As the first Africa Water Stewardship Scholar, I arrived in late September tired but excited for the year ahead studying at Oxford University. The characteristic cold and gray British weather was a bit of a shock but was compensated for by the timeless elegance of the university colleges. Everything seemed quieter and more orderly than where I come from back home in Nairobi, Kenya.
The course began by meeting 26 other students from 16 different countries on a fascinating residential field trip to Dorset and the Jurassic Coast. We got to know each other and the teaching staff over the weekend while studying various aspects of catchment management and the chalk aquifer system.
The term started gently but soon accelerated with intense academic activity, centered around modules on global water issues including water security, health and policy. There was much for me to work on, learn about, questions to ask and discussions to have. I was left wishing I had much more time. Field study trips in addition to rich study and research resources exposed me to new approaches to understanding and managing water issues and have also made me a better thinker. One highlight was visiting a green waste water treatment plant at Wessex, where virtually “nothing is wasted.”
Not a week goes by in which I don’t attend a lecture from a visiting dignitary, or participate in debates and seminars that involve professionals working in the water sector. When it’s time for a break from study, it’s easy to take a relaxing park stroll or hop on the bus and visit villages near Oxford (my favorite has been Burford, a village made of stone). And, a boat ride down the Thames in London was an unforgettable experience.
A great learning aspect of the scholarship is that I have been able to interact with key people at The Coca-Cola Company to develop a research dissertation on water sustainability. This has allowed me to gain a greater understanding of their Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) program. Together, we have discussed interesting ideas, which I will be developing over the winter break. When I say ‘break,’ this is a bit of a euphemism as the work continues with various assignments and readings, including preparation for next term. I have been dreaming of experiencing snow for the first time so hopefully this will provide an exciting interlude to my studies!
While working with communities on water supply back in Kenya, I had a strong desire to develop solutions for the challenges we encountered and to learn how Europe has been able to overcome such problems and achieve its high level of water resource development. In this respect, The Coca-Cola Company through Oxford is providing me with a firm foundation. I am learning from distinguished teaching staff with extensive experience in policy and practice, most interestingly on how to formulate cutting-edge solutions to water challenges facing Africa. When I return to Africa, I will take this knowledge with me. I look forward to making a positive difference in addressing the water challenges my continent faces.
In partnership with Oxford University’s School of Geography and the Environment, The Coca-Cola Company recently launched the Africa Water Stewardship Scholarship to encourage and support outstanding African students to study the MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management and join the next generation of Africa’s water leaders. Cliff M. Nyaga was awarded the inaugural scholarship due to his distinguished academic record and applied experience in urban water stewardship. He will focus on the economic sustainability of RAIN projects. To learn more about RAIN, visit our 2011/2012 Sustainability Report.