May 27, 2024

Wetskills’ first event in UAE hosted at the Netherlands Pavilion – a great success!

 Wetskills’ first event in UAE hosted at the Netherlands Pavilion – a great success!

Wetskills Foundation encourages an Intergenerational Dialogue for sustainable and out-of-the-box Water solutions (‘from Shanghai 2010 to Dubai World Expo 2020).

17 January – Dubai,  UAE : Wetskills Foundation uses a new way of authentic learning and international networking for students and young professionals with a passion for water. In multidisciplinary, international teams, the participants work on real-life cases from companies and governmental organizations.

The first edition of the Wetskills Challenge in the UAE started on January 5th when 20 -25 local and international students came together in Al Ain. In diverse teams, these participants were given a real-life water challenge, formulated local and international sector partners.  Yesterday, Wetskills concluded its exciting challenge programme in UAE at the Netherlands Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Lody Embrechts, Netherlands’ Ambassador, UAE said: “The Netherlands Pavilion is a perfect place to host the Wetskills Finals as the pavilion’s theme of sustainable initiatives and innovations resonates well with the programme. I want to congratulate each one of the teams for the brilliant ideas that they have presented. These practical, diverse and creative solutions can actually be implemented in UAE and other regions. They can truly bring a change for a sustainable and eco-friendly future. Excellent teamwork!”                           

In a hybrid format, participants from countries such as the UAE, the Netherlands, Colombia, India, Nigeria and Germany are working together in four teams. The teams each work on a challenge, provided by sector partners like Witteveen+Bos and PureBlue Water.

Winning entry

19 participants from 10 different countries joined this first Wetskills event in UAE (and 53rd event since 2010). An international jury panel announced Team Falaj 2.0 as the winner.  Team Members Silvio Kaiser (HZ University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands) Meera AlKaabi, Azza Alshamsi, Ayesha Alam (all UAE University) and Laura Pulido (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia) created an out-of-the-box but applicable concept to improve water management on small farms in UAE.

Privately owned farms of size between two and six are very common in the UAE and mostly rely on groundwater for crop irrigation. In recent years, the productivity of many of these farms has been threatened by increasing groundwater depletion and salinization. Various management strategies have been proposed to slow down groundwater deterioration and/or sustain agricultural production under increasing salinity. Tools to facilitate such water management decision making are so far not available. It will maximize revenues at the farm level, and/or create overall long-term sustainability and environmental safety. The winning case owner, UAE University impressed the panel of the jury with their practical solution and presented a tool to support an individual farmer or decision identifying the most feasible water management strategy for UAE’s small farms.

Intensive program

Rick Hogeboom, Programme Manager for Wetskills and one of the supervisors of this event: “The Wetskills programme challenges participants to leave their comfort zone and come up with out of the box solutions. Supervisors likewise need to step outside the box to make the Programme a success, especially in times of Covid and hybrid formats for teamwork. But the best achievements come about by remaining dedicated even in surprising and unknown circumstances. Leveraging digital means to collaborate, discuss and get to know one another, you’ll find that the solutions the teams came up with are of the highest quality and will inspire many.”

10 years Jubilee

The challenge final also marked the last part of the Wetskills’ 10 Year Jubilee Celebrations. The programme started at Expo 2010 Shanghai China, and the last UAE edition of Wetskills bridged the two World Expos and looked back at the results over the last 10 years.