Projects > Mukuru toolkit
Consultant for the Global Center on Adaptation

Toolkit on locally-led and multisectoral planning for climate adaptation in urban informal settlements


March 2022 – present | Research
Urban climate justice • Urban climate adaptation, informal urbanization, upgrading & urban social movements • CBPR & policy/plan co-production • East Africa

Current status of the project...

Conducting fieldwork in Mukuru, including unstructured and focus group interviews. Conducting interviews and focus groups with consortia members from Nairobi City County departments, local and international NGOs, and academia.

About the project

I am leading a research project for the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) in partnership with the Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT) to document the processes that established a first-in-the-world Special Planning Area (SPA) in the Mukuru informal settlements in Nairobi (Kenya) and subsequent locally-led and multi-sectoral planning process for an Integrated Development Plan (IDP) to upgrade infrastructure and services in Mukuru (with particular attention to its climate adaptation elements).

The project will produce a toolkit, accompanied by ten short films, 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 via the Infrastructure Resilience Accelerator of the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP), an initiative of the African Development Bank and the GCA.

As Africa rapidly urbanizes and climate change accelerates urbanization, the poor, most vulnerable and least culpable will bear the brunt of the colliding climate and urban infrastructure crises. This collision will take 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.

Key activities

  • Interviewing plan stakeholders (Mukuru residents, local government officials, and civil society partners).

  • Inventorying practices for collaborative, multi-sectoral planning and their benefits and challenges.

  • Assessing current status of the process; outcomes for residents; problems and limitations; opportunities to strengthen climate resilience planning; and considerations for replicability.

  • Guiding video production teams comprised of Mukuru youth from KYC TV.

Stakeholder-validated and peer-reviewed outputs

  1. A comprehensive report documenting the Mukuru case.

  2. A toolkit to replicate and scale the SPA process in other African cities.

  3. Ten short films to accompany the toolkit.

Project timeline

  1. Report: March – June

  2. Short films: March – September

  3. Toolkit: July August

Key contributions

The project will help position informal settlement upgrading as pivotal work for the AAAP and other organizations and practitioners working in African cities.

The SPA and subsequent IDP for the Mukuru settlements in Nairobi are world-renowned and therefore well-studied and documented planning processes. However, the project will make several key contributions to existing resources:

  1. Replication. Existing resources are either academic or focus on the why and what but not the how. The toolkit will be approachable for a broad audience, pragmatic for practitioners, and accessible for funders and decision-makers. By documenting the nuts-and-bolts of the process, the toolkit will demystify it and make it actionable for diverse communities of practice in cities across Africa.

  2. Upgrading as adaptation. The SPA/IDP process represents our best example of participatory upgrading at scale; however, it did not explicitly focus on adaptation or resilience planning. Few existing resources on the SPA or upgrading more generally frame it as an essential climate adaptation strategy. The SPA offers a roadmap and test case for harnessing community-led data collection to make the case for critical international climate action funding for urban adaptation projects.

  3. Highlight challenges. The SPA/IDP is a celebrated process and therefore prone to the tendency to look past its challenges and the ongoing, repeated setbacks to implementation. With its goal of replication, the toolkit will examine these challenges in detail so that practitioners elsewhere have a clear-eyed assessment of its limitations and can therefore anticipate them and innovate to solve them. The recent violent evictions and demolitions (October 2021) in Mukuru Kwa Njenga are a prime example of the challenges that even world-renowned upgrading plans face in the exclusionary political environments typical of African cities.

  4. Synthesize resources and update status. No comprehensive review or synthesis of existing resources on the SPA exists. Much has also happened since most resources were published (e.g. delays; evictions). The toolkit will be important for filling these gaps.