Opportunity for Masters student 

Closing date for applications: Monday 7 September 2020 

Project background 

Around 275 million people in Africa do not have reliable access to drinking water. Many communities in rural areas depend on handpumps to access groundwater, but at any given time, one in four of those handpumps is broken. Mechanics are often unaware of failures, leaving pumps out of action for weeks or even months, which can drive people to use other distant, dirty, or expensive water sources. 

The FundiFix model is one response to Africa’s rural water challenge. Led by local entrepreneurs in Kenya and powered by Africa’s mobile network, the FundiFix model focuses on the maintenance of existing water infrastructure for communities, schools, clinics, and other rural facilities in Kenya. Using smart handpumps, FundiFIx has reduced waiting times for repairs from weeks or months to a few days. To date, this work has helped 70,000 people in Kenya have access to a reliable source of water. 

We seek a Masters student to contribute to understanding whether community-based approaches such as the FundiFix model could be applied to Namibia’s context to help improve WASH service delivery in rural areas, improve the sustainability of water supply services, diversify livelihoods, and improve resilience to climate shocks in rural communities. 

This project is linked to the Resilient Waters Project, which is funded by USAID Southern Africa, and aims to build more resilient and water secure Southern African communities and ecosystems through improved management of transboundary natural resources and increased access to safe drinking water and sanitation services. The Resilient Waters Project focuses specifically on the Okavango and Limpopo river basins, with the aim of improving transboundary water security, increasing access to safe drinking water, strengthening the ability of communities to adapt to climate change, and conserving biodiversity and ecosystems. 

Call for applications 

We seek a motivated individual to engage in a collaborative process with stakeholders in Namibia to advance understanding of how sustainable community-based approaches, such as the FundiFix model, could be applied to complex WASH challenges such as rural water supply. This project will involve drawing on lessons learned from using the FundiFix model in Kenya, and exploring the mechanisms that exist or need to be developed to support a similar community-based approach in Namibia. We seek a Masters student who is interested in addressing one or a combination of the following questions in the context of Namibia’s rural water supply: 

– How the FundiFix approach could contribute towards building community resilience in rural Namibia: advancing understanding of community resilience and the mechanisms, resources, and main actors needed to implement sustainable community-based approaches. 

– Investigating what a water services maintenance funding mechanism in Namibia would look like to support a community-based management model for rural water supply: understanding current funding models for rural water services in Namibia and the legislative environment to support an approach like FundiFix. 

– Piloting the FundiFix model in Namibia and exploring the impacts such an approach has on building resilience and providing livelihood options for a particular community: using case studies to identify the challenges and opportunities related to sustainable community-based approaches in Southern Africa and identifying a community that could be a successful pilot for establishing a private sector maintenance service such as FundiFix. 

The ideal candidate should have a strong academic track-record and analytical skills, possess a keen interest in sustainability issues and social-ecological resilience, an interest and ability to integrate across the social and natural sciences, and be an independent thinker who is open to collaboration and keen to participate in the events and activities of the CST. Experience in conducting interviews and running focus groups will be advantageous. 

The successful candidate will be registered for an Mphil in Sustainable Development in the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST), at Stellenbosch University, and supervised by Dr Joy Waddell based at the CST, Stellenbosch University. Successful candidates are expected to commence their degree at Stellenbosch University in January 2021. 

Bursary value 

Masters full-time over 2 years: R120 000 p.a., excluding field costs. 


Applications are invited from Namibian nationals or Southern African nationals working and living in Namibia. 

All students applying for a Masters degree should have completed a three-year undergraduate degree and a one-year Honours degree, with a pass rate of 65% or higher. All candidates should show evidence of strong scholarly performance and commitment to publishing. Stellenbosch University will only accept students who meet the minimum academic requirements from recognised higher education institutions. 

Students need to be able to communicate and write in English. Preference will be given to students who can work independently, are well organised, and who will be willing to participate in the regular activities of the CST at Stellenbosch University. 

To apply 

Interested candidates should send electronically: 

  • a motivation letter detailing why you are well-suited to undertake this project, your connection to Namibia (i.e., if you are a Namibian national and/or living/working in Namibia), your previous research/work experience, your general area of interest, as well as your specific interest in this project and project-related ideas. 
  • a 2-page CV that includes your academic record, previous work experience, any scientific publications on which you have been an author, and the names and contact details of at least two academic referees, 
  • transcripts of university-level academic qualifications, 
  • • at least one example of recent written work (e.g. a paper, report, or thesis chapter). 

Applicants possessing the prescribed minimum qualifications are invited to submit the above required documents electronically with a subject line “FUNDIFIX Masters research” to Dr Joy Waddell : joywaddell@sun.ac.za 

If you have any questions on the topic, please contact Dr Joy Waddell at CST: joywaddell@sun.ac.za 

We encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible, but latest by 5pm (UTC +2) on Monday 7th September. 

CST and Stellenbosch University reserve the right to not fill the post if there are no suitable candidates who meet the requirements.