Alumni Refresher Course in Kenya

From 16 to 20 November Dr. Paolo Paron and Dr. Luigia Brandimarte from IHE Delft, Daniel Olago from the University of Nairobi and 23 participants from different countries in Africa contributed to the successful implementation of the Refresher Course on 'Understanding, monitoring and controlling water/sediment dynamics for river basin management'.

The dynamic interplay between physical and human processes is crucial in shaping the features and characteristics of a river basin and that is even more relevant when intense water/sediment dynamics are taking place. The main goal of this refresher course was to widen the spectrum of knowledge of participants, with a more interdisciplinary view on physical and human interactions and, at the same time, update alumni on new developments and latest (low-cost) technologies in the field of sediment budget assessment and river training and provide a systematic understanding of the water and sediments dynamics.

The course was structured around 4 main themes
A. Being aware of physical and human processes
B. Identifying water and sediments interactions
C. Tools to control and manage river basin dynamics
D. New low cost technologies for monitoring river basin dynamics

Participants showed great interest in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles –UAV- to monitor sediment dynamics and, in general, on their applications in hydraulic engineering.
During our field visit at the SEKU South Eastern Kenya University, in the Kitui county, potentialities of a low cost drone were tested to derived the local topography of a confluence between two streams. Images taken by the drone were then processed in class by students who appreciated the hands on approach to explore this new technique.

In the closing session many alumni expressed their will to start using the new tools in their fields of work, than spans from Environmental Protection to Hydraulic Engineering, in both private and public sectors.

Special evening session on 'Women in Engineering'

During the course a special evening session on 'Women in Engineering' was organised, as a way to address gender issues.

All participants and lecturers attended the session which started with Dr. Luigia Brandimarte from IHE Delft, showing some facts and figures about the position, role, status of women in science and then sharing her experience as a female engineer and a scientist working in the water sector. Luigia discussed different levels of gender inequality, from the recruitment phase to career development and maternity leave.

After this introduction, they had the experience of two guests from Nairobi: Ms. Martha Jepkirui and Ms. Jennifer Musyoki, two young and talented civil engineers working for the Water Resource Management Authority and in the private sector, respectively. Martha main point was that she feels she always has to prove to her male colleagues that she is capable of taking responsibilities and challenging tasks; Jennifer mentioned that being an engineer seems not to be the main ambition of young girls and that society does not portrait engineers as young women, so she suggested that we need to provide the young generation role models and inspiration.

An interesting discussion followed after these three talks and many male participants agreed with the need for a societal shift in valuing the need to have more female engineers and in general the need for a shift towards a new understanding of some careers that have been traditionally a male domain. Female participants mentioned their own experience and different situations in different African countries were compared; male colleagues mentioned that as a parent they feel the responsibility to raise their children free of stereotypes.


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