Projects funded in 2019

These nine projects are being supported as part of the third LIRA 2030 Africa funding call on Pathways towards Sustainable Urban Development in Africa.

If you are interested in contacting any of the projects, please e-mail Katsia Paulavets.


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Inclusive Metabolism: Using co-produced theory of informal decentralised urban infrastructures to transform the delivery of urban food, water and energy services in Egypt, Ghana and South Africa

Studies of urban metabolism tend to focus on resource flows conducted through networked, centrally operated infrastructure systems, inadvertently leading to an emphasis on energy and water. Such research findings conclude that, for Africa, improved service delivery is akin to providing networked infrastructure.

These findings overlook the reality that multiple services in African cities are delivered in an informal manner, in the form of capable interactions which are typically ‘hidden’ from decision makers’ awareness and processes. These hidden nature-society interactions are uniquely demonstrated in food systems, which, across Africa, are typically informal. Many urban households do not (or cannot) grow their own food and rely on local supermarkets, chain stores or informal small businesses to purchase the food they consume. Tracking the amounts or quality of these foods proves difficult, making effective interventions in the food system an uncertain and a complex affair. An understanding of food flows in cities is important for ensuring urban food security and the development of appropriate urban governance for nutrition. Food flows provide important insights into the efficiency of the food system in providing equal access to food for all, the major determinant of urban food insecurity. Using food systems as an entry point, this project aims to examine how informal infrastructure systems facilitate service provision. This study will examine the movement of energy, water and food, into, out of, and within three African cities: Cape Town, Kumasi and Cairo through mixed method research. The study will employ participant observations, expert interviews, laboratory analysis, workshops and photovoice. It is expected that this study will contribute towards development of urban policies that are inclusive and promote sustainable urban systems.

Expertise represented in the project: Population health and nutrition, food system governance, food and nutrition security, socio-ecological theory, urban health, urban planning, chemistry, systems thinking, urban ecology, urban theory, sustainable development.

Principal Investigator: Sandra Boatemaa, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

Countries involved in the project: South Africa, Ghana, Egypt

Reducing diarrhoea burden under climate change in urban contexts: An integrated approach for sustainability in west African medium-sized cities

Diarrhoeal diseases are a leading cause of mortality and morbidity across Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in poor urban vulnerable groups under the particular climate change patterns.

The proposed research project aims to increase the resilience of the health sector and communities in face of diarrhoea burden in the context of climate change living in the two medium-sized West African cities, Mbour in Senegal and Korhogo in Côte d’Ivoire.

Initially, we will assess the relationship between diarrhoeal incidence and hydroclimate parameters, water, sanitation, and hygiene, socioeconomic and demographic indicators. Health and climate data for 2012 to 2017 will be obtained from the District Health Information System of the Ministries of Health and other sources. The current level of knowledge of key stakeholders regarding water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and diarrhoea burden in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire and their links with climate change will be assessed. Multiple analyses of the data and production of scientific outputs will be undertaken. A series of workshops with relevant stakeholders, from the data collection to the translation into policy, for the increase of adaptive capacities, partnerships and sustained multi-sectorial collaborations will be conducted.

Key results will be used to provide recommendations and strategies for short and long-term reduction of the burden of diarrhoeal diseases, and contribute to health system strengthening for an effective urban communities’ sustainable development.

Expertise represented in the project: Health geography, urbanization and urban health, climate change,  waterborne diseases, hydrogeology, environmental epidemiology, spatial epidemiology, environmental impact assessment, socio-anthropology, sanitary engineering, environmental health, and sustainable development.

Principal Investigator: Sokhna Thiam, Institut de Recherche en Santé, de Surveillance Épidemiologique et de Formation (IRESSEF), Senegal

Countries involved in the project: Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Switzerland.

Urban water futures: Bridging supply-demand gaps in Accra and Johannesburg through reuse

Approximately 1 billion people will be living in cities with perennial water shortage by 2050. One proposed strategy for meeting future water demand is water reuse. Water reuse involves treating wastewater to drinking water standards and directing it to either (i) municipal supplies immediately (direct reuse), or (ii) groundwater that is later abstracted for drinking water (indirect reuse). Direct potable reuse has the advantage of minimising losses to the environment, and a shorter treatment chain. However, despite advances in treatment technology, and assurances by water utilities, direct reuse continues to face some resistance from consumers. People seem concerned about possible risks to their health. It is, therefore, important that proposals for reuse address these perceptions in order to ensure success.

The work proposed here seeks to answer the question of whether, and how, water reuse can address existing demand-supply gaps for water in Accra and Johannesburg. By delineating criteria for acceptance of reclaimed water from a risk paradigm, we identify the acceptability of reclaimed water for various uses, as a first step to sustainable, demand-driven, reclaimed water use in these two cities.

Expertise represented in the project: Water reuse, nanotechnology for water treatment, risk perceptions and communication, development geography, ecology, social sciences.

Principal Investigator: Anita Etale, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.

Countries involved in the project: South Africa, Ghana

Cleaning from the bottom up: Inclusive stakeholder participation for integrated waste management in Accra and Lagos

Waste generation in African cities often outstrips the capacity of municipal management systems, contributing to adverse socio-economic outcomes. This project will help to bridge the gap between waste management interventions at city level and bottom-up innovations in informal settlements in Accra and Lagos – communities which, given the dearth of municipal collection services, have demonstrated a capacity to evolve decentralised systems that can be enhanced with appropriate technical and policy support. By piloting community-based waste management initiatives and facilitating in-depth engagement between formal and informal actors, the project will help to establish a collaborative framework in which different stakeholders are willing and able to integrate multiple solutions across different scales. Using a “soft-systems” lens, the project will combine insights and methods from a range of academic disciplines (environmental science, development, sociology, economics) and real-world practice (government, business, civil society, media and the public) to emerge with hybrid modes of understanding and new tools for problem solving. An expected outcome of the project is increased participation of informal actors that have traditionally been overlooked in the governance of waste management systems in both cities. Realisation of this outcome would help to contextualise and advance the goals of inclusive governance, responsive planning and integrated problem-solving articulated in SDG 11 and the New Urban Agenda.

Expertise represented in the project: Sociology, environmental science, health economics, development studies, urban development, business development, environmental technology.

Principal Investigator: Temilade Sesan, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

Countries involved in the project: Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa.

Decentralisation of urban water supply services and access to water under urbanization in cities of Wa (Ghana) and Niamey (Niger)

In the wake of rapid urbanization in Africa, city authorities have struggled to keep pace with urban water supply demands of the urban population, leading to inequities in urban water access.

This project applies a transdisciplinary research approach, firstly, to foster an integrated and holistic understanding of the urban water supply problem in the cities of Wa and Niamey in Ghana and Niger, respectively; and secondly, to co-design policy and strategic interventions for improving urban water supply and access in the two cities.

Hence, the overall project goal is to explore how multiple stakeholders, including decision makers, at the local level, can improve their knowledge and awareness of the urban water situation, and change their attitudes and capacity in support of an integrated management approach to improving capacity and management of decentralized urban water services for achieving inclusive access to water for urban populations, particularly women, children and the poor in the cities of Wa (Ghana) and Niamey (Niger) in West Africa.

Expertise represented in the project: Development studies and development planning, urban and regional planning, hydrology and hydrological modelling, photochemistry, environment, materials and energy.

Principal Investigator: Emmanuel K. Derbile, University for Development Studies, Ghana.

Countries involved in the project: Ghana, Niger.

Household energy use practices and potential interventions for sustainable consumption in Makhanda-Grahamstown, South Africa and Kumasi, Ghana

This collaborative research and training project aims to examine household energy use behaviour as a basis for co-designing interventions for sustainable consumption in South Africa and Ghana. A key sustainability challenge relating to cities is unsustainable energy consumption by the residential sector, which in turn, results in negative environmental impacts, energy insecurity, high energy expenditure and energy poverty, especially for low-income households. In addressing cities’ energy security and environmental targets, improving the efficiency of household energy consumption is considered an important component of energy conservation strategies. The project will consider households’ current energy use practices, factors influencing these practices and potential interventions for promoting energy savings. Such information can be used by city authorities, utility service providers and energy decision-makers to target areas and behaviours that need change to manage energy demand and promote economic and environmental sustainability. It forms part of a broader global city resilience efforts centred on bottom-up demand response mechanisms aimed at balancing energy supply and demand for energy sustainability.

Expertise involved in the project: Resource use and household welfare, household energy use efficiency, sustainability studies, development policy analysis, governance, gender, regional and urban planning, conservation/restoration ecology, environmental policy and planning analysis.

Principal Investigator: Gladman Thondhlana, Rhodes University, South Africa.

Countries involved in the project: South Africa, Ghana.

Optimizing Ground Water Security by Integrated Approach of Sanitation and Hygiene in the Coastal Cities of Cotonou (Benin) and Lomé (Togo)

It is expected that as global environmental change unfolds, water quality deterioration will increase, thereby necessitating behavioural change with regards to sanitation and hygiene. In west African coastal cities, the water quality problem is exacerbated by eco-hydro-climatic changes, rapid population growth and poor environmental governance.

Thus, in the cities of Cotonou (Benin) and Lomé (Togo), a major challenge is that groundwater is available in quantity but rare in quality (therefore inaccessible) because of poor sanitation and inappropriate hygiene practices. For UNESCO-IHP, a post-2015 goal is to “ensure water security for sustainable development”.

With regard to the challenges of urban sustainability (SDGs, Agenda 2063, New Urban Agenda, etc.), this project aims to contribute to the achievement of sustainable sanitation and hygiene knowledge, attitudes and practice using a multi-stakeholders approach and socio-ecological mechanism to maintain access to sufficient quantities of acceptable safe groundwater in the coastal cities of Cotonou and Lomé.

One component of the project linking system knowledge is to assess the current state of aquifers and groundwater quality and to analyse human pressure through poor sanitation and inappropriate hygiene practices, particularly solid/liquid waste and excreta management related to deterioration of groundwater quality. A second component focused on target knowledge is to define acceptable, affordable, manageable and adaptable sanitation and hygiene practices to improve groundwater quality and its accessibility to ensure sustainability of people’s health, reduce poverty, exclusion and guarantee food security. A third component related to transformative knowledge is to provide technical, social, educational, legal, cultural and political pathways to improve and sustain sanitation and hygiene practices and access to safe groundwater in Cotonou and Lomé.

Expertise represented in the project: Groundwater and quality modelling, urban-coastal land dynamics, environmental sociology, urban sociology, urban planning, geographical Information Systems, public health, epidemiology, urban ecology, waste recycling.

Principal Investigator: Henri Sourou Totin Vodounon, University of Parakou, Benin.

Countries involved in the project: Benin, Togo.

Enhancing urban wetland and river ecosystem health in Nigeria and in South Africa

Urban rivers and wetlands are often seriously degraded ecosystems, and in Africa, they are often used as sewage and storm water disposal pipes. Heathy urban rivers and wetlands can contribute to and support sustainable urban development through the provision of a variety of valued and desired ecosystem services. The continuing degradation of urban rivers and wetlands presents a potentially intractable challenge, and we argue that part of this potential intractability arises out of insufficient appreciation of urban planners and policy makers in Africa of the interconnectedness and interdependence between ecological and social subsystems within a river/wetland catchment. To address this challenge, we propose a systemic-relational (SR) ethically grounded approach within the complex social-ecological system framework as an analytical perspective for investigating the ecological, economic and social as well as management and institutional dimensions of urban rivers and wetland health. Our approach departs from the traditional assessment as it recognises that ecological and social-economic components together form an integrated and dynamic complex system of urban ecosystem health. We intend to recommend ways in which the health and functionality of these ecosystems can be enhanced to support sustainable urban development through the supply of valued and desired ecosystem services. Our case studies are in Abuja Municipal Council in Nigeria and the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro in South Africa.

Expertise represented in the project: Water resources; aquatic ecology; water quality; social-ecological systems; environmental ethics; cultural anthropology; medical anthropology; culture, environment and health of marginal populations; medically under-served populations; ethnography; qualitative research; microbiological analysis; Environmental Impact Assessment; environmental auditing; environmental management systems; water quality; ecosystems ecology and ecotoxicology; hydrobiology, ecology, wetlands, social-ecological systems.

Principal Investigator: Oghenekaro Nelson Odume, Rhodes University, South Africa

Countries involved in the project: South Africa, Nigeria.

Enhancing Sustainability and Resilience of Accra (Ghana) and Kampala (Uganda) through a Water-Energy-Food Nexus (WEF) Approach

The increase in global population and the number of people living in cities has put a lot of pressure on water, energy and food (WEF) resources in cities across the world. In some cities, including those in African countries, inadequate access to WEF resources has already contributed to rationing of water and energy, increased the cost of living and contributed to poverty and inequality. Climate change presents additional threats to cities’ WEF resources. Meanwhile, strategies that have been adopted to address these WEF challenges have so far addressed them in isolation within sectoral boundaries. Without nexus thinking, interactions between the sectors can be overlooked, resulting in incoherent policy-making, contradictory or counterproductive strategies, and inefficient use of natural resources. To simultaneously achieve WEF security, decision-makers need to consider cross-sectoral impacts through integrated institutions and innovative policies.

This project aims at enhancing resilience and sustainability of two fast-growing African cities, Accra (Ghana) and Kampala (Uganda), through an integrated and participatory assessment, understanding and equitable governance of WEF resources through a nexus approach. Key stakeholders in the two cities will be involved in knowledge co-design and co-production in a manner that is gender sensitive, pro-poor and inclusive. The study will apply approaches and methods that include systems theory analytical frameworks and inductive scenario development, and tools such as urban/social metabolism. Data will be obtained through review and analysis of available digital and archival information for the two cities, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions. The research evidence generated will be shared through stakeholder engagement fora, policy roundtables, workshops and conferences, policy briefs, and peer review journal publications.

Expertise represented in the project: Water resources management, climate change adaptation, renewable energy, agriculture, environmental science, renewable energy policy, environmental and natural resource governance, systems and nexus analysis, political ecology, environmental justice, interdisciplinary research design and management, environment and natural resources management, climate change impact assessment, urban development, spatial planning, GIS, urban planning, gender.

Principal Investigator: Fati Aziz, Water Research Institute, Ghana.

Countries involved in the project: Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda.

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