Nairobi, Kenya – Last month the entry of Carla Rebelo (right on the picture), from Sao Tome and Principe, was selected as the winning entry of the Water4Islands Photo Contest organised in 6 Small Islands States (Cabo Verde, Comoros, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles and Sao Tome and Principe) to celebrate World Water Day 2017. The winner attended the Stockholm World Water Week from 27 August to 01 September 2017. We gathered her thoughts about the entire experience below.
1) What did you learn about water at the world water week?
The most important aspect I absorbed from the conference is that almost as important as using water resources wisely is investing in wastewater management and sanitation, as well as thinking of more efficient ways of using water in agriculture. Not only for the environmental benefits, but also because economically it can be a very profitable business.
I learned that even though water might be a source of risk and political tensions in the next years because of the increase of population and climate change, it can also represent an opportunity for countries to cooperate towards a mutual sustainable future where everyone everywhere has access to water and sanitation.
2) What were the highlights of the week?
In my opinion all the opportunities to exchange knowledge with other professionals and other organizations were priceless. The water speed dating session allowed me to learn from other people’s ideas and give them my feedback, even though I am not an expert in the matter.
On the other hand, I had the opportunity to learn about the failures and successes of Kenya’s Basic Sanitation For The Urban Poor Up-Scaling Project coordinated by the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance, which gave a very broad knowledge that could easily be applied in Sao Tome and Principe.
Finally, the field visits were a great opportunity to see closely how real water management systems work.
3) Is there anything you learned that you can take back to your country?
Given that agriculture is using over 70% of freshwater that is available globally, if we can use water efficiently in agriculture, the water can be allocated to other users and sectors. In Sao Tome and Principe it should not be different; however, there are not enough investments in education and training of professionals, to expand the knowledge base through research.
It rains a lot in STP, so water resources are not the problem, but our sanitary systems are. I learned that there are simple ways of up-scaling basic sanitation facilities for people’s daily, basic needs. Creating Faecal Sludge Management services and infrastructures that work for everyone not only protects public health but also creates value in communities.
On the other hand, I came back even more sure that gender equality and inclusion in water resources management matters. Women play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water. This pivotal role as providers and users of water is often not reflected in institutional arrangements for the development of water resources. This knowledge inspires me to get involved in civil society and try to change the status quo.
It is true that Small Island Developing States have a different challenge, but at the end of the day we should all be working to have a world in which people manage their water and environmental resources in a sustainable manner, and in which all sectors of society, particularly the poor, can enjoy the benefits of basic services.
4) Did you encounter any challenges?
My major challenge was not having any background in the water management world, making it hard for me to understand some of the concepts explored in the events. Also, it made me feel as if I didn’t have much to share with the other attendees of the conference.