Why I Chose To Work on the DOWN2EARTH Project

2 minute read

I was born and raised in Kenya, located in the Eastern part of Africa, right next to Somalia in a small family of four. Growing up was not easy, but we got by, never missed a meal and even managed to attend a few private schools in the good years. Growing up in Kenya came with its difficulties; water scarcity, food insecurity, droughts, flash floods, lightning/thunderstorms and landslides. These natural calamities are not new to our country.

Photo credits: USAID, FAO and New York Times

In 2011, just as I was about to join the university to start my undergraduate studies, I remember Kenya experiencing a very severe drought. The drought led to water rationing, food crisis, escalated food prices, the environment became harsher, and the economy became very unstable. We would walk for miles to get water, even then, there were long queues, and each family was allowed only a few litres. In other areas, the government would provide water for a few days in a week and sometimes not even distribute water for weeks on end, forcing people to buy water from private companies that have turned water, a basic need into a profit-making industry run by cartels. This experience motivated me to study Bio-systems Engineering at the University of Nairobi and later do my masters in Water Resources Engineering at the KU Leuven, to actively understand my environment and provide solutions for these kinds of predicaments.

After concluding my Masters, I decided to go ahead to further my studies by doing a PhD. The search for a suitable topic connected to my desire to find solutions for the water issue in my country led me to the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam website. I found the advertisement on the DOWN2EARTH Project, funded by the EU Horizon2020, and applied for it. The research is on data-driven assessment of drought risk in East Africa at the Environmental Institute of Studies - IVM at VU-Amsterdam. It was exactly what I was looking for, and I was determined to be part of the project!

This interdisciplinary research will provide a milestone into the food insecurity and water scarcity experienced in East Africa creating a better environment for the younger and older generations that face harsher realities like lack of education because they are busy trying to survive.

Photo credit: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

At the end of this research, I expect to be equipped with enough knowledge to contribute to solutions that will deal with food insecurities and water scarcity in the region. Currently, working with the DOWN2EARTH team and being a part of a dynamic group of brilliant researchers from various research backgrounds and making a difference directly to communities that raised me into who I am today has been a dream come true. I learn new things every day, and the network of researchers the project has created for me has been dramatically significant. With still more to unravel in the next coming years, I am very excited about the possibilities and discoveries ahead.