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Solomon Kalima encourages other students to contribute towards a better world

“After working for 10 years as a water resources engineer for the Malawi Government, I realised that if I wanted to open more doors or progress in my career, a postgraduate degree was a necessity, because you are regarded as a specialist in your field of engineering if you have one. This provides a platform to which you can contribute your skills and abilities much easier than having only the first degree. Besides, the postgraduate degree offers you an opportunity to gain advanced analytical and leadership skills that can assist you in offering better engineering solutions to the challenges of the world,” says Solomon Kalima, who will receive his master’s degree in Civil Engineering at Stellenbosch University in December 2020.

Mr Kalima originally picked Engineering as his profession due to his passion to serve humanity in a creative world of applied mathematics and science, and wanted to solve the day to day needs of people and the environment.

He decided to pursue his postgraduate studies at Stellenbosch University. He says: “Stellenbosch University’s research output is highly rated, and its Engineering degree commands respect across Africa and the world. Besides, the professors are well known internationally in terms of their contribution to the academic and research world. This motivated me to study at Stellenbosch University and when I got a scholarship from the Malawi Government, I did not hesitate to apply to Stellenbosch.

He chose Civil Engineering as he feels it can be regarded to be at the centre of civilisation, or in fact engineering since the old times. “Civil Engineering outputs like roads, buildings, and the supply of water for socio-economic development cannot be emphasised enough in the daily activities of humanity. In this regard, Stellenbosch University offers a very good civil engineering degree in terms of its modules and research output. Besides, the University has the largest hydraulic laboratory in Africa in which highly-regarded water engineering research takes place.

“I chose my supervisor, Prof Kobus du Plessis, because he is a specialist in hydrology and environmental engineering, the fields in which I wanted to gain more skills. During my working experience, I recognised that there is a shortage of professionals specialised in the field of hydrology which mainly deals with the application of engineering skills on the management and development of the water resources. Nowadays, issues of floods, droughts, water allocation to competing uses like domestic, irrigation and hydropower, as well as climate change, are the main challenges that humanity is trying to cope with both at a local and international level. This led me to the quest of understanding these issues better, such that my research topic combined the issues of climate change and development scenarios (projection of the water demands in the future). In this regard, the research topic was titled Modelling the impact of climate change and development scenarios on the Eerste River. This river is the primary source of water supply for Stellenbosch Municipality and irrigation activities in the surrounding towns. The research emanated from the background of the near-missed occurrence of the Day-zero that was almost imminent in the City of Cape Town as one way of contributing to the future planning of water resources within the Eerste River Catchment.

“The results have shown that climate change and development scenarios are expected to cause a reduction in available water in the Eerste River of 12% and 18% by 2050s and 2090s, respectively. However, the reduction in available water induced by climate change will be significantly more when compared to reduction as a result of future development scenarios. Based on his research, it is expected that the impact of climate change could be noticeable in the reduction of available water for irrigation, while for future development scenarios could impact municipal water use. The combined impact of climate change and development scenarios is anticipated to be much worse than the independent occurrence of climate change or future development scenarios. Therefore, the research has suggested increasing the capacity of existing farm dams and the promotion of water conservation and water demand management practices to curb the potential impact on the Eerste River.

“I would like to continue with my career as a water expert by contributing my valuable skills and experience that I have gained to the Malawi Government, the SADC region and at a global level. I also plan to undertake a PhD in Water Engineering in future.”

Mr Kalima found his postgraduate experience at Stellenbosch very fulfilling and rewarding. He concludes: “I am grateful for the opportunity to share my experience via the Engineering Newsletter and I hope that it will encourage other students to also pursue their passion to contribute towards a better world for all. This initiative is good as it assists the engineering communities and others to learn more of what is happening in the Faculty of Engineering at Stellenbosch University.”

Photograph: Solomon Kalima.