Alumni from Nuffic programmes like the Orange Knowledge Programme translate what they have learnt in the Netherlands.
For this article we talked to alumni working in water and water management on how they put their knowledge into immediate practice in their home country. By doing so, they hope to help increase the stability of food security there.
Different working methods
Juma Mdeke (in picture) has been back in Tanzania for four months now after taking his Master’s degree in Land and Water Development for Food Security at the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education. "I was immediately able to use what I had learnt in the Netherlands. In fact, I do so pretty much every day now", the enthusiastic Tanzanian tells us from Mombo, a town in the north-east of the country. He recounts an example from when he had just returned from the Netherlands to Tanzania. "Following a few days of heavy rainfall, I was able to help farmers remove the top layer of the soil that was no longer useful. I did so using a technique that I'd picked up during my studies in the Netherlands."
Juma can give many more examples. "The working methods here are still very different compared to yours, of course. This morning, for instance, I carried out a quality survey and spoke to a contractor who had been hired to install irrigation channels and footbridges. When he told me that he had finished everything and wanted to be paid, I arrived on the site to find that he had only done half of the work."
Challenge and progress
Despite these types of challenges, Juma is proud of his country’s progress. According to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), Tanzania is now experiencing stable growth and producing enough food for its own population. Not everyone has access to this food, however. A WFP report estimates that one third of Tanzanian children under the age of five are malnourished. Another UN report from earlier this month sounded the alarm on global hunger. In the past three years, the number of people suffering from hunger once again rose, after years of decline. An especially sharp increase can be seen in African countries. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, the number of malnourished people living in Sub-Saharan Africa grew from 20.7% in 2014 to 23.2% in 2017. In spite of these alarming reports, Juma prefers to focus on the success stories. He mentions a few "champion farmers" in Mombo whom he has taken under his wing. "Due in part to the knowledge about irrigation that I gained in the Netherlands, their production has increased from 5-7 tonnes of rice per hectare to 10 tonnes. The next challenge for them is to sell these harvests as efficiently as possible."
These thoughts are echoed by Lucia Lema (left in picture below), also from Tanzania. Lucia earned her Master’s degree in Water Science and Engineering from IHE Delft in 2016, studying on an NFP scholarship (a predecessor to the Orange Knowledge Programme). She believes that it is important for food security in Tanzania to become more stable. "We can manage our products much more efficiently, which is another thing of which I really became aware in the Netherlands. For example, we actually have a surplus of certain products here at times, such as tomatoes. The reason is that farmers are now used to growing this crop at a specific time of year, which results in a huge heap of tomatoes at the peak of the harvest period that can no longer be sold. Solving these kinds of problems requires qualitative data, which I realised during and after my studies in the Netherlands."
After obtaining her Master’s degree, Lucia began working for the Tanzanian government. She now works for the National Irrigation Commission in the Dodoma District of central Tanzania. Lucia has noticed that she often needs to persuade people in Dodoma to participate in the programmes which she develops. "People in rural areas tend to think that government projects only benefit the government and not the locals themselves. A key part of my job here is to convince everyone otherwise.