Palestinian scientists on a mission to assist drought-stricken Namibia
A four-man delegation of water, soil and climate experts is in the country at the request of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to assist Namibia in its response to the worst drought in living memory and to help alleviate the state of emergency declared by President Hage Geingob earlier this year.
The delegation of mostly scientists told Confidente yesterday that they were here to support Namibia with scientific expertise in water and rangeland management, and to consider areas of mutual support and cooperation.
Hassona Aldramly of the Embassy of Palestine in Pretoria said they hoped to strengthen ties of solidarity and to assist the people of Namibia in facing the challenges of dealing with drought and climate change. They met with officials responsible for water and agriculture mainly and hoped to offer their expertise and experience in building up Namibia’s resilience to water scarcity, among other challenges.
Aldramly said Namibians and Palestinians have a shared history of anti-colonial struggle and that Palestinian leaders, such as Yasser Arafat had supported the fight for Namibia, as Namibia today uncompromisingly continues to support the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.
Palestine has observer status at the African Union. Aldramly said they have long considered themselves as integrally tied to Africa and have a role to play in supporting African countries like Namibia.
He said the difference is that although they have not suffered a natural catastrophe at home, the Israeli occupation prevents them from fully enjoying their land rights and water resources, but Palestinians have great expertise in a number of areas, such as water management, agriculture and energy, that could be of benefit to “our African brothers and sisters”.
Dr Khaled Abu-Qare of the Palestinian International Cooperation Agency (PICA) in Ramallah, said the agency was set up in 2016 to express practical solidarity with other nations, to build South-South cooperation and as a tool for diplomacy by advancing programs of technical cooperation in areas such as health, sanitation, water services and energy provision.
Dr Nadel Al Khateeb of the Water and Environmental Development Organisation in Bethlehem explained that water supply in their country is limited due to politics, “due to the Israeli occupation, but we have the knowledge and expertise,” specifically regarding water use and soil conservation and hope to build people-to-people bridges and to organize capacity building and information-sharing programmes with Namibia, including academic exchanges.
Dr Othman Sharkas of Birzet University’s Geography Department specialises in land degradation and desertification. He said they have done a lot of work in this field, as well as climate change adaptation and drought management. Dr Sharkas says Namibia has the potential to seriously level up its solar power output.
Despite having a population of some 5 million concentrated over 5000 square metres, the Palestinians have managed their water resources in a sustainable manner, he said.
The delegation of scientists will meet with officials and academics to share knowledge about how to better manage the use of surface and underground water, as well as collecting rainfall. They said, besides the exchange of scientific and technical support, they hope to build lasting relations to benefit the people of both countries.
* This report was first published in Confidente on 24 Oct 2019.