Students research climate-resilient water management projects in West Africa |

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Students research climate-resilient water management projects in West Africa

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6 students from Wageningen University & Research took part in a research and consultancy project. The study looks at the effects of climate change. The students spent 12 weeks observing infrastructure projects in the coastal region of West Africa. The aim of the study was to find opportunities and room for improvements. The students carried out the research on behalf of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.

Protection from the effects of climate change

Countries such as Benin, Ghana and Guinea are dealing with flooding, water pollution and coastal erosion. To combat these problems, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency is investing in infrastructure projects, such as the Develop2Build (D2B) programme.

Building with Nature

One of the points the students researched was how natural processes and materials in the region could protect coastal areas from rising sea levels and strong wave activity. Examples are processes such as currents and wind, and materials such as sand and sediment. This is also known as 'Building with Nature'. Installing oyster beds as natural breakwaters is an example of Building with Nature. The students also gave suggestions on where and how to join forces with the World Bank's long-term project in the region: the West African Coastal Areas Management WACA programme.

Research during a pandemic

A unique partnership emerged between the student team, various experts, such as the World Bank, and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency's Infrastructure Team. Because of the measures to combat COVID-19, the students had to do their research from a distance. For this reason, the team held online meetings, where experts gave the students background information. This way, the students could join discussions at the highest level.

Win-win situation

The partnership has worked out well for both the students and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. The students got to take a look behind-the-scenes of infrastructure projects in developing countries. And the Netherlands Enterprise Agency benefitted from the students’ way of looking at things. Mostly because they have access to the latest academic insights. Stéphanie Rijcken, one of the students, talks about how things happen in practice: “It is hard to combine innovative approaches with what people are willing to accept at a local level. A certain approach may need behavioural changes from the population, At the same time, the local government refuses to accept responsibility.” Stéphanie finds this a highly educational experience: "The Netherlands Enterprise Agency gave us a lot of freedom in our research. They also trusted what we were doing. That motivated us a lot."

More partnerships

Working together with students is an excellent way to share knowledge. It also helps to bridge the gap between the academic world and the professional field. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency is always looking for partnerships with knowledge institutes. If you are interested in public infrastructure development or have ideas to share, please contact us by email.


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