On September 7, the Dutch management of the 4 largest Blue Deal partnerships came together in the Dutch province Fryslân for a meeting. The objective for this gathering was: how can we learn from each other about managing large partnerships?
The meeting was amongst the partnerships of Mozambique, Colombia, Eswatini and South Africa. The managers were invited to Friesland, at the invitation of the partnership manager of Mozambique, of which Wetterskip Fryslân (the Dutch water authority in the area of Fryslân) is the lead partner. This was the third time that the major partnerships organized such a consultation. This time was extra special, thanks to a boat trip through the beautiful Alde Feanen nature reserve.
Topics to discuss
The colleagues exchanged, for example, their experiences with working with a so-called ‘talking sheet’. This sheets makes it visible which Blue Deal topics the partnership is working on, and where there are topics that still need to be addressed. “It helps to establish a relationship of the concrete activities which are implemented with the longer-term goals,” says one of the participants. “Large partnerships deal with many people and interests. Visualising this helps to get an overview of how all our activities contribute to our larger goals, and what we should continue or stop.”
The participants also discussed, among other things, their annual plans for 2024, presented to each other how they have organised their partnerships and discussed decentralization in one of the partner countries. They also covered the safety assessments of work visits, finances, accountability, and much more.
Learning from each other
An important part of the Blue Deal is learning from each other. Therefore, the Blue Deal learning programme also includes a training for new partnership managers. Thanks to this joint intervision of the partnership managers, the 4 largest partnerships are now going one step further to exchange knowledge with each other.
From August 27 to September 4, a Young Expert (YEP) training took place in Nairobi for the entire Blue Deal YEP group. Monique Zwiers, learning officer at the Blue Deal Programme Office, joined the group.
The training in Nairobi was part of the learning programme of the YEP group that was established specifically for the Blue Deal. Last year in September, a training also took place in Leidschenveen, the Netherlands, at the start of the YEP program. The Yeppers are now halfway through their two-year programme. Zwiers: “They can put the lessons learned during this training week into practice in the coming year.”
During the week, attention was paid to various training sessions during the first 3 days. Zwiers: “The training courses are not so much about water themes, but are often focused on personal development. In this way, the Yeppers become increasingly aware of their own position within their organization and how they can influence their team.”
Exchanging knowledge with each other
On Thursday there was an excursion to the Thika Basin dam, where they received an explanation about water management in the area, which serves as a water extraction area for Nairobi’s drinking water. Furthermore, a tree nursery was visited in the area where trees are grown to protect the banks of the Thika basin.
Zwiers: “During such an excursion you see that the YEP people ask all kinds of substantive questions and also discuss substantive themes with each other. With that idea in mind, we also started a Blue Deal ‘tailor-made’ YEP group. So that if we bring them together, they can really learn from each other substantively and thus strengthen the knowledge within the Blue Deal programme and spread it within their own partnership. With YEP we want to train young people and thus grow a group of good professionals within the partnership.”
Training ‘Train the trainer’
On Friday, the Yeppers received a ‘Train the trainer’ training, so that they can also provide training themselves. Zwiers: “They were very enthusiastic about that. Now we hope that the group will connect with existing Blue Deal initiatives, such as the Communities of Practice, where we share knowledge on a number of themes.”
A ‘Make a film with your smartphone’ workshop took place on Saturday. All participants made a video. We highlight a few of these videos in this playlist.
On September 12, the Blue Deal presented a session during Partners for Water's Day ‘Social Inclusion in Water Climate Adaptation – making a Transformation’ in Utrecht.
“We need to bend the beam of observation upon ourselves”, says Martin Kalungu-Banda of the Ubuntu.Lab institute, one of the speakers during the plenary programme. Are we always doing as well as we think we do or should we sometimes look at ourselves more critically? The room is full of people from the water sector, from NGOs and organizations such as the Blue Deal. All with the beautiful intention of supporting others worldwide. But this requires that we work on the right things and especially with the people involved. “We’re trying to help, but we forget to listen,” notes one of the participants of the day.
Within the Blue Deal we try to do this through stakeholder participation. During the session ‘Working bottom up in Integrated Water Resources Management: how to implement an Area Oriented Approach to maximize sustainability and inclusiveness’, about 20 people from different organizations were present and 3 examples from the Blue Deal were discussed.
Communities map top 10 issues
Priscilla Daddah, Young Expert for the Blue Deal partnership in Ghana, explains during the session how the partnership involved stakeholders by working with 3 communities to map the top 10 issues for the Lower Volta Songor region. They also jointly drew up a Community-based Resource Management Plan (CREMA).
Using traditional tribal hierarchy
Bertho Bulthuis, water expert from the Blue Deal partnership in Burkina Faso, explains how they use the traditional tribal hierarchy within his partnership. “This is an already existing structure, able to connect people in the communities.” Of course, there are also disadvantages to this, Bulthuis admits. Because these structures do not represent everyone either. Another challenge he mentions is that many people in the area cannot always focus on anything else besides their daily needs. “It’s not always easy to look towards the future to things like climate mitigation and adaptation, when you are struggling for daily needs, like food for the day.”
Future base camp
Tanah Meijers, from the Blue Deal partnership in Kenya, talks about the ‘Bring Njururi back to the river’ project. This project is about restoring the water beetle (Njururi) to the Thika river in Upper Tana, Kenya. The water beetle symbolizes good water quality and a healthy ecosystem.
Stakeholder participation also plays a major role in this project. For this purpose, the team organized a so-called future base camp. About 120 people from various social groups and organizations in the area came together for a few days of camping. Together they thought about how they would like to shape the future in their region and how they could achieve this. Meijers: “We were looking for common ground, because everybody is part of the solution. Together, we drew a map. What is happening today? What are the challenges we face? And what do we need to do to get the water beetle back?”
After the presentations of the case studies, participants of the Blue Deal session discussed in 3 groups about how to scale an inclusive sustainable bottom-up approach on IWRM: how to implement a jointly drafted sub-catchment plan and maximise sustainability and inclusiveness? Below some of the discussion outcomes:
Formalisation of the effort of local organisations is necessary (mandate/ status);
Make use of current systems of formalised governments;
As soon as you scale up, the balance between bottom-up and top-down can get lost, it is a battle to fight for the rights in a bottom-up approach. Be aware of these issues;
There will be a political battle/competition about livelihood needs and less on water needs when you scale up. Be aware of these aspects;
Choose your local champions to scale your approach;
Keep reflecting: is everyone really included?
Clear benefits and responsibilities are necessary to get everyone on board;
Realisation of the needs: analyse the needs in an area thoroughly;
These processes take time. Spend time on raising awareness in your project
Get in touch
Want to know more about the outcomes of these 3 cases? Reach out to email@example.com to get in touch with one of the speakers.
From 20 to 24 August, Luzette Kroon and Emilie Sturm represented the Blue Deal during the World Water Week in Stockholm. There they participated in sessions and talked with, among others, the Islamic Development Bank about investment plans. The week was devoted to the follow-up of the UN Water Conference in New York.
Kroon is a board member of the Association of Dutch Water Authorities and responsible for the international portfolio. She is also president of the Blue Deal. Sturm is programme manager of the Blue Deal. The Blue Deal is the joint international programme of the 21 Dutch water authorities.
Why did you participate in World Water Week?
Sturm: “The week in Stockholm was all about the follow-up to the Water Action Agenda that was adopted during the UN Water Conference. What is the status of the commitments that were made? In the run-up to the UN Water Conference, we as Blue Deal were the first to make a commitment to the Action Agenda, namely doubling the money and commitment to the Blue Deal.”
“So we were also in Stockholm to show what we have done in the past 8 months since our commitment. Luzette Kroon talked about this in a panel during the session ‘UN 2023 Water Conference: From voluntary commitments to impact’. She explained, among other things, how we have focused even more on learning from each other within the Blue Deal. As partner countries among each other, but also how the Netherlands can learn from our partner countries. We facilitated this learning, for example, by organising a major Blue Deal Congress in Amsterdam in June. 14 partner countries were present. We have also focused more on learning from each other via Communities of Practice on various themes.”
In New York, the Blue Deal wanted to draw attention to the importance of investments in operations and maintenance. Did you also pay attention to that in Stockholm?
Sturm: “We organised a first session about this in New York to discuss this with financiers. This led, among other things, to an exploration with the Islamic Development Bank. We have now reached the point where we intend to cooperate, in which the Islamic Development Bank wants to invest in a pilot in 2 of our partner countries: Burkina Faso and the Palestinian Territories. We discussed this further one-on-one in Stockholm.”
Did you have any other goals in Stockholm?
Sturm: “We met the new Dutch water envoy, Meike van Ginneken. She is the successor of Henk Ovink. I participated in the Wavemakers panel. This was about how you can give young people a bigger role in solving water problems. Van Ginneken then announced the Gamechangers Challenge, which will be launched next year during the Olympic Games in Paris. This will be a challenge that in which young people are asked to come up with solutions for problems on important water themes. I have promised that we will make a prize available, whereby the winner can do a feasibility study to see whether we can really apply the solution in the practice of one of our partnerships.”
How do you look back at the World Water Week?
“Personally, I’m not really a fan of congresses at all, but I noticed that it really helps our programme further. This congress creates momentum for the water sector to follow up on the agreements made during the UN congress.”
“And I was very inspired. Especially from what we can learn from indigenous peoples, which was discussed in a number of sessions. As water authorities, we have been working on nature-based solutions for a long time, also within the Blue Deal. Indigenous people know much more about this than we do, their way of life is to live with nature. Yet they are often overlooked in water management, even though they may hold the key to success.”
In July, a Blue Deal team visited Indonesia. Toon van der Klugt, head ('dijkgraaf') of the Dutch water authority of Schieland and Krimpenerwaard, was there and signed the cooperation agreement for the Blue Deal Indonesia together with the Dutch embassy. This makes the Blue Deal an official part of the Dutch-Indonesian cooperation in the field of water.
The delegation visited various places on the island of Java. Van der Klugt went to the Dutch Embassy in Jakarta. There he sensed the enthusiasm of the diplomatic staff and the Dutch Delegated Representative for bilateral cooperation in the field of water. At the Indonesian Ministry of Public Works and Housing (PUPR) in Jakarta, he signed the cooperation agreement for the Blue Deal Indonesia, together with the deputy Dutch ambassador and the secretary-general of the Ministry. This makes the Blue Deal an official part of the Dutch-Indonesian cooperation in the field of water.
In addition, Van der Klugt and the Blue Deal team visited the locations of the 3 projects that fall under the Blue Deal: in Tangerang (just west of Jakarta), Pekalongan and Semarang (both in Central Java). The local administrators, employees and members of the project teams from Indonesia and the Netherlands were there. In Semarang, a city with over 1.6 million inhabitants, the mayor received the Dutch delegation so that he could attend the kick-off of the partnership as a special guest.
The project teams are now busy working out the plans. New work visits are planned for November.
The Blue Deal Congress has shown that international cooperation between water managers is useful, necessary and also a lot of fun. The NWB Fund is proud to have contributed to this on behalf of the bank of the Dutch water authorities (Waterschapsbank). 3 lessons learnt stand out.
Lesson 1: Water management is about money
Water management is about money, because without money you won’t be able to get a lot done. The NWB Fund therefore co-finances projects and activities within (and outside) Blue Deal partnerships aimed at climate adaptation, with a focus on nature-based solutions and inclusiveness. Proposals are welcome.
Lessson 2: Water management is about trust
Water management also requires a different currency: not euros or dollars, but trust. Because good relationships are also a precondition for realizing change. There was a lot of networking during this congress and a party is the ultimate team building activity. The fund has therefore wholeheartedly sponsored the Blue Deal Congress party.
Lesson 3: Water management is about solving issues together
After all, this congress was a historic moment. As water managers, we traditionally mainly look at our own working area, because there is plenty to do there. After 800 years, the Dutch water authorities are now also looking outwards and are seeking international cooperation. Because climate does not respect borders and only together can we solve difficult issues. We are the pioneers of this movement in the Blue Deal. Let’s commit to making this a success.
For more information and questions about the NWB Fund, please contact programme manager Marion Wierda (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The first Blue Deal Congress took place from 12 to 14 June. Participants from 14 countries visited Amsterdam and exchanged knowledge about common challenges. “The Dutch model is not a blueprint for the rest of the world.” Watch the video and look back at the congress.
The goal of the Blue Deal congress? Getting to know each other, so that it will be even easier to exchange knowledge in the future. Between the Dutch and the Blue Deal partner countries, but also between the partner countries themselves. One of the participants: “Money is not the only thing to get something done. It’s about people working together to find solutions.”
The days consisted of a plenary programme on Monday, during which Peter Glas, among others, talked about Dutch water management. He did make a comment, however: “The Dutch model is not a blueprint for the rest of the world.” But perhaps the model can serve as an inspiration. On Monday, there was also a session on intercultural cooperation.
On Tuesday, the participants split into smaller groups and were able to follow workshops on Water pricing, Water safety management, Stakeholder participation, Urban waste water management, Nature-based solutions, and Smart monitoring. On Wednesday, the participants saw Dutch water management in practice by visiting the Sand Motor, the Markermeerdijken or the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen. On Thursday and Friday, the partnerships went their separate ways and visited the water authorities they work with. There, too, they saw more of Dutch water management in practice.
June 14 was day 3 of the Blue Deal conference, the last day of the joint programme. Time to see Dutch water management in practice. The participants could therefore choose from an excursion to one of these locations: the Markermeerdijken, the Zandmotor or the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen. Looking back on day 3.
Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen (Amsterdam Water Supply Dunes)
“When building cities, people have always been looking for ways to bring in water,” says the guide who gives the tour through the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen. He will first give a presentation on how Dutch water management actually works. Today it is not so much about how governance works – the participants learned more about this on Monday – but about how the Netherlands has been working on flood risk management and sufficient water since its inception. A woman from Kenya laughs and asks: “Are you planning to reclaim even more land or do you think this is enough?”
Questions about water management
The other questions clearly show what the countries themselves are struggling with. For example, the man from Ethiopia who asks how the Netherlands makes agreements with the other countries through which the rivers run. Or the woman from Kenya who asks who determines how deep drilling is allowed to pump up groundwater by farmers, for example, and how that works with regulations and enforcement. And another question from the audience: how do you prevent water pollution?
Although the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen are mainly intended for drinking water, the participants can still learn a lot from them for their work. For example, about purification with natural sources, such as the dunes. Moreover, drinking water and other water management are not always separated from each other abroad.
Markermeer Dikes and Sand Motor
The other groups visit 2 projects related to flood risk management, the Markermeer Dikes and the Sand Motor. They also return enthusiastically from the locations. In Ghana, plans are currently underway to build their own Sand Motor. The entire delegation therefore chooses to participate in this excursion to learn more about the project and to see with their own eyes what such a Sand Motor will look like.
End of the day
In the evening, the participants conclude with a dinner and a performance by Waternet’s house band, in which several international guests eventually play a part. And of course, as befits an international party, there is a lot of dancing.
The delegations from Argentina, Burkina Faso, Colombia, eSwatini, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, Palestinian territories, Peru, Romania, Vietnam and South Africa will visit one of the 21 partner water authorities during the last 2 days of the congress.
The second day of the Blue Deal Congress took place on 13 June. This day was dedicated to 6 workshops on topics that play a major role within the Blue Deal. Looking back at Day 2.
The themes of the sessions were:
Water safety management
Urban waste water management
These are all themes within the Blue Deal where knowledge is also shared through Communities of Practice (CoPs) throughout the year. Participants from all partnerships can participate in this. Are you a Blue Deal member and want to join a CoP? Send an email to Monique Zwiers via email@example.com.
Takhona Dlamini from eSwatini was one of the international guests who gave a presentation during the Water pricing workshop. She says: “We live in a region with water scarcity, where a lot of water is also used for irrigation. We have started pricing the use of water. This entails many challenges, for example for farmers. Today we shared our experiences with other countries during a session. We learned a lot about different ways other countries have regulated water prices. For example, in some countries you pay for the amount of water you use or you need a permit for certain activities in a region.” She found the session educational and fun: “We are all part of the large Blue Deal family.”
Water safety management
During the session on flood risk management, the construction of dikes was not discussed. In fact, building a dike is “only half the job”, says Monique Zwiers of the Blue Deal Programme Office. “During construction, you already have to think about how you are going to organize maintenance.”
And there is often no budget for management and maintenance. Large financiers, such as the investment banks, also invest mainly in the construction of water infrastructure rather than in maintenance. Zwiers: “The Blue Deal is now also working on this, to find out how we can make such investments attractive to major donors.”
The session on stakeholder participation proved once again how many similarities there are between the Blue Deal partner countries. They all deal with similar interest groups, such as communities, farmers, fishermen or companies that use the water. The partner countries are also struggling with similar challenges in terms of financing and communication. The solution to the challenges has not yet been found in these short sessions. “But,” says Marcel de Ruijter, Partnership Manager for Romania, “This is just a start for sharing information with each other. It is the beginning of a process.”
Waste water management
During session on waste water management, 2 opposing ways of water purification were discussed: South Africa with a traditional approach and the Palestinian territories that use a high-tech, innovative approach. Both forms are good, emphasizes Hans Schepman, of the partnership in South Africa. “It really depends on the local context which solution you choose.” In addition, during this session it was strongly emphasized how important natural solutions (nature-based solutions) are. For example, through purification via wetlands.
The lack of funding for management and maintenance was also be discussed in this session. The participants do see all kinds of possibilities, such as revenue models for companies or by making the polluter pay.
“There is a nature-based solution for every problem,” says Jaap Bos, of the Blue Deal partnership in Ghana. For example, the neighboring country of Ghana, Burkina Faso, like many other countries, has to deal with the proliferating water hyacinth. During the session on nature-based solutions, they spoke about how the problem with water hyacinth can be converted into something that can earn money. For example, some countries use it to produce biogas. The Blue Deal programme in South Africa has a training programme for women to use dried water hyacinth to make baskets, which they then sell. Burkina Faso and South Africa have already made an appointment to discuss this further. “It shows once again how important knowledge sharing is.”
Liesbeth Wilschut, from the Blue Deal Programme Office, holds up her mobile during the smart monitoring session. “Nowadays we have so many new options for water monitoring. This makes participatory monitoring much easier. And it is also very cheap.” She lets the participants try out how it works, to monitor the water themselves. With a special monitoring stick, the participants walk to the river Amstel, next to which the event location is located. They briefly dip the swab into the water and then place it on a special card and use their phone to read the data. What they learn about the water in the Amstel? “The amount of nitrate it contains is okay. You can safely swim in it.”
What’s on the agenda for June 14?
On June 14, the third day of the congress, the participants will go out. They then visit a location where they can see Dutch water management in practice. They can choose one of the options: the Markermeerdijken, the Sand Motor or the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen.
The very first Blue Deal Congress started on June 12. International visitors from 16 partnerships were present. “This congress is a wonderful way to learn from each other: learning by meeting each other.” Looking back at Day 1.
In the morning, Luzette Kroon and Emilie Sturm opened the day under the leadership of moderator Ikenna Azuike. Kroon is a board member International Affairs at the Association of Dutch Water Authorities. Sturm is programme manager of the Blue Deal Programme Office. Kroon: “This congress is a wonderful way to learn from each other: learning by meeting each other.” Because that is the purpose of these days together: to meet each other and thus create a basis for exchanging knowledge even more easily in the future. Between the Netherlands and the partner countries, but also between the partner countries themselves.
Drop in the ocean?
The purpose of the Blue Deal is to improve access to clean, sufficient and safe water for 20 million people around the world. “Isn’t that a drop in the ocean?” asks moderator Azuike. “Yes,” replies Kroon, “But we are not alone, so much more is happening in our partner countries. And other countries are also coming up with different programmes. At the UN Water Conference in March this year, we saw that a real movement is emerging. Western countries – largely responsible for climate change – are increasingly taking their responsibility.” The Blue Deal is one of the sources of inspiration in this, as was also apparent at the UN Water Conference.
Peter Glas: The Dutch model is not a blueprint
Keynote speaker of the day was Delta Commissioner Peter Glas. He gave a presentation on water management in the Netherlands. “The Dutch model is not a blueprint, but it can serve as inspiration for our colleagues from abroad.” For the foreign delegations, this Dutch model is certainly something they want to learn from. They ask questions and afterwards several people ask for the PowerPoint presentation, so that they can look at it again later or share it with colleagues.
From draining to retaining
Glass also addresses the challenges facing the Netherlands. For example, that the Netherlands must retain more and more water instead of draining it. “We go from draining to retaining.” And there are all kinds of areas in which the Netherlands can learn from other countries. What can we learn from you in the field of water awareness and participation, Glas asks the audience. A South African guest responds: “In general, water awareness is very high in our area. But we notice that this is not always the case with young people. That is why we started a project: seedlings of hope. For example, together with children we will collect waste in the vicinity of a waterworks. We gradually start to tell more and more about how water management works.”
And what do the international delegations learn from the Blue Deal? For example, John Kinyanjui, from the partnership in Kenya, says during a panel discussion: “We want our government to pay more attention to our water resources. We should not just use the water and then not think about tomorrow. We want our government to realize that we also need to retain and replenish our water resources. We are now working on that with the Blue Deal.”
The day ended with a session ‘Collaboration across cultures’ by trainers Sheriff Aligbeh and Esther Janssen from Culture Inc. After all, that is what happens in the Blue Deal: working together with all kinds of countries and different cultures. That means adjusting to each other from time to time. Is that bad? Aligbeh does not think so: “A chameleon also adapts its colors to the environment. But does it change its core?”
He explains how cultural differences can sometimes lead to difficult situations. He gives an example of a Dutch man who had to work with people he did not trust at all. They didn’t even look at him! Aligbeh explains: “That is the difference between an egalitarian culture, as in the Netherlands, and a hierarchical culture. These people showed him respect by not looking at him.”
A woman from Burkina Faso gives a tip: “We have made a kind of a cultural map with a comparison between the Dutch and the Burkinese. That makes life a lot easier for us, and for them. Because we now know how best to communicate with each other.”
What’s on the agenda for June 13?
After a successful day on June 12, there is also a lot on the program on June 13. On this day, the participants will split into smaller groups to follow workshops. With the topics: Water pricing, Water safety management, Stakeholder participation, Urban waste water management, Nature-based solutions, and Smart monitoring.