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Champions for change in South Africa

Two South African students talk about their reasons for studying integrated water management.
Champions for change in South Africa

Karin Breytenbach and Liezl Craig

Liezl Craig always wanted a career which would challenge her and allow her to make a difference in the world. “The only question,” she said, “was deciding on a career path.” 

Liezl CraigLiezl is a landscape architect in South Africa. She wanted to specialise in sustainable stormwater management, but without an engineering background she found it difficult to find something that combined all her interests.

“I would like to use an integrated water management approach with landscape architecture to advocate for ‘water sensitive urban design’ in informal settlements (internationally known as slums) without water infrastructure,” she said.

“Out of personal experience, I am well aware that the issues surrounding the water sector cannot be resolved by only focusing on one professional field. In my opinion, integrated water management is the most likely approach to work because it takes into account all the different stakeholders and the dynamic character of socio-ecological systems.”

Liezl found what she was looking for in the IWC-Africa Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Integrated Water Management, delivered at Monash South Africa. In the MPhil she is able to specialise in sustainable stormwater management, and the social and policy issues that accompany it. 

“The course brings together individuals from various backgrounds and teaches us to understand how the challenges we are facing are interlinked,” she said.

"Champions are needed if change is to occur in water management practices in South Africa." 
Liezl Craig

Liezl believes that champions are needed if change is to occur in water management practices in South Africa.

She hopes that the research she does in the MPhil course will give her the skills to be one of these champions, and help her to advocate the specific water issues that will change the face of informal settlements in South Africa.

“There has been an international shift to environmentally sustainable development, and I want to adapt these technologies to fit the African context.”

Liezl’s fellow student, Karin Breytenbach, whose background lies in geography, echoes Liezl’s desire to work in informal settlements. 

“I want to make a change in the world,” Karin said. “By working with people in poorer communities, I hope to find a way, through their guidance, for water management to be brought to them without waiting for government approval and legislation. 

“I am sure sustainable management is possible within poorer communities if they are given the right tools. And I hope one day to see my research benefit others.’”

If you want to make a difference in the African context, Liezl says to young people entering the academic and professional worlds, water management is the ideal field. There are numerous water management challenges on the African continent, and a great lack of champions to support the change needed to address these issues. 

“The career path will be challenging, and you must have passion if you want to finish strong, but the rewards of seeing people’s lives improved will be well worth it.”



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