The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is considered the most water-scarce region globally. The region is grappling with complex water problems such as limited freshwater sources and climate change, all while facing a continuously growing population. Egypt finds itself at the heart of this water dynamic. For all water experts, this is a region where you can immerse yourself in water-related challenges. So it’s not surprising that the Wetskills Young Experts Knowledge Exchange Programme found its home base in bustling Cairo this past February-March.

Dedicated working to a single task

Wetskills brings together young professionals and students to tackle real-life water challenges in a unique setting. The programme isn’t just training; it’s an experience. Johan Oost, Managing Director of the Wetskills Foundation, emphasises, “In two weeks, intercultural water teams work together on a case from local and international sector partners. They are encouraged to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions. The programme provides the teams with an outline of some training and activities, giving them freedom and responsibilities. This approach leads to creative solutions and fresh perspectives emerging, while friendships are also built. Where else do you have the luxury of dedicating two weeks to one task with other enthusiastic peers?”

Funding through Partners for Water

Egypt is one of the seven countries in the delta country approach of the Partners for Water (PfW) programme 2022–2027. The Partners for Water bilateral water cooperation involves various representatives from the Dutch and Egyptian governments. The idea for a Wetskills event in Egypt was proposed two years ago by a Wetskills alumni, Dr Alia Amer. At that time, two other events were planned in the MENA region, in Jordan and Palestine. After some consideration, Egypt was chosen as the February-March 2024 destination for Wetskills. The programme was also primarily funded by PfW and co-organised by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Cairo.

The power of influencing

For the first time in Wetskills’ history, the organisation experienced the power of influencer marketing when an Egyptian influencer with an extensive reach promoted the programme. The number of applications for Wetskills in the MENA region skyrocketed as a result. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t accommodate all interested parties in this Wetskills event, but it demonstrates how we can leverage social media for our programme,” Johan Oost said.

The grand finale at the Dutch Embassy

Over two weeks, four teams delved into four cases with various case owners.

  1. Better Irrigation Practices for the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation (MWRI) involved developing a 4-in-1 intelligent irrigation IoT system and application to address water shortage problems.
  2. Flash Flood Risk Reduction for the Water Resources Research Institute focused on a holistic approach, including enhanced monitoring, strategic land-use planning, flood preparedness, ecosystem conservation, and inter-authority collaboration.
  3. Water Footprint Compensation for the Water Footprint Implementation explored how Egypt could benefit from the concept of increasing water availability or quality.
  4. Increasing water availability for World Waternet proposed a solution for rainwater harvesting by capturing humid air for households in arid regions.

The teams presented their cases in a special workshop at the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. Around 70 people from the field, embassies, local partners, and the Wetskills programme attended. Case 4 was declared the winning case at this grand finale.

Ripple effect

Wetskills impacts participants and the local community not only directly but also through the creation of a ripple effect that extends beyond the programme’s duration. “Strong friendships and networks are built in two weeks, which persist after the programme ends. In addition to this natural effect, we also stimulate and monitor the follow-up of some of the ideas via an initiative called ‘WetsNext’. Plans are underway to return to Cairo to share results and set up new events.” Johan explains.

Partners for Water reflects on a successful event in a challenging Delta country!

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