The Okavango delta in Botswana is a critical environmental area in Southern Africa, its ecosystem relied upon by flora, fish, animals, and local farmers who benefit from the nutrient rich soils. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the area is also a major safari tourism site, providing jobs and income for local people.
Now, students and researchers from across the world have been involved in helping to sustain this unique wetland system, threatened by dual challenges of water shortages and flooding. Supported by the global university partnership PLuS Alliance, students from King’s, Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) visited the delta to explore how the use of the Okavango’s resources could be governed in a sustainable way.
International cooperation is key, they say, with upstream Angola and Namibia as crucial actors in helping manage the ecosystem; water demand from this shared river is high by these neighbouring countries. Working with local conservation NGOs and Government water agencies, students and researchers looked at how the river’s resources can be managed sustainably.
‘After working alongside world class water experts and academics, seeing science and policy come together […] it has been inspiring.’ (Beth, MSc Water: Science and Governance)
Due to the global nature of river sustainability challenges, it is hoped that this trip of learning through research-in-practice can further educational innovation, and lead to a network of students who are the water leaders of the future. The research can also help local decision makers, as well as the global policy community to think about maintaining the river ecosystem and enhancing economic development.
‘Hopefully this fieldwork will result in the creation of a new truly interdisciplinary module for future students at King’s – something that I believe is vital to our subject.’ (Mari, BA Geography)
Part of the PLuS Alliance funded Global River Basins Connections project, the Okavango is one of seven river basins that will be explored to enhance scientific understanding of sustainability challenges.
Heads of all three PLuS partners will come together at this year’s Times Higher Education World Academic Summit. They’ll discuss how global alliances represent a new learning and research model for the 21st century. Follow the conversation from the event at #THEWAS.
Photo credits: Emma Tebbs
Find out more about the PLuS alliance here.