Solving Water Security with Geospatial
CDT Students visit Colombia to attend Water Security Assembly
In November 2022, we travelled to Cali, Colombia to attend the Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub Assembly. The Hub is an international and interdisciplinary research collaboration between academics, early career researchers, local communities and stakeholder partners with a multitude of different backgrounds, experiences and skills, all working to tackle global water security. Hub members from Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Malaysia and the UK came together for a week in Cali to share ideas and knowledge and explore solutions to complex water security issues.
The assembly kicked off with an Early Career Network (ECN) writing workshop led by Professor Maggie Roe from Newcastle University. As well as learning some useful skills and strategies to improve our writing, this was a great opportunity to get to know fellow early career researchers from different institutions around the world. Breaks throughout the day to sit out on the hotel terrace and enjoy the tropical Colombian sun were a nice touch too. The first day of the assembly was topped off with a welcome event after which everyone was treated to a 3-course meal featuring delicious Colombian cuisine and an evening of traditional Afro-Colombian music and salsa dancing.
The week-long event was packed full of enlightening discussions, workshops and presentations including a conversation and reflection around socio-ecological justice joined by guest speakers including Alfonso, from the Arhuaco community, Sub Commissioner on Health for Indigenous Peoples. We had the opportunity to share our work on water security alongside the other early career researchers at an ECN showcase with a diverse range of poster presentations, videos and art works on display. A brainstorming session on system elements and potential interventions culminated in a Dragon’s Den-esque pitch for funding intervention strategies which was a lot of fun. We also had the opportunity to share our geospatial skills with the rest of the Hub, supporting CDT director, Professor Jon Mills, in a data themed workshop demonstrating good practice in primary data collection and geolocation.
The sun set on a fantastic week in Colombia and the assembly wrapped up with several field visits to local sites including the Upper Meléndez River Basin, La Vorágine, a small community on the bank of the river Pance and a river bank filtration construction project. This was a great chance for us to meet and talk to local communities, understand how violence has marked the relationship of communities with water and learn how water sanitation construction projects have mobilised and empowered the community while helping to tackle water security issues.
Having travelled the whole way to Colombia, the opportunity to see more of the country was too good to pass up. Before the assembly, we flew in to Medellín, capital of Colombia’s mountainous Antioquia province. We spent 3 days exploring the city’s amazing food and coffee scene, street art and tumultuous history, as well as visiting the colourful nearby town of Guatapé. The 740 steps climbing up El Penon, or ‘The Rock’, straight off a 10-hour flight was an experience, but the views at the top looking out over the lakes was breath-taking and more than worth it. After the assembly, we spent a few extra days in Colombia on a road trip with some of the locals we met from the Hub. We travelled to Salento, an Andean Town 3 hours drive from Cali, whose vibrant buildings and lofty wax palm trees inspired the Disney movie Encanto. We had many unforgettable experiences including a nerve-inducing horseback ride through the beautiful Cocora Valley and a relaxing evening unwinding in the hot springs of Santa Rosa de Cabal.
Overall, travelling to Colombia for the Water Security was a very memorable experience. Being able to share ideas, knowledge and skills with such a diverse range of researchers with so many contrasting perspectives on water security issues was invaluable to appreciating how our research can make a real-life impact on the global water crisis. We would like to thank the CDT for the opportunity to travel to such a beautiful part of the world and share so many unforgettable experiences with each other and the fellow researchers we got to meet.