IHCantabria’s commitment to international cooperation has had an impact beyond the academic and professional spheres.

by | 7 Jun, 2023 | General News, Projects | 0 comments

Environmental engineer Onneetse Lesedi, a beneficiary of the Learn Africa scholarship program, highlights what she learned during her 10-month stay at IHCantabria, where she learned about the hydraulic and environmental performance of the Santander Bay sanitation system.

The commitment to international cooperation is reflected not only in the development of research and development cooperation projects, but also in the support for the training of students from several countries, as the Institute of Environmental Hydraulics of the University of Cantabria (IHCantabria) has done with the environmental engineer Onneetse Lesedi, beneficiary of the Learn Africa scholarship program.

“Coming here has been like a gift. I feel more alive now. With these words Onneetse Lesedi referred to her experience in IHCantabria, where she arrived almost 10 months ago, with the desire to learn and to value the possibilities that the specialization in environmental engineering offers here. Now that her scholarship period is coming to an end, and she is about to return to her home country, she feels a mixture of emotions and carries a backpack full of learning.

“Growing up in a farming family, I experienced firsthand the problems facing agriculture in Botswana, due to poor rainfall; this is the driving force behind my passion and professional field,” recalls Lesedi, who believes he has recaptured his academic passion and a great deal of personal learning at IHCantabria. “That’s why I encourage other students from Africa to come to study in Spain and to get to know the great work that is developed in IHCantabria. And I also encourage those who are here to visit and do research in my country and in other African countries, because I know that they can also learn much more there than they imagine,” according to this environmental engineer, who longs to be remembered as a good academic ambassador for her country.

Onneetse Lesedi is an environmental engineering graduate from Botswana, a landlocked country in southern Africa. He graduated with honors from the University of Guelph, Canada, where he lived for more than 5 years. She is the third recipient of the Women for Africa (MxA) Foundation’s scholarship program.

This grant allowed Lesedi to continue his research at IHCantabria, thanks to the collaboration framework agreement signed in 2017 between the president of the MxA Foundation, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, and the rector of the University of Cantabria (UC), Ángel Pazos. According to this agreement, both institutions undertook to analyze proposals to improve the development of the African continent through projects and programs in the field of university training and research.

Lesedi assisted H20’s distribution manager, as a volunteer, before working as a plant operator at the Botswana Water Utilities Company, which is responsible for efficient water supply and quality in her home country. He also worked as a project assistant at Pipe Connection Engineering Services, where he was responsible for managing and implementing science and engineering projects.

When she started her stay at IHCantabria, Lesedi was interested in learning about applied engineering solutions in wastewater management and green design, water lines and agricultural systems. Currently, she plans to return to her home country to collaborate with the Okavango Research Institute (ORI) at the University of Botswana. Subsequently, he plans to study in Namibia for a Master’s program in Natural Resources Management.

Under the coordination of César Álvarez, director of the Hydraulic Engineering Group of IHCantabria, Lesedi began by analyzing the hydraulic and environmental performance of the sanitation system of Santander Bay. He then had the opportunity to learn about the European TRASMARES project, which promotes specialized training in tools applied to sustainable marine ecosystems, with the support of the universities of Cantabria (UC), Bologna (Italy) and Coimbra (Portugal), together with Telefónica Educación Digital (TED) as a technological partner, within the framework of the European Union’s Erasmus+ program. This project caught Lesedi’s interest and encouraged him to rethink a bit the focus of his graduate training.

Learn Africa Scholarship Program

This program was launched in 2013, with the aim of promoting the transfer of knowledge, exchange and training of African university women, through scholarships offered by Spanish universities. So far, 630 scholarships have been awarded to African women from 42 different countries through this program. All this has been possible thanks to the commitment and dedication of a wide network of (more than) 50 collaborators, including universities, educational centers and donors.

Women for Africa Foundation


It is a private Spanish non-profit entity, created in February 2012. Its main objective is to contribute to the development of the African continent through the support and accompaniment of its women, who are the driving force behind its progress. Women for Africa (MxA) is committed to and works for democracy, governance, peace, human rights and sustainable economic and social development on equal terms.


This is a mixed research institute that arose from the collaboration between two institutions: the University of Cantabria and the Government of Cantabria, represented through the Fundación Instituto de Hidráulica Ambiental de Cantabria.