This month, Simon van Meijeren started as Programme Advisor for Partners for Water. Specialising in irrigation and integrated water management and with extensive experience working on water-related projects worldwide, Simon brings valuable knowledge and expertise to the team. Partners for Water is excited to have him on board. Nice to meet you Simon!
After completing his studies in International Land and Water Management, Simon spent six years working at Acacia Water, a small consulting firm that develops sustainable solutions for water-related issues around the world. Their projects cover a wide range of topics and areas, from groundwater to surface water and from Zeeland to Yemen. Simon began as a technician and has since become an advisor focusing on irrigation and integrated water management. He is now looking forward to applying his knowledge and skills to his new role as a Partners for Water’s Programme Advisor for Indonesia.
‘During the last 1.5 years at Acacia, I provided the German Development Bank (KfW) with technical and strategic advice on their water portfolio in Yemen and Palestinian territories. I learned the importance of a well-formulated and technically sound framework in which projects can be executed, and also what the impacts are when this is not the case. Often the framework does not match the reality on the ground or provides limited guidance for effective project execution, hampering the overall impact and sustainability. I also discovered that the success of a project heavily depends on the engagement of local actors and their expertise.’ Simon aims to integrate these insights into his work at Partners for Water by fostering a systems approach and emphasising the importance of engaging with local actors.
‘One important lesson that I have learned is that a technical solution is not necessarily a silver bullet. A technology’s success is over 50% dependent on its ability to adapt to the social context and local traditions. For instance, a project proposal in Ethiopia aimed at increasing water use efficiency for small farmers proposed to introduce drip irrigation systems. However, it appeared that previous drip irrigation projects had failed. A lack of technical know-how and absence of farmer support left farmers using the drip lines to tie up their tomato plants. In order to avoid repeating the same failure, we investigated the reasons for farmers to use their water more efficiently and tried to find alternative technologies that matched their rationales. As a result, we choose to optimise the existing irrigation technique, rather than switching to a new technology. I learned that a successful project should involve key stakeholders in project design. Find a solution that is close to them, meets their needs and aligns with their practices. This applies as much to farmers in Ethiopia as to those in Zeeland, or any other region where a project is being implemented.’
‘In the coming years, I believe I will learn a lot from government collaborations, diplomacy and political relationships. I'm also very interested in the social aspect and cultural differences that I will encounter. Understanding these differences can offer valuable insights into why people do certain things and why things happen as they do. In addition, I am looking forward to sharing my technical background and knowledge of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) with my colleagues and the various subsidy-receiving parties. My first destination? Indonesia.’ Next week, Simon will board a plane to Java for a two-week working visit. ‘It will be a great journey of discovery in the months to come!’