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Know your civil servant - Chief Hydrologist | Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry

2021-11-05  Staff Reporter

Know your civil servant - Chief Hydrologist | Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry
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New blood needed in hydrology 

The chief hydrologist in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, within the Infrastructure Development and Underground Water Supply subdivision, Henry Beukes, is urging students to consider venturing into geological studies as there is a huge deficit of hydrologists in the country.

Beukes is the current acting deputy director in that division, and he is also heading the underground water supply subdivision – a section within the directorate of water supply and sanitation coordination (DWSSC).

He further made the stark and unfortunate revelation that, in addition to him managing the infrastructure and research development, there are currently only three hydrologists working for the ministry’s directorate of water supply and sanitation coordination.

“That directorate is my brainchild. When I took over the office, I offered to start up the section – and initially, we were only two. Today, we are three people manning that section,” Beukes said. 

Beukes’ directorate is responsible for, among other things, the construction and maintenance of water infrastructure in rural areas, as well as for the implementation of community-based water management strategies while coordinating bulk water supply. 

The directorate is also responsible for coordinating the sanitation development at rural level.

 

Humble beginnings

Beukes joined the civil service in 2004. 

“I joined the public service in 2004 as an intern, and was attached to the Platveld Aquifer Study, north of Otjiwarongo. In 2005, I was employed permanently as the assistant hydrogeologist within the directorate of resource management,” he said, adding that it was upon the completion of his studies in 2007 that he was promoted into the full-time hydrologist position within the directorate.

He holds a Master’s Degree in Geology and Environmental Biology from the University of Namibia, with a specialisation in groundwater studies.

His educational background has been beneficial, especially when it comes to the development of policies and guidelines on drought regulations and drought assessment, as groundwater forms a major component in the assessment of the drought policies.

“When I started working, I was more associated with groundwater research and sanitation infrastructure development. After five years, I was transferred to the water supply section at the rural water supply, and focussed on developing strategies for rural water supply,” he enthused. 

While being a hydrologist and working for the government was not necessarily his dream, he said it became a means to an end. 

Like any other graduate, upon completing his studies, his primary dream was to get a job and take care of his family – so much so that while studying, he approached the ministry’s head of the directorate of resource management, who offered him a part-time job. This offer essentially culminated into his full-time employment at the same ministry. 

“The position that I am holding is not something that I dreamed of. It is just something that fell into my path, and I am happy that I was exposed to this section. It was not my dream to work for government. The aim was to get a job,” he said.

 

Not without challenges

Even though he cherishes every moment he spends on the job, it is not without challenges. 

He highlighted the general resource restrictions, particularly financial, as well as human resources capacity as some of the challenges his division faces in the implementation of its programmes. 

He further pointed to political interference, especially in terms of water supply, as a limiting factor. 

“What we picked up is that there is political interferences, especially with regards to underground water supply, that also hampers the implementation of the programme,” he said.

In terms of job satisfaction, Beukes highlights policy development as the area that excites him the most. 

His division has been active in policy development, including the development of guidelines and strategies – the Water Resources Management Act of 2013.

“It is inspiring to be part of the process that defines the legal framework of the Republic of Namibia,” he enthused.

Equally rewarding, according to Beukes, is seeing the community’s appreciation once water has been supplied. 

“The satisfying part of my work is the gratitude that you see in the community when you supply them with the water resources. Namibia, being one of the driest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, nothing is more rewarding and commendable than erecting a pipe or tap, and supply a community with water. That is something that communities appreciate,” he added.

He said this would not have been possible without the time well spent in academia.  

“For the past 10 years of my employment within the government, I was with the directorate of resource management and specifically looking at resource management groundwater. I was involved in all aquifers studies such as Oshivelo aquifer, //Aiseb aquifer, and newly discovered Ohangwena aquifer,” he said.

 

Government made me

He said all his accomplishments are linked to teamwork and efficiency of hordes of individuals at the ministry, and believes he is who he is because of the government.

“Everything I have achieved, I have had the support of the government, the director and the minister, who make sure that we have all resources needed to execute our duties,” he said.

“I am who I am today because of the government of the Republic of Namibia. My professional accomplishment is because of the resources provided by the government. All of my studies were sponsored by the government, including my master’s degree,” he added.

When asked about how long he is planning to remain in the civil service, Beukes revealed that when he joined the public service, his decision was to serve government for 10 years only. 

“I am now working for government for almost 17 years, and I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon,” he stated. 

Seemingly striving for perfection, he said it will be unfair to exit when there is still unfinished business.

“I don’t see myself leaving government, but moving up the management level, where I can also make tangible decisions when it comes to policies and resource allocation to the areas where it is needed,” he said.

 

 

 


2021-11-05  Staff Reporter

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