Water Science Cooperation for Human Capital Development
On Friday 12 June over 70 delegates attended a flagship workshop on Water Science Cooperation for Human Capital Development at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). Dhesigen Naidoo, CEO of the Water Research Commission (WRC), presented the South African perspective on Water Resources and Human Capital development and Dr. Pierre Lemande, attaché for Science and Technology of the French Embassy in SA focused on French co-operation within the science field. Other prominent speakers were Prof Thierry Lebel (IRD), Prof Graham Jewitt (UKZN) and Dr Vincent Chaplot (IRD), who presented best practices for WRC-funded research and human capacity development and focused specifically on the research and lessons learned from the Potshini Experimental Catchment project in KwaZulu-Natal. Organisations represented at the workshop were the WRC, Department of Science and Technology (DST), Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), The Embassy of France in South Africa, Institut de Recherce pour le développement (IRD; Institute of Research for Development), University of KwaZulu-Natal, ESASTAP (Strengthening Technology, Research and Innovation Cooperation between Europe and South Africa) and Alliance France Durban.
The main objectives of the dialogue were to share experiences in best management and human capital development (HCD) practices for water-related WRC research projects and to explore opportunities to strengthen the international cooperation in science research to be developed particularly through H2020 and EUREKA. A third objective was to discuss cooperation between South Africa and France in water research within the COP21 framework.
The Republic of South Africa, through DST, promotes and facilitates national and international cooperation in science and technology to enable the exchange of knowledge and to develop capacity specifically in research and development. The value of such international cooperation is reflected through a longstanding bilateral agreement between France and South Africa in which French researchers are deployed to work in South Africa with local researchers to advance science and enhance human capital development. The success of these partnerships is embodied in the area of water research, in which researchers from the French IRD were seconded to UKZN to contribute to ongoing soil water studies, most notably the jointly-led WRC-funded research project titled 'Water, sediment, nutrient and organic carbon fluxes in small-scale agriculture landscapes'. This and other related projects built on and strengthened ongoing research at UKZN by investigating a new and important research question on the role of water movements in the global carbon cycle with implications for water scarcity, water quality, food security and climate change.
These WRC-funded projects are conducted in the Potshini experimental catchment near Bergville (KwaZulu-Natal), which was set up under the Smallholder System Innovations (SSI) project with funding from The Netherlands Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). In extending the soil water studies, the principal investigator, Dr Vincent Chaplot, recruited BSc (Hons), MSc and PhD students from diverse backgrounds, and trained them under a co-supervision arrangement with UKZN.
The resulting strong scientific grounding of the students, prolific publication records and the investigation of new scientific questions within the context of South Africa, highlight the importance of sharing local and international expertise and promoting international cooperation in advancing science and human capital development in developing countries. Issues of water management, natural resources and the environment are global challenges highlighted by climate change impacts. Basic research on climate change, water resources, the development of new technologies on water supply and sanitation, as well as innovation in the field of water use are crucial to tackle global changes. Consequently, academics, research institutes and the private sector are focused on more and more international and integrated cooperation.
H2020 European Research programmes, as well as the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (CoP 21) in Paris are opportunities to highlight and enhance the cooperation between France and South Africa in this regard. Opportunities within H2020 and EUREKA – a key European driven-market programme, were presented by ESASTAP Plus partners. This dialogue was an official side event to the UNESCO conference “Our Common Future under Climate Change”.
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