Emily Scoones, Structural Engineer at Ramboll, and member of ACE’s Progress Network, reports from 'Exporting Britain’s Expertise', a Network organised event bringing together DIFID with consultant engineers working on overseas development projects.
The event took place on 12 June 2018 at WYG’s offices in London. We have summarised Emily’s longer article which was published on LinkedIn.
Rebecca Wooding, an Infrastructure Advisor at the Department for International Development (DFID), and Progress Network first vice-chair, opened the evening by outlining the funding streams used to help realise international development projects. As well as funding their own projects, DFID also joins with other organisations and multilateral agencies, such as The World Bank, to finance overseas projects in a wider range of countries. Collaboration with UK industry experts and using our knowledge on these projects is key to ensuring resilient solutions to poverty alleviation. However, our expertise needs to recognise the cultural and economic differences in international development projects, so solutions can “organically lift people out of poverty”.
Sharmala Naidoo, an Associate Director of WYG, discussed climate resilient infrastructure as a part of the Climate Resilient Infrastructure Development Facility (CRIDF) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). In Southern Africa, a majority of sugar companies’ profit comes from the local out-grower farmers who they pay to grow sugar cane on their own land rather than their own estates. The Illovo sugar plantation is situated in the Incomati Basin, an area subject to frequent and severe flooding. Illovo’s reactive response was also having knock-on impacts downstream on the community and their out-growers. Therefore, a climate resilient solution was required for the whole value-chain, where enhancing cooperation between the public and private sector was key. Flood data models created by CRIDF demonstrated how collaboration could benefit all parties and were vital to creating trust between them. The outcome of determining flood risk management options resulted in a user pay model where Illovo changed their flood defence strategy to a more climate resilient solution.
As well as finding resilient solutions, ensuring longevity is paramount to its success. Matthew Lambert, a consultant at Mott MacDonald, presented the approach taken for the Caribbean island of Monserrat to encourage a sustainable economic strategy. In a location where a volcano threatens to disrupt any development, and the population often leaves for education in the UK never to return, setting up a resilient economic strategy is a huge task. The project identified drivers for intervention, starting small and building through incremental steps to one day achieve, “sustainable private led economic growth for everyone’s benefit”. As part of that process, engaging with locals, and fostering trust in the strategy, is crucial to its success and helping the local community to "grow itself out of its milieu".
This message was echoed by Phillipa Jeffries of IMC Worldwide, who wrapped up the panellists’ presentations. She presented the work being undertaken in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where the water supply is critically strained. The Guma Dam and water treatment plant that supply the city are not well maintained, and the water system is plagued with informal “spaghetti” connections and leaks. It is believed over 50% of the water is lost due to people cutting pipes and general wear and tear, which is a huge in a country strained for water. The objective of the project was to rehabilitate the water supply system using the UK’s knowledge but appropriately utilise local resources and labour to ensure sustainability. In situations where non-local products or skills were required, a process of training and teaching was initiated to ensure the local workforce would be able to maintain the system. This methodology provides not only a solution but enables the infrastructure to be long lasting and become a source of employment for local people.
An engaging Q&A session followed covering a range of topics including, how funders and consultancies can work together to realise projects and ensure they are sustainable, how UK expertise needs to understand local culture and economies, how infrastructure projects can empower local communities, improve local skills and thereby encourage organic growth in a variety of ways.