Science - March 2, 2006

Building education capacity in Benin

Integrated Water Resource Management is a hot item these days, not only in the applied water management sector, but also when it comes to education. After taking the lead in an IWRM education project in Yemen, the Irrigation and Water Engineering group is now assisting Benin with its education on water management.

Moussa Boukari and Abel Afouda are both professors at the Faculty of Science and Technology of Abomey Calavi University, Cotonou, Benin. Together with eleven colleagues they have spent the last two weeks in the Netherlands discussing possible new IWRM courses for their existing water management curricula in Benin. ‘The water situation in West Africa is threatening,’ they say. ‘Because of the climate change and the rapidly growing population the quantity of water is under pressure.’ One of the millennium goals is to provide water to all our people; at present 25 percent of the population still does not have access to this major resource. We need a change in mentality towards multi-disciplinary thinking and will have to abandon the widespread approach of taking as much as you can.’

Unlike Yemen, where Nuffic funded the development of a completely new IWRM curriculum, in Benin the Dutch organisation for cooperation in higher education is funding a consortium made up of Wageningen, Larenstein and the Noordelijke Hoogeschool Leeuwarden to assist in capacity building for separate IWRM courses. The Irrigation and Water Engineering group at Wageningen University is responsible for the capacity building at the Abomey Calavi University, with a budget of 2.4 million euros. This is part of the 5 million assigned to the consortium to work on a total of five different water education capacity building projects throughout all educational levels in Benin.

Project coordinator Bert Bruins of the Irrigation and Water Engineering group recognises opportunities for Benin to learn from the parallel development of IWRM education in Wageningen that has already taken place. ‘Just like us they already have solid education programmes on water and irrigation but they want to work towards an IWRM approach, which is what we have been doing for a while now and are still working on. Besides that, they want to adapt their institutional setting to a BaMa structure, which we did recently.’ In October the first new courses on IWRM will be ready; the Beninese will mainly teach the courses themselves. ‘For us it will be an exciting process to act as consultants and help them attain what they want,’ Bruins continues. ‘They know very well where their education capacity can be improved and the crux will be to decide on what is important in terms of IWRM education for the Benin context.’ / MV

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