Jeltsje Kemerink - Seyoum PhD

Senior Lecturer in Water Governance


Jeltsje Sanne Kemerink-Seyoum is a water engineer and a social scientist. She holds the position of Senior Lecturer in Water Governance in the department of Integrated Water Systems and Governance at the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education. Jeltsje has nearly fiveteen years professional experience in research, teaching and project management.

The research of Jeltsje mainly focuses on the critical analysis of policy interventions within the agricultural water domain. In particular, Jeltsje studies the everyday practices of water use and the negotiations over water allocations between farmers in rural catchments and how these are affected by water reform processes. In her work she pays explicit attention to processes of social differentiation, in particular gender and race. Based on empirical research in four African countries, Jeltsje successfully defended her PhD dissertation in December 2015 at Delft University of Technology.

In her research Jeltsje adopts an interdisciplinary approach in which she considers water distributions as the outcome of interactions between nature, technologies and society. Currently she is particularly interested in understanding what water infrastructure is and what it does within these interactions. For this purpose she studies in detail the everyday practices of engineers, operators and water users who engage with (subsurface and groundwater) irrigation systems.

In addition, Jeltsje is (or has been) involved in interdisciplinary research on the distribution of flood risk in society; the implications of climate financing mechanisms on access to land and water; and provision of water in small towns located at the rural-urban intersection. Since 2018 she is the Subject Editor on water governance for the peer-reviewed journal Water SA.

Besides her research activities, Jeltsje is a member of the programmatic collaboration between the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and IHE Delft and as such involved in the determining and monitoring the strategic of the programme (DGIS, 24 million euro). Moreover, she has been involved as project manager in a large-scale capacity development projects in the field of water and environmental management in amongst others Rwanda, Zimbabwe and South Africa, including coordinating the collaboration with WaterNet, a network of more than 70 universities and institutes in eastern and southern Africa that aim to strengthen educational and research capacity in the field of water management. In addition, she has been involved in a climate change adaptation advisory project on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe for which she facilitates the stakeholder consultation meetings. Moreover, Jeltsje supports the activities of,

As lecturer Jeltsje has experience in delivering courses on various subjects including water governance, public participation, institutional analysis, legal pluralism and research methodology for qualitative social sciences. In 2011 she successfully obtained her University Teaching Qualification. Jeltsje actively supervised MSc and PhD students in their thesis research on water governance related case studies in Ethiopia, Jordan, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

For several years Jeltsje is an active member of the Water Management and Governance Master Programme Committee and as such she has played twice a key role in the successful reaccreditation process of the programme. Currently she coordinates the flexible study profiles with the Master programme and coaches students to choose a study trajectory that suits their educational needs.

Jeltsje has held the position of Project Officer in the Office of the Director of IHE Delft from 2005 to 2008 in which she has gained extensive experience in acquisition, management and monitoring & evaluation of research and capacity building projects. She was involved in the successful acquisition and contract negotiation of different multi-million euro projects for various clients (e.g. World Bank, UNDP, UNEP, EC, DGIS, Sida) in different parts of the world.

In addition to her position at IHE Delft, Jeltsje is a visiting researcher at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research of the University of Amsterdam and she has been appointed as an affiliated faculty member of the Oregon State University in the United States of America. Before Jeltsje started working at IHE Delft she conducted research assignments for amongst others Deltares and IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre. 


PhD dissertation:

Kemerink, J.S. (2015) Policies lost in translation? Unravelling water reform processes in African waterscapes. PhD dissertation, Delft University of Technology. Leiden: Taylor and Francis. ISBN: 978-1-138-02943-9


Articles in refereed journals:

Kemerink-Seyoum, J.S., T.M. Tadesse, W.K. Mersha, A.E.C. Duker, C. De Fraiture (2018) Sharing benefits or fueling conflicts? The elusive quest for organizational blue-prints in climate financed forestry projects in Ethiopia. Global Environmental Change 53: 265–272

Duker A.E.C., T. M. Tadesse, T. Soentoro, C. de Fraiture and J. S. Kemerink-Seyoum (2018) The implications of ignoring smallholder agriculture in climate-financed forestry projects: empirical evidence from two REDD+ pilot projects. Climate Policy [DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2018.1532389]

Zwarteveen, M., J.S. Kemerink-Seyoum, et al. (2017) Engaging with the politics of water Governance. WIREs Water, e01245 [DOI: 10.1002/wat2.1245]

Kemerink-Seyoum, J.S., N.L. T. Chinguno, S.D. Seyoum, R. Ahlers, P. van der Zaag (2017) Jumping the water queue: changing waterscapes under water reform processes in rural Zimbabwe. Water SA 43(3): 423-432 [DOI:]

Mendez, L. E., J.S. Kemerink, P. Wester, F. Molle (2016) The quest for water: Strategizing water control and circumventing reform in rural South Africa. International Journal on Water Resource Development [DOI: 10.1080/07900627.2016.1253544]

Kemerink, J.S., S.N. Munyao, K. Schwartz, R. Ahlers, P. van der Zaag (2016) Why infrastructure still matters: unravelling water reform processes in an uneven waterscape in rural Kenya. International Journal of the Commons 10(2): 1055–1081.

Di Baldassarre, G., J. S. Kemerink, M. Kooy, L. Brandimarte (2014) Floods and Societies: the Spatial Distribution of Water-related Disaster Risk and its Dynamics. WIREs Water 1(2):133-139.

Di Baldassarre, G., M. Kooy, J. S. Kemerink, L. Brandimarte (2013) Towards understanding the dynamic behaviour of floodplains as human-water systems. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss. 10: 3869–3895. [DOI:10.5194/hessd-10-3869-2013]

Kemerink, J.S., L. E. Mendez, R. Ahlers, P. van der Zaag (2013) The question of inclusion and representation in rural South Africa: challenging the concept of Water User Associations as a vehicle for transformation. Water Policy 15: 243–257. [DOI:10.2166/wp.2012.127]

Komakech, H.C., P. van der Zaag, M. L. Mul, T.A. Mwakalukwa, J.S. Kemerink (2012) Formalization of water allocation systems and impacts on local practices in the Hingilili subcatchment, Tanzania. International Journal of River Basin Management, 10 (3): 213-227. [DOI:10.1080/15715124.2012.664774].

Kemerink, J.S., R. Ahlers, P. van der Zaag (2011) Contested water right in post-apartheid South-Africa: the struggle for water at catchment level. Water SA, 37 (4): 585-594. [DOI:

Mul, M.L., J.S. Kemerink, N.F. Vyagusa, M.G. Mshana, P. van der Zaag, and H. Makurira (2011) Water allocation practices among smallholder farmers in the South Pare Mountains, Tanzania; can they be up-scaled? Agricultural Water Management 98(11): 1752-1760. [DOI:10.1016/j.agwat.2010.02.014]

Kemerink, J.S., R. Ahlers, P. van der Zaag (2009) Assessment of the potential for hydro-solidarity in plural legal condition of traditional irrigation systems in northern Tanzania. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 34: 881-889. [DOI:10.1016/j.pce.2009.06.012]


Chapters in books:

Kemerink, J.S., D. Mbuvi, Schwartz, K. (2012) Governance shifts in the water services sector: a case study of the Zambia water services sector. In Katko T., Juuti P.S. and Schwartz K. (eds) Water Services Management and Governance: Lessons for a Sustainable Future. IWA Publishing: 3-11.


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