ARUA Water Centre of Excellence Development: "Water for African SDGs"

Lead Research Organisation: Rhodes University
Department Name: Institute for Water Research


Where: SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), U (university), CoE (Centre of Excellence), CSES(Complex Social-Ecological System) & landscape/catchment/watershed: synonymous.
The "Water for African SDGs" project will establish & develop the ARUA Water CoE as an effective, high-performance, hub & network of 8 African Universities' researchers & post graduate students. CoE research development will be based on understanding humans living on earth as the intricate coupling of society with the natural world - CSESs. We will forefront community engagement & knowledge sharing for sustainability. We will use research to catalyse change towards social and ecological justice and sustainability, paying attention to African community water and sanitation needs.
The Water CoE has developed a systemic image of the SDGs as a planning, practice & evaluation tool. The image has SDG 6, Clean water & sanitation, at the centre, linking two primary water cycles: i) Water in a Catchment (rainfall, run-off, ground water recharge, evapo-transpiration, evaporation); & ii) Water Services - supply & sanitation (raw water from the natural resource, often in dams, pipes & pumps to water treatment works, treated potable water to households, waste water to treatment works & discharge into the natural resource).
Several nodes place their water research in a climate change context (SDG 13), and acknowledge that water is integral to SDG 15 (life on land), 11 (sustainable cities & communities), & 12 (responsible consumption & production), Effective water resource management, supply and sanitation requires good water governance by strong institutions (SDG 16). The Water CoE itself embodies SDGs 17 (partnerships to reach goals), 4 (quality education) & 5 (gender equality).
Each CoE node has strengths in different parts of these cycles. This project brings together strengths, so nodes can flexibly link & respond innovatively to research funding calls, & effectively apply research. Capacity-building, exchanges and mentorship will mainly be addressed through the development & delivery of a 3-day course by each node, to 14 participants from 3-5 other nodes. Participants will be doctoral students, early-, mid-career & established researchers. Nodes will host a course on their primary strength, nodes will co-develop courses out of secondary strengths.
In Year 1, the hub (Rhodes U), will deliver a core foundation course to 3 delegates from each node (total 21), on Adaptive Integrated Water Resources Management (A-IWRM), including the CSES concept, transdisciplinarity and water governance. Node courses will run over Years 1 & 2, and an early identification of course areas is: Landscape restoration & catchment water use (Addis Ababa U, Ethiopia), hydrology, geohydrology & hydraulic regimes for IWRM (U Dar es Salaam, Tanzania), optimising benefit from dams (Cheikh Anta Dio U, Senegal), biodiversity, natural resource management, water-energy-food nexus (U Rwanda), urban water pollution (U Lagos, Nigeria), urban water quality design (U Cape Town, South Africa), & water in future cities (Makarere U, Uganda). Course days will include time to work on research proposals. In Year 3, activities will focus on grant applications and a Water CoE delegation attending a relevant international conference to present the outcomes of the whole project.
Over the 3-year period, each node will have one opportunity to invite/visit an international specialist, & by the end of year 3 at least 3 collaborative research projects will be running, each progressing an SDG challenge-area. Spin-off companies in water & sanitation could be emerging, and each node will have community-based water and/or sanitation impact successes. At least 24 early career researchers and 24 doctoral students will be mentored through the CoE. We will demonstrate the clear emergence of an African water research cohort, addressing water-related SDGs, with positive outcomes and impact.

Planned Impact

This UKRI project does not deliver research, it delivers the development of African-African research teams, networks and connections. However the courses each Water CoE node chooses to deliver will be linked to African case studies, and as teams secure funds, impacts in those case-study areas will be indirect impacts arising from this project. The CoE has 8 nodes in 7 countries: Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda. (South Africa has 2 nodes) 1) Directs benefits. The project will deliver into the knowledge economy of each country. At least: (8x3) 24 early career researchers, (8x3)24 doctoral students, (8x15) 120 participant places on courses, (8x3) 24 collaborative grant proposals submitted, (8x1) 8 in-country research projects initiated. ; (8x1) 8 on-the-ground African communities with measurable benefits accrued from research initiated as a result of UKRI collaboration and capacity building.
2) Indirect benefits: The research project initiated in each country is likely to be located in the case study used for the course delivered. Each research project will deliver on-the-ground social, ecological and economic impact. At this stage these indirect impacts can only be described in general terms. Ethiopia: Landscape restoration will deliver food security impacts, specifically from increased high-value range/grass-fed beef production. Nigeria and South Africa (i): improved urban water quality management will reduce the cost of water treatment & reduce contamination-related health risks. Rwanda: improved efficiencies in irrigated agricultural crop production will improve food security. Senegal: improved choices for water-use from large dams will mean less water and energy will deliver more food, with less ecological impact. South Africa: ii) Increased participation by civil society in water governance will improve social connectivity and deepen democracy in a water management system and reduce water protests. Tanzania: Hydrological modelling with deliver more efficient water resource planning. Uganda: A community-based water project will deliver a more reliable potable water supply and improved sanitation.
The best assurance that impact will materialise is the research approach and methodology adopted by the CoE. Engaged, transdisciplinary action research methodology means research questions are developed with stakeholder water-users, who will benefit from the research. Researchers will both share their knowledge, and learn from local stakeholders. A systemic approach will guard against unintended consequences. Reflexive praxis means researchers will learn by doing, and adapt to contextual changes, increasing the likelihood of retaining and growing trust and increasing the likelihood of positive social and ecological outcomes. Ethical praxis means careful attention is paid to eliminating extractive research, and ensuring communities actually derive benefit from research-engagement.


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