Nairobi slums turned climate adaptation leaders
The infrastructure of a city is interconnected. Cleaning the draining system upstream won’t work if the system is blocked downstream. A holistic approach is needed, particularly in the face of climate change.
Part of Professor Pelling’s research on the Urban Africa: Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK) project has taken him to Nairobi, where informal settlements, for example, typically face the risk of flooding – a hazard that is increasing with climate change.
The informal settlements are often located downstream in flood-prone areas. They are also often located on contested private lands, which means they don’t always benefit from risk-reducing initiatives.
However, in August 2017, the Nairobi City County Government officially announced a multi-sectoral upgrading plan for these settlements, including infrastructure improvements for water and sanitation.
In order to best support the government plan, the Urban ARK research project has been working with Kenyan slum-dweller federation Muungano wa Wanavijiji to create inclusive decision-making spaces and generate evidence to assist policymakers, while maintaining local actors as drivers of the initiatives.
This includes inclusive, participatory responses to risks in informal settlements – ensuring all residents are able to participate in the planning process. In September 2018, residents from four clusters in Muungano wa Wanavijiji prioritised the need to create solid waste management groups, install water kiosks with the utility and undertake regular community clean-ups.
These four clusters have also been trained and empowered to roll out the ‘Action at the Frontline’ tool – a methodology that aims to enhance residents’ disaster preparedness, as well as the quality of grassroots participation in the planning process, and the community’s ability to contribute to effective disaster risk management strategies.
This is just one example illustrating why equity needs to come first when addressing climate adaptation.
To learn more, read Professor Pelling’s comment piece, published in Nature.