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Nile Basin Research Programme

Background

This multidisciplinary guest research programme promotes research on topics related to the Nile Basin. The hope is that this effort engenders additional research, academic exchange and professional networking among institutions in region and cooperation on the basis of trust and mutual confidence.

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Bend in the Nile

The initiative is deeply rooted in research carried out at the University of Bergen where many departments are engaged in Nile related research. Professor Terje Tvedt and his team have for many years worked with the recent Nile history. He had long developed an idea for a programme that brings researchers from all parts of the Nile Basin together to conduct research on the river and its history as seen and experienced from within the Basin.

He presented the idea to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the World Bank and the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), which was established in 1999 as a partnership of the riparian states. They all welcomed the initiative and the University of Bergen allocated personnel to start planning a programme.   

A concept note was presented to the regional Council of Ministers of Water Affairs (Nile-Com) in September 2003. Structurally, the new research programme would be linked to the Applied Training Programme of NBI, with a broad research approach directed toward senior researchers.

The Applied Training Programme (ATP) suggested a programme that would include disciplines that normally do not belong to IWRM. The idea was to include sciences that could produce new knowledge relevant to water management. Knowledge of history, local traditions and biodiversity is important for anyone working with the combination of water and people.

The NBRP contract was signed in December 2005 by the University of Bergen and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the programme was officially inaugurated March 15 the following year by the Norwegian Minister of International Development, Erik Solheim.

The programme
A Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) was formed and research themes were worked out, using a prioritized list drafted by Nile-Com. The first group of guest researchers arrived in Bergen in January 2007. Over the next three years, fifty-four senior researchers participated in one of the six research groups that converged on Bergen for a semester each.

The groups were integrated into existing groups and ongoing research at the University of Bergen in an effort to promote cooperation between the guest researchers and researchers throughout the University.

NBRP had from the beginning sought to include all the riparian countries. Eritrea holds observer status in NBI, yet NBRP wanted to include Eritrea in its research activities. In September 2008, Dr. Sætersdal visited the country and met with the leadership of the newly reformed Eritrea Institute of Technology in Asmara as well as the Ministry for Education and Research. Good working relations were established and the subsequent groups have all included participants from Eritrea, now participating in the programme as an equal partner.

Regional presence
The programme has made efforts to keep a regional presence through institutional visits; hands-on presence at relevant meetings and fora; co-hosting seminars with institutions in the region; organizing research conferences; and press coverage. NBRP has also encouraged the formation of the Nile Basin University Forum (NBUF) and supports fora and university organizations in the region, like the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) and the Organization for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA).

The first Nile Basin Research Conference took place in Dar es Salaam in June 2009 with 120 participants. Two research group seminars were organised at the Library of Alexandria and in Dar es Salaam. A second Research Conference took place in November 2010 in Kampala. Four large book launch seminars were held in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda in 2010.The programme has published ten books on Fountain Press in Kampala as well as peer reviewed papers in scientific journals. Public dissemination of research results are ongoing with high school/museum poster exhibitions and a booklet targeting students and the general public