so that she could develop a deeper understanding of the water cycle and all its interdependencies.
“I wanted to learn more about how to develop adequate governance and management of the resource, and learn how to set up and manage projects with an integrated approach, which would enable me to engage people with different, or no, interests [in water]. I think the program will help me to become a more complete water professional, having the tools and knowledge not only to have an advisory position on the technical aspects of water management, but also on the broader approach of project management.”
Annelise said she chose to study at the International WaterCentre after extensively researching postgraduate water programs across the world.
“For me, the International WaterCentre’s program is unique because it brings all the aspects of water management together. The very practical approach of the program is also very important to me. I look forward to having discussions with the professors and fellow students and learning from each other. The international student cohort also appealed to me. I know I can learn from people from different cultures and countries where water management is organised in different ways to what I know.”
“I think the International WaterCentre will open doors for me to work in some international organisations, for sure. I want to go further with my ambition to work in the WASH sector. I am convinced that the program will change me and I hope that after completing the program I will have more impact on how people look at, live with and work with water.”
Annelise plans to move to Australia at the start of next year to begin the program. She’s excited at the prospect of exploring the local fauna and flora and experiencing Australian culture.
“The Australian people and culture are quite unknown to me, but I have heard from some friends that Australians are quite relaxed people with whom you feel easily comfortable with, so I am looking forward to meeting Australians and other people living there and learning about their way of living.“
“However, one guy I met last week made said to be careful of going into the Australian outback, since ‘he almost died 5 times’ and said I should make sure to have always enough water with me. But I am always up for an adventure!”
To find out more about becoming a leader who understands how to manage social, economic, ecological, and engineering dimensions to effectively address complex sustainable development challenges that have water at their core, visit the Master of Integrated Water Management program page.
About the author: Brett Richards is the Marketing and Communications Director at the International WaterCentre.