2022  •  Research

Locally-led Planning

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) and Slum Dwellers International–Kenya 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 Infrastructure and Nature-Based Solutions 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. 

Key activities

About the guide

You can also find the Guide here and here.

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. 

In the Press

The Star

First Lady pledges support for climate change programme

Standard Gazette

First Lady Rachel Ruto Supports The Africa Acceleration Program

Global Center on Adaptation

Kenya’s First Lady launches Guide based on Mukuru’s locally-led planning process at event celebrating Kenya’s leadership hosted by GCA and Wangari Maathai Institute

The Guide in use

March 2023

Slum Dwellers International and the GCA presented key lessons from the Guide at the Gobeshona Global Conference for monitoring locally-led adaptation.

June 2023

A delegation from Nairobi including representatives from Muungano wa Wanavijiji, the Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT), the Nairobi County City government, and the University of Nairobi led a peer-to-peer training workshop using the Guide. The locally-led planning process in Monrovia aims to inform investments under the USD 40 million World Bank Liberia Urban Resilience Program. Local partners include the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) of Liberia, Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT), Slum Dwellers International (SDI), and the Federation of Liberia Urban Poor Savers (FOLUPS). Partners are undertaking an enumeration and climate risk profiling process. 

The training, led by AMT, was attended by 37 representatives from the Liberia Ministry of Internal Affairs, Monrovia City Corporation, Paynesville City Corporation, National Housing Authority, Environmental Protection Authority, University of Liberia, FOLUPS, YMCA, and community mobilizers and enumerators trained by YMCA for the enumeration process. Sessions were held on climate vulnerability in urban informal settlements, challenges of land tenure, community mobilization, community-driven data collection and management, multisectoral coordination, and the role of academic institutions in providing climate-specific information/data to communities.