Breaking the cycle of risk accumulation in Sub-Saharan Africa

Vue de Nairobi - Photo © Hayley Leck

By Mark Pelling, professor of Geography & principal investigator at Urban Africa: Risk Knowledge

Urban Africa: Risk Knowledge is a threeyear research and capacity building programme funded by DFID and ESRC that works in nine Sub-Saharan Africa cities. It involves academic and NGO partners from developed and developing countries and aims at breaking cycles of urban risk accumulation by bringing together science, policy and civil society actors in the production of knowledge and action. The objective of the programme is to better understand the urban processes that place families in exposure to hazard and in a lack of capacity to cope with the impact of these hazards.

Current trends are going towards increasing vulnerability since existing infrastructure and services are unable to cope with growing population and climate change is adding stress to these infrastructures. The belief that drives the programme is that for resilience to be built that meets the needs of the urban poor, the starting point is to build strong relationships that can lead to collaborations between communities and city authorities, inform decisionmaking, inspire populations to manage their own risk and hold government to account. In Kenya, where the research was implemented, local governance structures were created to implement a community based risk management approach deployed by residents.