Ms Nantale Nsibirwa, a Master’s candidate at the Centre of Water Resources Research (CWRR), was one of three finalists shortlisted for the International River Foundation 2018 Emerging River Professional Award. The award recognises innovation, excellence and leadership in river, basin or river-dependent community management.

Nsibirwa attended and presented at the International Riversymposium in Sydney, Australia in October where the award was presented to fellow finalist Mr José Fernández from Peru.

‘I was excited and grateful to have been selected as a finalist,’ said Nsibirwa, before adding that her time at the symposium was informative, encouraging and enjoyable.

Finalists for the award were selected through the evaluation of written submissions describing their contribution to a work project, or Master’s or PhD findings.

Nsibirwa submitted her Master’s thesis, which concerned identifying the source areas and transport pathways of diffuse pollution in the uMngeni Catchment. This involved developing maps that aid efforts to conserve ecological infrastructure by identifying areas in the catchment with a high risk of contributing to the diffuse pollution problem.

The symposium linked well with Nsibirwa’s research as it covered various topics relating to the restoration, protection and sustainable management of the world’s rivers. The programme included research and project presentations, sessions on developing leadership skills and establishing a personal vision, as well as study tours. Networking events also provided Nsibirwa with the opportunity to connect with other delegates.

Nsibirwa had the chance to interact with her fellow finalists, as well as Ms Charity Mundava and Ms Carmina Rivera who are the 2019 recipients of another award, the Vera Thiess Fellowship. She also interacted with Chief Executive Officer at the Inkomati-Usuthu Catchment Management Agency Dr Thomas Gyedu-Ababio, and many other established and emerging river professionals.

In 2017, Nsibirwa earned national recognition when she received the KwaZulu-Natal Premier’s Award at the sixth annual Symposium of Contemporary Conservation Practice (SCCP) for the presentation of her Master’s research.

Nsibirwa has recently completed an internship with the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi, where she worked with the Global Environmental Monitoring Systems for Freshwater Unit. This experience, she said, expanded her perspective on what working in international development could be and enabled her to meet people from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

As for her future, Nsibirwa hopes to gain more experience working on water development issues, and plans to one day complete her PhD.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Paul Fletcher