Health and Safety Engineer: Fichtner Water and Transportation GmbH
Gideon graduated with a degree in Water/Waste Engineering in 1984. Gideon currently works as a Health and Safety Engineer for Fichtner Water and Transportation GmbH in association with Gopa Infra and M&E Associates Consulting Engineers. .
My choice of Loughborough University of Technology, as it was known then, I was informed by the British Council expert on higher education in London, and supported by the Uganda government and the European Economic Community (EEC) that funded my studies. EEC was predecessor of the current European Union.
Loughborough provided the best opportunity for solid learning about current and emerging developments: in engineering, water and sanitation. These plus Uganda’s other global infrastructure needs and trends were key in my choice of Loughborough. Loughborough had an unmatched learning environment: serene, quiet, surrounded by green farmlands and friendly neighbourhoods; conducive for serious study; well-equipped state of the art science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) laboratories and workshops. There were good computer facilities too. The elegant and well-resourced Pilkington main library provided important benefits for personal research. Highly qualified and committed professors, lecturers and researchers were accessible for guidance.
Immediately after my return to my home country, I was able to take on challenging responsibilities. I worked for the Uganda government, NGOs (Non-governmental organisations), the UN (United Nations) and for the private sector. What I learned in Loughborough was relevant, handy and it gave me many real and potential opportunities to work at home and abroad; to progress in my career. It boosted my confidence in solving relevant, practical, engineering and development problems. It gave me also flexibility to work across different sectors of the economy.
Would there be one piece of advice that you would give to current or prospective students looking to study the same course that you did?
I have three pieces of advice.
- There is no better purpose of learning than to serve humanity and to progress. Knowledge gained through good education is meant for fruitful work. This is consistent with the Motto of Loughborough University: Veritate, Scientia, Labore. Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC) in the department of civil engineering at Loughborough is an outstanding unit recognised globally by governments, donors and employers for its excellence, relevance and research. Once Loughborough offers you opportunity to enter her gates, you are destined to succeed, no matter where you come from. Only determination and focus are needed. At Loughborough you have the best opportunity to study and to research.
- Take advantage of the games and sports facilities at Loughborough to keep fit for the rigorous studies.
- Take note of the various cultural activities on campus the diversity of students is able to offer. Cultural events can be entertaining, refreshing and open a window through which you may begin to understand the world, its diversity and talents a bit more. Live well among the university’s and local communities. Appreciate their warm hospitality. Always be calm and sensible.
Did you take part in any extra-curricular activities during your studies? If so, how did this impact upon your Loughborough experience?
I was Secretary for Foreign Students in Falkner Eggington Court. This was a self-catering students’ accommodation for over 600 students comprising mainly of foreign post-graduate students. I was able to meet and interact with foreign students of diverse nationalities and cultures and understand their unique challenges likely to affect their studies. I solicited for indoor games to be provided at Faulkner Eggington Court. I also reached out to ensure there was reliable telephone access for the students to communicate with their families back home. At that time there was neither the internet nor mobile phones that we now take for granted. I was able to counsel students that experienced difficulties. I advocated for mutual coexistence among students from diverse backgrounds. There was regular inter hall games.
I was leader for my pre-MSc class. I had the opportunity to deliver a speech on the opening of the new WEDC (Water, Engineering and Development Centre) building. Attended by students and graced by the WEDC team headed by Prof. John Pickford, by the Vice Chancellor Loughborough University of Technology, the Rt. Reverend the Lord Sanford Chairman of Water Aid, ODA and other local and international dignitaries.
I participated in football for fun with lecturers and course mates often.
I am a senior civil engineer with wide experience spanning over 40 years. I have a good understanding of many development issues. I have contributed towards research, policy formulation, planning and management of various interventions, especially in infrastructure (water supply and sanitation, housing, schools, health facilities, community access roads, water transport, energy, urban planning, agriculture and environment matters). I have undertaken consultancy as a team member for renowned international firms such as PEM Consult (Denmark), Masdar (UK), Mott MacDonald (UK) and Fichtner Water and Transportation GmbH (Germany). I worked under the supervision of CarlBro International a/s Consultants of Denmark in Uganda and Parkman Consultants of the UK at the Cunard Building, Liverpool, UK. I worked for several international organizations including OXFAM, Ireland Aid, SNV, Belgian Technical Cooperation (BTC) and the UN in Uganda, South Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
I have had the oppostunity to work for both the Central Government and Local Governments in Uganda, as I understand the government system well. I was perviously employed to build the capacity of Kumi District Local Government (1998-2000) as Engineering Advisor for Ireland Aid under the auspices of the Embassy of Ireland with further support to Kiboga and Kibale Districts.
I supervised government infrastructure projects funded by the World Bank, UNICEF, AfDB, EDF and KfW. I was appointed by the Government of Uganda to oversee the planning and controlling of development in urban and rural areas of Uganda, as Chairman, Town and Country Planning Board/National Physical Planning Board, where I completed the maximum two different legal terms of appointment. It was also during this tenure of office as Chairman that the planning of most towns in Uganda were undertaken since Independence in 1962. Seventy-six Urban Centres were planned and seventy-one were approved by the Board. The Board also recommended the remaining Five for re-planning.
I am well versed with working in emergency situations for refugees and IDPs such as at Ikafe and Imvepi where I was responsible for water supply and sanitation for over 75,000 Sudanese Refugees. I helped to open up roads within the refugee camps, constructing schools and health centres and opened up an emergency airfield at Yoyo. Additionally, I was Zonal Coordinator for Imvepi, responsible for 10,000 refugees. In Afghanistan I was responsible for shelter, water and sanitation charged with implementing several thousand (19 200) family house units complete with sanitation and community water supply scattered in various districts of the populous Northern Region of Afghanistan based in Mazar-e-Sharif. I also oversaw the repair of irrigation schemes, schools and health units, as well as working with several international IPs (Implementing Partners).
Fichtner Water and Transportation GmbH (FWT) is a prominent international consulting company working in association with two other companies Gopa Infra and M & E Associates Consulting Engineers. The first two are German companies. M & E is a renowned Ugandan engineering consulting company. The three have formed a consortium and are supervising the construction of Gulu Water Supply and Sanitation Project funded by the World Bank, KfW and the Ugandan Government. The Contractors are Weihai International Economic and Technical Cooperative Ltd., WIETC a Chinese construction company.
I am able to put to good use knowledge I gained at the WEDC, Loughborough. I am able to provide an essential service to people and improve their lives. I also care for health and safety of project employees and neighbouring communities. This has become even more imperative during the current COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic. I am satisfied and feel that I am making a humble contribution to my country and to humanity.
Generally, I had very satisfying career throughout. Some tasks were particularly heavy and challenging. I always worked with passion, overcame the challenges and achieved expected results. The fact that my services benefited people makes me proud. This was true of all the little things I was involved in doing. Money is important but not the most important thing. It was least among my motivating factors. Positive results of my contribution to society was my motivation as long as I could afford the basic means by which to live.
I related well with my supervisors, my colleagues, people that were placed under my supervision and above all, people I served. Seeing happiness in the faces of those most vulnerable after a drink of safe water, especially the children in poor communities, those living among refugees and internally displaced persons such as those at Bidibidi (Ikafe) refugee settlement camp, people of the wider northern Uganda that was afflicted by prolonged insurgency (armed conflict) and those in Afghanistan after 9/11 was always a pleasant spectacle and thought provoking too. The sick in hospitals and especially mothers and young children yearn for safe water. Women in many African villages are still the carriers of water over long distances. My work has helped to alleviate some of these situations.
My contribution to the local communities in various parts of Uganda was worth the effort. In particular I was able to contribute in post conflict recovery efforts in West Nile Region and generally in the wider northern Uganda. These are the things that gave meaning to my career.
Once I was Chairman Town and Country Planning Board. This had relevance to alleviation of environment degradation by protecting sensitive ecological systems, challenges of enforcement not with standing.
I was able to build a wide network of friends and colleagues from different cultural backgrounds and expertise as a result of my countrywide service and international travels in Africa, Europe, the Gulf and Central Asia.
I like to mentor young professional engineers and other young people to make them appreciate the beauty of service delivery. Young people should gain practical skills, progress and be responsible. I would like to help them in ways possible to do so.
I would like also to advocate for poor communities to gain access to basic services such as safe water, sanitation and hygiene, clean energy, food security, health services and good education. Our environment must be protected by all means. I intent to achieve this by advocacy and reaching out to and engaging leaders and institutions that make decisions and allot resources for development.
I am interested to participate in research and support where I am able to do so.
Ultimately I would like some quiet life on a small farm with ruminants, vegetables, apiary, poultry and orchard where I can farm while recording my memories for posterity in a serene green leafy environment.