Building Capacity in Water Engineering for Addressing Sustainable Development Goals in East Africa (CAWESDEA) project is one of the five IDRC funded projects under the regional Strengthening Engineering Ecosystem in Sub-Saharan Africa Programme
The IDRC programme has the objective to explores on how STEM training and research can be more effective in achieving social and economic impact throughout the region. The five IDRC funded projects that were successful in the open call are:
i) Product Design in the Engineering Curriculum (led by University of Lagos in Nigeria)
ii) Building Capacity in Water Engineering for Addressing Sustainable Development Goals in East Africa (led by Tanzania Water Partnership in Tanzania)
iii) Supporting Leading Innovations in Water Resources (led by Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana)
iv) University Co-op Programs in East Africa (led by Science Technology and Innovation Policy Research Organization in Tanzania)
v) Supporting STEM Research Cultures in Africa with a focus on Computing (led by African Centre for Technology Studies and California Polytechnic in Kenya & USA)
The CAWESDEA project aims at strengthening the capacity of engineers in East Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) by enhancing their competency and employability to effectively meet the societal and developmental needs. The project focuses on the water sector and has a dedicated emphasis on addressing gender parity in the engineering profession. The CAWSDEA project has a broader objective of infusing innovative capacity building initiatives to address inadequacies in water related engineering fields in the East Africa region with the potential for upscaling to other regions. The project specifically aims to:
i) Assess the relevancy of water and related engineering education and training to the national and regional development goals
ii) Enhance innovative skills delivery approaches in engineering training focusing on students and faculty in the water sector
iii) Support ongoing initiatives targeting to increase the number, skills and experience of female engineers in the water sector
iv) Share lessons from the project for scaling up in engineering education and training in the water sector and networking with the industry
The core activity of the project is anchored on a six (6) month internship programme for fresh engineering graduates (in any of the engineering disciplines related to water sector) at Bachelor (BSc) or Masters (MSc) level. Each partnering country interviewed and selected seven (7) interns who were placed in leading firms in the water sector in their respective countries. The interns have been exposed to new technological insights in their respective professions under supervision of a national Coordinator from respective partnering Universities and skilled engineers at the host firm. The main focus and thrust of the programme is imparting and improving skills of the fresh engineers with the view to inculcate entrepreneurship mindset as well as increase their employability in the labour market.
The CAWESDEA project is being implemented by Moi University in Kenya, University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Makerere University in Uganda and led by Tanzania Water Partnership. The project aims at building capacity in water engineering for advancing sustainable Development Goals in East Africa. The project has sponsored 7 interns (fresh graduate engineers) in Uganda for a period of about six months. Due to COVID pandemic, there was flexibility to accommodate the associated impacts and hence some interns took longer than six months to complete the internship training. These interns where attached to different host institutions where they undertook innovative projects under the supervision of the Country Coordinator and resident engineers at respective host institutions. This project has enabled students to acquire skills and knowledge - not only building the skills and knowledge of the fresh graduate engineers as well as improving their confidence in addressing challenges in the water sector. So far, as university, we always teach students but the CAWESDEA internship has enabled the interns to apply what they learned in class in solving real engineering problems. As per their testimonials, the interns really enjoyed the training session because they have been able to interact and learn from the industry while noting their inherent contribution in real life situations. The internship training has also enabled them to acquire skills in writing both technical and research articles as they all have been prepared and trained to publish their project work in a special issue of a scientific journal. This is a very big experience to the freshly graduated engineers given the fact that most of those who publish in scientific journal have often been post-graduates. As supervisors, we have really enjoyed seeing the freshly graduate engineers - scaling from dust to great and from theory to practice.
In Kenya, the activities of CAWESDEA project began in November-December 2018 with preparations of the nationwide situation analysis exercise which was conducted between February and March 2019. The data obtained was analyzed and reported. A rigorous and competitive process followed thereafter which successfully identified suitable candidates to fill the seven positions in the internship programme. After the project inception workshop held in September 2019 in Dar Es Salaam, the interns were attached to reputable engineering firms where they reported in diverse dates due to logistical reasons. A resident engineer in the firm worked closely with each intern. Project team members made two supervisory follow ups visits to industry during the period. At the end of the internship, the beneficiaries were taken through a three-day writeshop that was intended to enhance their reporting and scientific writing skills. An analysis to establish gender perspectives with regard to engineering education, employability trends, and productivity, was conducted. The findings and way forward were discussed in a two-day gender capacity workshop. The situation analysis exercise revealed a workforce skewed towards male engineers in numbers, positions and expertise. Fresh graduates lacked key professional skills as well as transferrable skills such as effective communication, timeliness and entrepreneurship. These deficiencies were identified as training needs and were emphasized during the internship process. The university will also consider them during future curriculum reviews. At the end of the internship programme, a number of beneficiaries secured jobs while some were pursuing professional registration owing to the projects they participated in and the experiences they acquired. One paper had been published in a refereed journal and a number were planned for a special issue. Preliminary findings from the gender analysis exercise suggested a lack of equity and portrayed the position of female engineers as inconsequential in the water sector. Numerous factors that included domestic responsibilities, attitude towards the contribution of women and inadequate policies emerged as possible challenges that inhibit academic and professional progression of female engineers. The approaches to adequately address these issues were discussed in the gender capacity training. The aforementioned achievements would not have been possible without the immense support from IDRC and Tanzania Water Partnership (TWP) team under the visionary leadership of Dr. Victor Kongo. The project team at Moi University, comprising of Ednah Kemboi, Gilbert Nyandwaro and Dr. Job Rotich Kosgei, extend their gratitude to Prof. (Eng.) Emmanuel Kipkorir, Eng. Noah Sum, Prof. Joel Kibiiy and Prof. Catherine Kiprop for various roles played during this project. The interns: Joseph Kisia, Mercy Mwangi, Dennis Kiamba, Nureen Adhiambo, Dolphin Teyo, Purity Jeptum and Joshua Kibii displayed their various strengths and abilities in science, engineering and technology. This is well appreciated by the project team. The country coordinators, Dr. Subira Munishi of University of Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) and Dr. (Eng.) Jotham Sempewo from Makerere Univerity (Uganda) displayed great leadership skills in the implementation of this project and those efforts deserve recognition.