MENA NWC Holds Biennial Congress in Muscat, Oman

Updated Date: 
28 March 2016

More than 80 Middle East water professionals and researchers came together for the first time in November 2015 at the Middle East and North Africa Network of Water Centers of Excellence (MENA NWC)’s First Biennial Congress.

The event was co-convened by the Network’s two Centers in Oman—Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) and the Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC). The primary focus of the Congress was for the Network’s 24 member water research Centers to define a research agenda that is directly relevant to “real world” needs and has the potential for rapid impact at scale. Through active engagement of research scientists, the private sector and donor implementing partners, the Congress directed the Network on a new, more entrepreneurial business path.

Timed to coincide with the conclusion of the first phase of Network-sponsored research projects, MENA NWC’s First Congress also provided a forum for researchers and scientists from the member Centers and partnering institutions to share research findings and impacts.

One of the more unique events during the Congress was the first-ever in-person meeting of the Network’s eight Young Water Scientists and 10 Water Innovations Fellows, who presented their small grant interventions.

“We saw some outstanding young scientists during their presentations and talks,” said Rachael McDonnell, International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA). “It is such a bonus at this early stage in your career to have your own grants, to define your own research areas and to follow that idea that you have—those are going to be our water leaders of the future and we need to nurture them and keep them in the region.”


The Congress was facilitated with modern participatory meeting techniques. Participants were exposed to hands-on activities and use of small groups to internalize learnings through an open discussion between participants and organizers.

“The key takeaway for me is that facilitation is an important skill,” said Rana Ardah, Royal Scientific Society. “I facilitate groups with young people in Jordan and I thought you can only use group discussions and breakout groups in small groups. But after this event, I learned that you can use such innovative facilitation techniques with large groups.”

During the three-day Congress, participants were given the opportunity to vote for the following four awards:

¨ The Most Interesting Project: The winner was “Application of Near-Real Time Monitoring Systems for Irrigated Agriculture.”

¨ The Largest Creative Leap: The winner was “Promoting Water Use Efficiency in Green Schools.”

¨ The Greatest Potential Impact on Policy or Commercialization: The winner was “Developing Diagnosis Techniques and Strategies to Reduce NRW in the Middle East Region.”

¨ Most frequently recognized project: The winner was “Radar Probing of Groundwater in Hyper-Arid Environments: Understanding Aquifer Dynamics in High Discharge Areas.”

About 80 water practitioners, scientists, private sector representatives, donors, and government officials participated in the event, which provided an opportunity for the Network’s five Technical Communities to meet and explore current research and knowledge-sharing initiatives. The Technical Communities represent the Network’s priority research areas: Water Efficiency and Productivity; Groundwater; Non-Conventional Water; Water Supply and Sanitation; and the Water-Energy-Food Nexus. While together, these community members discussed and agreed to priorities for future research, and agreed to continue engagement with one another through the Network’s online communities of practice supported by the Network’s website (

The Congress also provided an opportunity for the Network’s Board of Directors to hold its Annual Meeting and to convene the Network’s Assembly of Governing Members who represent the Network’s 24 member centers.