Wits Vuvuzela caught up with Odwa Ntsika Mtembu who was born and raised in a small village in the rural area of Mqanduli in the Eastern Cape.

He is currently studying MSc in Earth Sciences, focusing on the integration and understanding of water, geomorphology and climate issues in Southern Africa. He is also the South African president of the World Merit Organisation, the United Nation’s global platform for talented and collaborative millennials making a positive impact in the world.

What inspired you to pursue engineering science?

Where I come from, water scarcity and lack of reliable access to good-quality water is still a reality. I chose to be a water scientist not to only contribute to improving conditions where I come from, but to also give input in improving conditions of many other South Africans through research, educating people and projects I am involved in.

What is your role as the South African president of the World Merit Organisation?

I work with the council members and partners to connect South African youth to various opportunities globally, advocate and create awareness about the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through seminars, workshops and stakeholder engagement. I also ensure implementation, progress and success of the SDGs through various sustainable community and nature-based projects.

What does this role mean to you?

It’s an honour as it allows me to connect and engage with many young, smart and passionate young people with different social and academic backgrounds who put their political affiliations aside to voluntarily serve the country, region and the world to build a better tomorrow for everyone.

You are currently in Brazil. What are you doing there?

The World Water Forum team invited me to attend the 8th World Water Forum in Brasilia as a young panellist for one of the sessions under the climate theme. The topic I will be involved in will discuss the importance of strengthening water-wise management and climate mitigation through integrated policies, regulations and financing.

What do you think needs to be done to resolve water scarcity in South Africa?

The issue of water scarcity in South Africa requires improved and sustainable measures to manage water resources. This extends to the monitoring and evaluation of the different projects in place, inclusive of improving the access to groundwater and understanding of desalination practices. But the most important thing to do is for everyone to save water and protect our water resources.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

Besides the different plans I have for my academic and professional career path of being a young expert within my field, I see myself living in a water scarce country that has improved its ways of water usage and governance of natural resources to ensure sustainable access and availability of (good quality) water for everyone.

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