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Group picture during conference

Southern Africa's future groundwater specialists

Southern Africa's future groundwater specialists

Interviews with young groundwater professionals from Southern Africa

In September 2018, the SADC Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI) organised the first annual SADC Groundwater Conference. IGRAC as one of the co-organising partners aimed to empower young professionals from the SADC-region by sponsoring some young professionals to attend the conference and by initiating an award ceremony for Most promising Young Scientist / Young Professional. IGRAC's Researcher Arnaud Sterckx attended the conference and interviewed four young professionals about their background, challenges and ambitions.


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Petrina Litta Amoomo
Petrina Litta Amoomo

Petrina

Name: Petrina Litta Amoomo
From: Namibia, Windhoek
Academic background: Geology B.Sc. University of Namibia in Windhoek. 

What is your professional background?

I have been working on a project with BGR (German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources) and DWA (Department of Water Affairs in Namibia). The project is about groundwater management in the north of Namibia. It started in 2015 and will end next year in 2019.

What are the main groundwater-related challenges in your Namibia?

Namibia highly depends on groundwater, because surface water is very limited (e.g. the Kunene river). Despite this high dependency on groundwater, aquifers are poorly characterized. Frequent water scarcity crises call for more hydrogeological studies in the country. 

What is your contribution to this SADC-GMI conference? 

I am presenting a poster on Trend analysis of groundwater levels in Namibia. With my colleagues, I compiled groundwater level time series within the major aquifers of the country, of which some are still poorly delineated. The monitoring data come from the national groundwater monitoring database. Our preliminary analysis shows that groundwater levels are stable in most aquifers. In the next months, we will carry out some statistical analysis to determine national trends and more local trends. 

What do you expect to take away from this conference? What do you think this could mean for your personal career?

I am very curious to see how groundwater issues are dealt with in other SADC countries. Do they have a national monitoring network? How do they interpret monitoring data? I hope to see inspiring presentations on those questions. 

This conference is also an excellent opportunity to extend my professional network. I am at a turning point in my career and I want to develop connections with other groundwater professionals from SADC and beyond.


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Phuti Mabotja
Phuti Mabotja

Phuti

Name: Phuti Mabotja 
From: Polokwane, South Africa  
Studying at: University of the Free State, South Africa 

What is your academic background?

I got a B.Sc. degree in Geology at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein. I am currently doing a M.Sc. in Hydrogeology at IGS, the Institute of Groundwater Sciences in that same University.

What is your contribution to this SADC-GMI conference? 

I have an oral presentation on Free software applications in groundwater studies. I made an inventory of software programs that can be used for free by hydrogeologists in the SADC region, which I am presenting. 

What do you expect to take away from this conference? What do you think this could mean for your personal career?

I would like to have some feedback on my research from more experienced researchers. I also hope to develop my professional network.


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Christina Fraser
Christina Fraser

Christina

Name: Christina Fraser 
From: Inverness, Scotland (UK) 
Studying at: Strathclyde University, UK

What is your academic background?

I got a B.Sc. degree in Petroleum Geology, then a M.Sc. degree in Hydrogeology. I am currently doing a Ph.D. at Strathclyde University in UK. I started my project in 2016 and will finish it next year. My project is about characterizing TBAs in Malawi. In parallel, I am also working on the Shire project, together with IWMI.

What are the main groundwater-related challenges in Malawi?

TBAs in Malawi are not well understood. Yet, many people rely on those TBAs as their main water supply. There are severe infrastructure issues, occurrences of groundwater contamination, and extreme climatic events resulting in floods and droughts.

What is your contribution to this SADC-GMI conference? 

I will be presenting my Ph.D. work. I collected a lot of information about TBAs in Malawi and put a lot of effort into harmonising these data coming from different countries. This information allows for a better delineation of the aquifers. I also created several maps, based on different criteria, to highlight hotspots in aquifers, where groundwater issues arise now or may arise in the near future.

What do you expect to take away from this conference? What do you think this could mean for your personal career?

I hope I will raise awareness among hydrogeologists in SADC-region on the issue of data quality and data sharing, which is crucial to secure water supply in a context of global change. It is very encouraging to see so many young professionals at this conference. I am also here to develop professional collaborations, as I would like to keep on working on TBAs after my Ph.D.

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Rofhiwa Ramasala
Rofhiwa Ramasala

Rofhiwa

Name: Rofhiwa Ramasala 
From: Limpopo, South Africa  
Studying at: University of the Free State, South Africa

What is your academic background?

I got a B.Tech. degree in Geology, then a B.Sc. degree in Hydrogeology (honors). I am currently doing a M.Sc. at IGS, the Institute of Groundwater Sciences in the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein.

What are the main groundwater-related challenges in South Africa?

Most boreholes lack data and there is little monitoring of groundwater, especially in rural areas. There is alaso a lack of data sharing from the private sector, like the mining industry. 

What is your contribution to this SADC-GMI conference?

I am presenting a poster on Assessment of laboratory leach test methods for the evaluation of environmental impact by coal and gold mine waste.

What do you expect to take away from this conference? What do you think this could mean for your personal career?

This conference is very inspiring, I am now thinking to do a Ph.D., maybe in TBAs where contamination issues arise. I also hope that more focus will be given to groundwater in rural areas.