Water sciences on two continents

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We are all familiar with the situation: we encounter a problem in our everyday lives for which we would really like to find a solution. Often many other people are also affected by the same problem. In Africa, for example, numerous people have no access to electricity – and yet some regions enjoy many hours of sunshine every day, which could be used to produce electricity. But how exactly can this energy be used? What infrastructure is needed? And what could be done to ensure a reliable water supply? How is climate change affecting Africa, and which possible solutions are there?

A university with sites across Africa

PAUWES student Anne Birundu

Many young people in Africa are searching for answers to these and other important questions and are keen to change things. It was long the case that they would leave the continent to attend universities and research institutions elsewhere – many of them never returning. In 2008, however, a new opportunity was opened up when the African Union (AU) founded a new university. The Pan African University (PAU) is a network of five thematic institutes at sites in Northern, Western, Eastern, Southern and Central Africa. The focus is on educating graduates and doctoral students, and on applied research – in cooperation with international partners.

Many German partners for water and energy research

Germany supports the Pan African University Institute of Water and Energy Sciences (incl. Climate Change) (PAUWES), which is based at the Abou-Bekr Belkaïd University in Tlemcen, Algeria. The areas of thematic focus at PAUWES are water, energy and climate change. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Involved in its implementation are the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the KfW Development Bank.

Valuable knowledge from the network

On the German side, the university cooperation with PAUWES is organised by a university consortium comprising the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn, the Institute for Technology and Resources Management in the Tropics and Subtropics (ITT) at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences and the Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) at the United Nations University.

Practical knowledge from a summer school

In 2015, students could apply to attend a summer school in Cologne and Bonn. PAUWES student Anne Birundu from Kenya was on the course and acquired some valuable experience. A graduate student in water engineering, she is currently writing her master’s thesis and for this purpose spent a number of weeks in Cologne again in the spring of 2016. We talked to her and asked what she believes are the advantages of studying at PAUWES.

Interview with Anne Birundu from Kenya

Ms Birundu, you conduct research into water at the Pan African University Institute of Water and Energy Sciences. What specific opportunities does PAUWES open up for you?

PAUWES and its affiliated partners organise workshops with experts around the world. This creates an avenue for networking with key players in the fields of water and energy.

Why is it an advantage – particularly in the field of water and energy – that PAUWES is promoted by Germany?

PAUWES is made up of a consortium of partners (ITT, ZEF and UNU-EHS) which are institutions of excellence. This made it possible for Germany to promote the institution.

What exactly is your scientific work about?

I am modelling the rainfall run-off hydrograph of the Mara River Basin in Kenya to determine the water balance at the basin.

You were in Germany in April 2016. What were you doing here and what do you like about researching in Germany?

I came to the Institute of Technology and Resources Management (ITT) at Cologne University of Applied Sciences to learn about water accounting and work on my research under the direct supervision of Professor Lars Ribbe, and also to interpret the satellite-observed data of the Mara River Basin. This data needs to be compared with the in-situ data that I will obtain in Kenya. Researching in Germany has made me focus on “simple” things that often tend to be overlooked, such as the water balance for example, which is the key to understanding how water basins respond to extreme situations of either high or low water levels.

Ms Birundu, thank you very much for the interview and good luck with your research.