CLOC West Africa – Network for Water and Life (NEWAL)

CLOC West Africa – “Network for Water and Life” (NEWAL) is a network of education and research partners in West Africa (Ghana, Ivory Coast and Liberia) and ten partners of higher education in Switzerland. The overarching goal of NEWAL is to promote and strengthen understanding, networking and scientific exchange between Swiss and West African institutions and the interface of water and life. NEWAL provides new opportunities for cooperation and collaboration for Swiss and West Africa research and higher education institutions through data collection and sharing, exchange events, and the facilitation and validation of e-tools in real-world settings.

Transdisciplinary Research and Education

Water-related ecosystems are essential to life and have provided natural sites for human settlements, bringing benefits such as transportation, natural purification, irrigation, flood protection, and habitats for biodiversity. Transitioning towards more sustainable and resilient societies requires an integrated approach that recognizes that current challenges and their solutions are interrelated. For instance, access to freshwater in sufficient quantity and quality (SDG 6) is a prerequisite to achieving several of the SDGs, particularly those that pertain to health (SDG 3), food security (SDG 2), energy (SDG 7), and poverty reduction (SDG 1). Overuse is contributing to the rapid depletion of water resources, leading to insecurity and potential conflict (SDG 16). Climate change (SDG 13) is affecting water resources in many already water-stressed areas. The critical importance of water for life therefore requires a transdisciplinary research approach that connects all these SDGs and develops a common understanding of how current and future challenges can be met.

Specific Activities

  1. Transdisciplinary and transcultural student research activities: A “winter school” in Ghana and a “summer school” in Switzerland will be implemented. The goal of these schools is to bring together 24 Bachelor or Master students from various disciplines and countries to focus on the overarching topic of “Water and Life” while working in a transcultural and translingual setting. Working in groups of 6 people representing different SDGs, the young and promising students will learn about key water-related challenges in West Africa, they will talk to local stakeholders, and they will identify and develop research projects for their BSc or MSc theses. The “winter school” in Ghana includes inputs from international experts, group work on case studies, meetings with stakeholders, and field visits. After having completed their research, which ideally will include field work in West Africa, the students will meet again to present and discuss the results of their work during a „summer school“ in Switzerland.
  2. Innovative online learning: The aim is to develop a Swiss-West African e-learning platform. A design-thinking approach is used to evaluate educational concepts. The platform addresses the challenge of identifying e-learning approaches that are suitable and of interest to West African users through a co-design workshop and the piloting of the proposed e-learning solutions in collaboration with academic partners in Ghana, Ivory Coast and Liberia.