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Press Release 
Stanley Liphadzi  
Building capacity through partnerships: WRC to implement FETWater Phase III programme

On Thursday 21 May 2014 a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement was signed between the Water Research Commission (WRC) and the Department of Water Affairs (DWA), appointing the WRC as the implementing agent for the Framework Programme for Education and Training in Water (FETWater) Phase III programme that will run until 30 September 2017. FETWater is a joint UNESCO, Belgian and South African knowledge transfer and capacity building programme linking learning resources and training capacity to integrated water resource management expertise in areas where they are needed most.

Going back to its beginnings in 2002 when it was formally launched by UNESCO, FETWater has utilised networks as mechanisms, to ensure collaboration, and to address particular capacity needs in the South African water sector.

In  1996,  the  Department  of  Water  Affairs  and  Forestry  requested  support  from  UNESCO to  assess  education  and  training  needs  for  integrated  water  resources  management  in  South Africa.  The limited capacity of the then Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) and the water sector in general, to implement the future National Water Act, was one of the main conclusions of the assessment. Hence, FETWater aimed to develop and transfer knowledge in order to build the critical mass of water scientists, and facilitate the process of implementing the Act. 

Having successfully completed its first two phases, FETWater has established seven networks:

·         Resource Directed Measures (RDM)

·         Groundwater Resource Directed Measures (GRDM)

·         Beneficial Use of Water (BUW)

·         Wetlands and Rivers (W & R)

·         Catchment Management Agencies (CMA) Expertise Development

·         Catchment Management Strategy (CMS) Development

·         Water-Related Disaster Management (WRDM)

Activities within these networks range from developing training materials and conducting training sessions; conducting capacity audits; and developing Masters level programmes as well as short courses for the training needs of professionals. Additionally, specific attention was also placed on developing a groundwater manual and accompanying software for the management of the resource by governmental officials; and training on the implementation and protection of estuarine environmental water requirements.

By the end of 2009, 1052 professionals in the South African water sector received training through the FETWater programme. Concurrently, a vast amount of training material has been produced, and two groundwater tests sites were developed at the universities of Pretoria and KwaZulu-Natal. Emphasis has also been given to the training of women and previously disadvantaged individuals.

The new capacity building needs and requirements that will be considered in Phase III are the advancement of technologies in the water space, climate change and variability, strengthening of the water regulatory system and development of regulatory tools, local government capacity building using water as a catalyst for economic growth and development, developing stronger inter-governmental relations, specialised skills and knowledge to manage water taking into account the whole value chain and more importantly indivisibility of the hydrological cycle.

However, the most crucial directive of Phase III will be the National Water Resources Strategy 2 (NWRS 2), and will be guided by the priorities set in NWRS 2 for the next five years. Addressing participants at the signing ceremony, Acting Director-General, Trevor Balzer stated that “FETWater provides a practical expression of the NWRS 2, and to making an impact in terms of capacity into the sector, as well as on the ground.”

Programme partners include the South African government represented by DWA, Water Research Commission, Water Institute of South Africa, Universities/ UNESCO Chairs, Flemish government, UNESCO Cluster Office (Windhoek), SANC for UNESCO IHP and the National Commission for UNESCO.

Also speaking at the signing ceremony, Dhesigen Naidoo, WRC CEO indicated that “The expectation is very high around Phase III, but it fits in well with where we are as a country. Capacity development in general, and scientific training in particular is at another level of the game to where we were 10 years ago. In the science and technology space, the water sector actually performs extraordinarily well. We are currently 18th in the world with regards to knowledge production.”

Funding of the FETWater Phase III will be supported mainly by direct and indirect contributions to the programme by the Government of South Africa, as well as by UNESCO through the Flanders UNESCO Science Trust Funds (FUST).

“The WRC is very keen to take this science partnership to another level, and we’re very keen alongside that, to take the water debate to the next level, and the Category 1 Centre at Rhodes University and the Category 2 Centre at UKZN will help us achieve this progression” stated Naidoo.

The WRC is also the Secretariat of South Africa National Committee of UNESCO IHP.

For more details on FETWater Phase III, please contact Dr. Stanley Liphadzi, Executive Manager: Water-Linked Ecosystems, Water Research Commission (WRC), Tel. 012 330 0340, Email: stanleyl@wrc.org.za

From left: Mr. Dhesigen Naidoo (CEO, WRC), Mr. Trevor Balzer (Acting DG, DWA), Ms. Deborah Mochotlhi (DDG: Planning and Information, DWA)
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