🥇Uniservitate Award 2022 winning experience
IngénieuxSud, a knowledge interchange for local development in Dwale
The ethical service-learning course at the Catholic University of Leuven offers a series of community-based activities concerning the three thematic groups of the university: Engineering and Technology, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Science and Biomedical Sciences. Other programmes include the following: the “IngénieuxSud” (Engineers for the South) project course, in which over 120 undergraduates a year carry out technical cooperation actions for sustainable local development in communities in sub-Saharan Africa, South America and East Asia; the Human Rights Law Clinic Rosa Parks, in which about 30 students provide service to civil society organisations working with vulnerable groups outside the legal services, as part of their Master’s degree dissertation; and the health care programme involving about 50 students.
Concerning “IngénieuxSud”, the experience describes the project carried out in the academic year (2020-2021) in the village of Dwale, Bateke plateau, in the DRC. As a result of the scientific, technological and cultural exchange between 18 university students (8 Belgian and 10 Congolese), there was a study, design and implementation of an afforestation project with fruit trees, the installation of street lighting and a garden centre in Dwale.
Using local contacts with the Congolese Community Development Support Association (ACADEC), the Belgian students considered the construction of a city garden for timber production as a specific service. However, after discussions with their peers at the University of Kinshasa and direct contact with community representatives, they arrived at an intermediate solution, modifying the original idea of the city garden into one of fruit-tree production to contribute to sustainable local development.
During a full academic year, the 18 students were constantly in contact with ACADEC representatives, the village of Dwale, professors and researchers from the Catholic University of Leuven and the University of Kinshasa (UNIKIN) to provide concrete, adequate and sustainable solutions to the requests expressed. The interactions were online between September 2020 and June 2021. All students went to the village to implement the co-constructed solutions with all stakeholders during the 2021 summer.
At present, twenty-five fruit trees were replanted. The exchanges between the various participants and the students monitoring led to the choice of tree species, their handling, planting techniques and timing, and logistics related to their distribution. Beyond the positive environmental impact of this activity, it provides concrete job opportunities for the most vulnerable members of the rural population.
As a result of this training experience, a Belgian student says: “Personally, it made me want to work abroad. I want to participate in development projects and discover other cultures. We’ve learned a lot about project management and teamwork. You need to listen and come to an agreement to move forward.” During the IngénieuxSud project, everyone’s views are discussed and put on the table to reach a common understanding. Students realise that their beliefs, values and ethical positions, among others, only evolve from their interaction with others.
It is a pedagogical proposal for international technical cooperation inspired by the solidarity and culture of encounter. In addition to the experience of scientific, technological and cultural exchange, the course helps build in undergraduates and professors from the “North” and the “South” the capacity to take future decisions favouring environmental integrity, economic viability and a fairer society.
- Name: “IngénieuxSud”
Study, design and installation of street lighting and city garden in Dwale, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
- Region: Northern Europe
- Country: Belgium
- University: Catholic University of Leuven
- Area or School involved: Ethical Service-Learning Course, Faculty of Engineering Science in Leuven. Population and Development Science and Bioengineering
- Theme: Solidarity Economy, Decent Work, Sustainable Industry, Circular Economy, Responsible Production and Consumption
- Place of implementation: Dwale, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
- Responsible for the experience: Raskin Jean Pierre, Saroela Sylvie and Aujoulat Isabelle