Interview with Water Engineer from Turkana, Esekon Vivian Amoni

My name is Esekon Vivian Amoni. I am currently a graduate student at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands pursuing an 18-month program in Water Engineering with a specialization in Hydrology and Water Resources for the academic year 2019-2021. I am a water engineer working with the County Government of Turkana, where I have been for the past 5 years but currently on study leave.” are Vivian’s opening remarks.

It is the opportunity granted to her to work in one of Kenya’s arid and semi-arid regions that sparked her interest in groundwater studies. The main source of water in Turkana is groundwater. However, there are very limited studies about the resource in the area and the quality for a number of the existing wells is not very good. This sparked Vivian interest to want to study how she can best understand the unique situation of Turkana and through her knowledge, to contribute to an understanding of the limited resources and inform the policies made to guard it. “This is the force and belief that drives me, each of us needs to make a difference in our respective fields to improve the situation of people around us, and make life a little more worth living,” she says.When she realized where her passion was, for groundwater, she decided to do her research online on the countries that offer the best education and training on the subject. Several countries like Australia, Germany, the USA, and the Netherlands came up. The Netherlands was the highly recommended.

Through that process, she searched for universities in the Netherlands which would suit her best. She finally chose IHE Delft, an institute that has an international student body. Here she is able to learn from experiences of other countries, from her colleagues in all spheres of life.“I am lucky enough to have completed my class work and I am going on with my research thesis, that is, as you may have caught from above, on groundwater studies.

Although the research is not based in Kenya, I am glad to say that the same issues that my research will address, is very relevant to Kenya, bearing in mind that we have very limited studies and data on groundwater both on local, national, and even regional level,” adds Vivian. “The professors are also from all over the world and they are the best in their respective fields.

Owing to the great diplomatic relationship between Kenya and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, I applied for the Orange Knowledge Programme (OKP) scholarship through Nuffic as my institution qualified for the award. I was blessed and I got the scholarship that covered all my expenses during the duration of my stay here. So far, they have held their end of the bargain and I can study comfortably, despite the current global circumstances,” she says.Was this her first time to fly abroad? “No I had another opportunity through work and a Dutch organization- Acacia Water to visit the Netherlands in 2018 for three weeks,” adds VivianWhat went through her mind on arrival in The Netherlands? She says: “On arrival in Netherlands some exciting and mixed feelings. Truly speaking, it was cold and very quiet as opposed to Kenya. Fortunately, a greater percentage of the population speaks English so finding my way around was easy.”

How about getting home sick? “I did the first few weeks mostly because of the cold weather.But I got ugali and sukuma wiki and it felt a bit like home. The Kenyan community in school was very welcoming so my homesickness bearable.”

Vivian also admits that the pre-departure meeting helped to build positivity in her mind, especially with the transit, getting into the school and how to carry herself around. “I love studying here because things work, everyone who’s given a responsibility carries it out to ensure the delivery of goods and services is possible.

I love their work ethic. Every job is important and everyone is respected. No one is considered better than the other. I see that with my school’s staff,” adds VivianShe reveals how the Dutch as strict about time keeping, from classes, to appointments, to public transportation. “Everything is on time. And if not, you will be made aware,” says Vivian with a smile.One of her best experiences so far is how is that, she can easily move from one point to the other. Vivian has fallen in love with the bike. Yes, bike. “It is the most used mode of transportation. It gets you from point A to point B very fast. There are free parking spots for bikes everywhere. The bike lanes are well maintained and one can ride from one corner of the country to the other comfortably,” says Vivian.She notes that the reason many favor cycling is because anyone can afford it, is easy to learn and it’s a mode of exercise.

Vivian appreciates how the efficient Dutch system functions. For example, with a train card, one can easily apply for a subscription that best suits you.“I take every opportunity that is presented to me to learn from those that have different experiences from me. I aim to increase my knowledge every day. I solve water resource problems by listening to those who have experienced it and getting a solution through their input.

I hope to make much difference, one village at a time,” she posits.Vivian is a proud water engineer with the County government of Turkana. Before she took her study leave, she was in charge of one of the sub counties and had the responsibility of ensuring clean portable water is available to the community. “I was part of the team that did the 3R studies which determined locations around Turkana where water management and buffering can be implemented.

Two of the projects are currently being implemented through UNICEF.”Vivian has been involved in the design and monitoring of the implementation of a number of successful projects in Turkana County. An example is the Nakukulas reticulation water project in Turkana East sub-county a joint investment between the County Government and Tullow Oil company; and the Kapedo water project a partnership with the Kenya Rapid program.Key message from Vivian: The bottom line in all this is this, find out what you love in whatever field.

Even if it is not what you did in your undergraduate, let’s face it, we hardly get to practice our first degree in Kenya. Then dispel the fear that getting a scholarship is hard, or that you have done too many applications. Believe in yourself, God and the process, and then apply. Through my experience when doing my applications, I came to realize that if you apply for a course you love, your thoughts during the process will flow. You gain trust in what you are doing. You are not afraid to ask for help whenever you need it because you know deep down that it is for a good cause. So take the first step and research where you can best nurture your passion. The Dutch education system is very good and they encourage an informal relationship between the students and the professors so anyone can make it here.

If the scholarship requires a boss to vouch for you, then speak to a boss that will encourage you through the process and help out where it is officially required of them. I wish you all well as you start your search and application process. And dispel the fear and all will go well. No matter how many times you do it.

Published by Nancy Onyango

Established in 2004, The Netherlands Alumni Association of Kenya (NAAK) is a not-for-profit, non-political, non-partisan, membership organisation for Kenyans who have participated in either short or long-term education programs in the Netherlands and have an academic background. We organize various academic and social activities, and also provide a think-tank which engages in various developmental, intellectual and scholarly projects.

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