A Guide for Building Climate Resilience in Urban Informal Settlements
Led a research project for the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) in partnership with the Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT) to learn from the Special Planning Area (SPA) in Mukuru, one of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi (Kenya), about strategies for locally-led, inclusive and multisectoral upgrading.
About the project
The project focused on the crucial role of upgrading for building climate resilience in informal settlements. As Africa rapidly urbanizes and climate change accelerates urbanization, the poor, most vulnerable and least culpable are bearing the brunt of the colliding climate and urban infrastructure crises. This collision is taking place where most urban Africans already live, in informal settlements. At the same time—in stark contrast to these trends—of the minimal climate action funding that has to date been spent on adaptation, only an estimated three to five percent is spent on urban adaptation.
I produced a comprehensive online Guide (aka toolkit), accompanied by seven short videos, aimed at local governments, civil society partners, and funders working in informal settlements in cities across Africa. The goal is to replicate and scale the SPA process in other informal settlements. The Guide is designed as a living repository to evolve in tandem with the work of the GCA, the African Development Bank and their joint initiative, the Africa Infrastructure Resilience Accelerator of the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP). It will both inform and be informed by practice on the ground. Future versions will incorporate lessons learned during ongoing efforts across Africa and beyond.
Coordinated project partners (international and local NGOs, local government staff, grassroots leaders).
Developed the research design and schedule. Developed pragmatic work plans and managed the day-to-day fieldwork and other research activities.
Conducted 20 interviews and eight focus groups with Mukuru residents, local government leaders, and civil society and academic partners. Administered a survey for Mukuru residents with 183 responses. Managed the transcription process and processed interview and survey data.
Reviewed existing documentation, reports and articles. Mapped stakeholders and processes. Reviewed other relevant case studies.
Inventoried practices for collaborative, multisectoral planning and their benefits and challenges.
Assessed the current status of the process; outcomes for residents; successes, challenges and limitations; opportunities to strengthen climate resilience planning; and considerations for replicability.
Synthesized lessons and wrote overview articles, Guides, Methods, and video scripts.
Managed video production teams comprised of Mukuru youth from Know Your City TV. Conducted on-camera interviews.
Coordinated the local validation and peer review processes.
Designed the Guide's structure and managed the graphic design process, working closely with a designer and illustrator.
About the guide
The Guide provides resources for locally-led, inclusive, multisectoral upgrading for climate resilience in urban informal settlements.
Designed as a guide not a toolkit, it pays particular attention to context and its variation across cities and countries — the principles, guides and methods in this document must be translated to each unique context. It can help replicate the approaches and roles taken by institutions and people for comprehensive, transformative upgrading — based largely on the experience from the Mukuru Special Planning Area (SPA) in Nairobi, Kenya — but not the specific plans themselves. While the focus is on Africa, the lessons can be applied elsewhere as well.
Building on the scale of ambition provided by the groundbreaking Mukuru approach to upgrading and resilience, this guide aims to support national and local champions and local governments; communities; civil society and academia; and funders in undertaking inclusive, multisectoral and inclusive upgrading to both build climate resilience in informal settlements and link locally-led action with broader processes of urban and climate governance. The Mukuru SPA is the most exciting, innovative process happening in urban development in Africa today, providing a pragmatic vision towards action that addresses fundamental problems in African cities.
About the videos
The videos highlight key lessons from the Mukuru approach and strategies for undertaking locally-led upgrading for climate resilience.
I produced them in collaboration with the film collective Know Your City TV (comprised of youth from Mukuru and other informal settlements in Nairobi).
The video at left provides a brief synopsis of the Mukuru approach. The other videos explore key strategies in-depth.
The launch event
The Guide was launched in December 2022 at the Kenya Adaptation Leadership summit at the Wangari Maathai Institute in Nairobi. In attendance were the First Lady of Kenya; the Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry; and the CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation.