A youth network in the Mediterranean is flowing with ideas of how to solve the world’s water challenges. They’re the water heroes that we need.
Today more and more younger people in the Mediterranean region are getting involved in innovative water-related projects. Key to securing a more sustainable water future, they have an important role to play when it comes to increasing water awareness and working towards water security.
MedYWat (short for Mediterranean Youth for Water) is exactly what it sounds like: a network of young water professionals from across the Mediterranean region. Their mission is to create and share knowledge and ultimately amplify the voices of the vital generation on water and climate change agendas.
“Put youth in charge and you will succeed!” — Blanca Moreno-Dodson, CMI Manager
The Mediterranean, in particular the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, is one of the areas in the world most vulnerable to climate change, as well as one of the most water scarce in the world. Numerous phenomena – such as deforestation, water pollution, population growth, increased urbanisation and water mismanagement – are further worsening water security in the region.
The Center for Mediterranean Integration knows who to put in charge: “If you are wondering what the key factor could be to turn around the trajectory of the water future in the Med region; we believe the answer is youth.” That’s why, on World Water Day in March 2017, they set up MedYWat.
CMI is a Marseille-based multi-partner platform that provides a space where development agencies, governments and civil society can come together to identify solutions for the Mediterranean region. Made up of over 200 young water researchers, entrepreneurs and activists, they launched the youth network during their first youth-focused workshop, which welcomed around 60 young water activists and experts from the region – and focused on wastewater and the circular economy.
The idea was to stimulate intergenerational and create a regional water consciousness, encouraging everyone – from policy makers to the general public – to reconsider how they interact with water on a daily basis.
Award-winning anthropologist, filmmaker and human rights advocate Kholoud Al Ajarma (pictured below) is the MedYWat water and migration coordinator in Palestine. She says that youths represent more than half of the population of the southern shore of the Mediterranean, so are extremely important in the development of the region: “Women and youth play a crucial role as change agents in climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Mediterranean. They are making a difference by adopting innovative solutions and raising awareness.”
In March 2018, the network reconvened in Anafora, Egypt, for the second World Water Day youth workshop, focusing on nature-based solutions.
The following year, a water and migration workshop in Marrakesh, Morocco addressed how to provide safe water and sanitation for all by 2030, including the most marginalised groups such as refugees and migrants.
Although 2020 was a tricky year, the annual workshop went ahead virtually with an e-conference on water and climate change. They also organised a youth entrepreneurship e-hackathon and e-bootcamp to encourage idea generation among young water entrepreneurs.
The World Water Day 2021 contest will focus on the theme of valuing water. To amplify the voice of regional youth, the contest will offer young water researchers and activists from around the Mediterranean the opportunity to showcase their innovative work on water.
Frederic de Dinechin is CMI’s water programme leader. He tells us that MedYWat is more relevant than ever in today’s challenging environment: “In the post-Covid recovery, the water youth network will be key to ensure public policies and long-term investments on water and innovation in the sector guarantee a sustainable future when dealing with long-term challenges such as climate change and pandemics.”
He adds that the “fundamental certainty which motivated the creation of MedYWat was mainly the value in the innovation and creativity that young people bring. Their actions and ideas should be shared and replicated to create a more secure regional water future. Moreover, youth are often keen to adopt and test new ideas and technologies.”
An example of a MedYWat innovation is Water Heroes. Created by Palestinian social entrepreneur Lamis Qdemat (pictured below), it’s an educational game that children can play on the computer or mobile phone, as a fun way to learn about water resources, water recycling and waste management.
During Covid-19 pandemic crisis, youth in the Med region have also been developing innovative solutions to address key water related challenges such as WASH (water sanitation and hygiene). “The youth are the best placed to learn from this difficult period. They are willing to build back better to improve their future and the future of the next generations,” adds Frederic.
When it comes to the nexus between water scarcity and climate change, CMI manager Blanca Moreno-Dodson can’t stress enough how CMI has benefited from the MedYWat innovations, and the knowledge-sharing, fieldwork, dedication and exemplary data analysis that members have conducted: “Put youth in charge and you will succeed!”
Frederic de Dinechin, water programme leader, Cyril Gourraud, Ines Gasmi and Asma Bashikh, water experts
This project has been selected as part of MedFutures, a new content channel that maps the most innovative and inspiring solutions to the water and climate crisis in the Mediterranean and the people behind them. Atlas of the Future is excited to join forces with Aigües de Barcelona.
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