How it all started …

The wWw project is built on the collaboration between the Aqua Farms Organisation (AFO) and the Institute of Development Policy (IOB), University of Antwerp.
AFO is a Tanzania-based NGO that has extensive experience with local citizen science projects and community involvement in several projects, including topics on seaweed, mangrove restoration, river water quality monitoring, and working with fishing communities.
IOB on the other hand has ample experience with small and large research projects, including citizen science projects (e.g. Fuatilia Maji project).

Cretus Joseph Mtonga, the co-founder and executive secretary of AFO, and the IOB team (Diana Tiholaz, Sara Dewachter, Nathalie Holvoet) first met on the 8th of December 2021, when the IOB team together with Mzumbe University staff organized a conference in Mogororo, Tanzania.

The aim of the conference was twofold. First, COMMUNITOR was launched; a Community of Practice (CoP) bringing together actors sharing an interest and being involved in citizen science initiatives.

Photo: Cretus interacting in conference workshop

Second, it was also the moment at which the findings from the University of Antwerp alumni barometer project were disseminated to a broader audience of students, academic staff, practitioners and other interested participants. The alumni barometer project aimed at studying the effects of international study programmes on alumni, the organisations they work in and broader societal impact. In the alumni barometer study, alumni impact stories were collected from more than 100 alumni spread over international educational programmes organized at the University of Antwerp. One of the fascinating impact stories that impressed the audience at the conference was the one of Cretus.

In his impact story, Cretus explained how he benefitted from the Master in Ocean and Lakes from which he graduated in 2020. He gave us insights in his trajectory, telling us the story of his first women’s empowerment project in Zanzibar, the Acro-Farm Hatchery initiative, the set-up of Covid-19 response teams promoting hand washing facilities and providing kits which helped communities to fight Covid-19, the river quality testing project, and many more…He passionately told us how he became prepared not only to be a researcher but also a leader in his country striving for the safeguarding of the ocean, lakes and rivers and supporting the development of a blue economy. When listening to the story, it became clear that there were many potential synergies between the projects Cretus was working on and the IOB Fuatilia Maji project and the Communitor initiative.

Photo: Cretus, Deborah (AFO), Elijah (Mzumbe University), Nathalie and Sara (IOB) working together on women water watch project preparations

After the conference we maintained contact and when the COESO call was launched we immediately saw it as an opportunity to effectively kick off a collaboration. We organized several online meetings during which we discussed the synergies between the two projects and how crossfertilisng among the two could produce a new CS initiative. Drawing upon the strengths of the two teams and their earlier initiatives, WwW innovatively links the gender empowerment dimension to the citizen science concept.

The key stakeholders in WwW are the (young) women who make up 4 village women’s water teams. They are involved in the entire project, from identification of water challenges, priorities and problem areas to data collection, analysis, interpretation, dissemination, and use. Through water fora, workshops in schools, presentations for farmer groups, ‘call-in’ radio talk shows, etc. the women water teams reach their own broader communities. Through debriefing sessions with local leaders, WwW also reaches local policy-makers and the Tanzanian community of researchers that focus on the topic of water quality and policy.

Finally we also believe that it is an opportunity to showcase that the global south is home to many excellent, innovative, empowering citizen science projects often linking to indigenous knowledge and strong sustainable development impacts.

by Nathalie Holvoet, Cretus Joseph, Sara Dewachter, Elija Lushiku

Citer ce billet
Sara Dewachter (2022, 6 novembre). How it all started … Women Water Watch. Consulté le 14 juin 2024, à l’adresse

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