Rooting for Resilience: Ensuring Climate Justice for the Urban Poor through Housing Justice

The rapid urbanisation of ill-equipped cities, particularly in developing countries like Zambia, has become a common phenomenon, resulting in cities becoming ‘hotbeds of vulnerability’. Zambian cities are not exempt from increased vulnerability, as much of the population resides in informal settlements characterised by widening inequalities between the rich and the poor. Despite the urban poor contributing minimally to climate change, they bear a disproportionate burden of its impacts, much like other vulnerable minority social groups in Zambia. This amplifies the call for climate justice, as socio-economic disadvantage and vulnerability in cities are already highly stratified.

Climate justice in urban centres can be understood in different ways, including the distributive aspect, which concerns the fair allocation of benefits and burdens, and the procedural aspect, which examines how procedures and practices recognize the interests of vulnerable groups. While there are calls to expand the focus from the equity implications of climate change on humans to the eco-ethics of nature’s rights, it is evident that human security from climate impacts should be guaranteed, particularly for those inherently vulnerable who have not contributed to the current climate crisis.

In light of the aforementioned, the Zambia Homeless and Poor People’s Federation and People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia (PPHPZ) believes that climate action aimed at enhancing the adaptive capacities of the urban poor should be locally shaped and locally owned, tailored to their real needs at the community level. People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia and Zambia Homeless and Poor People’s Federation are part of a programme called “Amplifying Voices for Just Climate Action” which is a lobby and advocacy programme. There is a concerning trend of false climate solutions that do not effectively address grassroots adaptive capacities. In partnership with the federation, PPHPZ has identified access to decent shelter as a human right heavily impacted by climate change, especially when houses are poorly constructed, hindering households from fully adapting to climate change due to housing poverty. Housing justice is primarily viewed as a developmental issue; however, in urban contexts where flooding and heatwaves are becoming prominent, housing is crucial not only for adaptive capacities but, more importantly, for human security against dire climate impacts.

For instance, Lusaka experiences perennial flooding attributed to various factors, with the communities noting increased rainfall intensity. During the 2022 rainy season, Lusaka witnessed heightened floods in most settlements; leading to around 20 damaged houses recorded by the federation. Unfortunately, most of the vulnerable households could not afford to vacate and rebuild their homes. Consequently, there were injuries from collapsing houses and waterborne diseases also surged due to contaminated water sources. Zambia’s average temperature has been increasing, compounded by urban heat islands in densely populated areas, leading to higher average temperatures compared to sparsely populated regions. A profile conducted by the federation in Lusaka revealed that 60% of the houses in informal settlements are unsuitable for habitation due to factors like inadequate ventilation for proper breathing, and natural temperature regulation, and poor structural integrity against heavy winds and floods. The housing policy indicates that around 40% of constructed houses are substandard, further worsening the vulnerability of the urban poor as poverty forces them to build structures that reduce their adaptive capacities.

Recognising the urgent need to advocate for and deliver low-cost housing for the urban poor to increase human security against climate change, PPHPZ and the federation piloted a locally-led process of financing low-cost, green, and resilient housing. In 2022, the construction of 55 houses was completed and subsequently delivered to the intended beneficiaries. The acquiring of land and construction was spearheaded by the Zambia Homeless and Poor People’s Federation who provided sweat equity and contributed their savings towards the construction of the houses. The residents of slums have valuable knowledge and insights about their own needs and priorities. Participatory slum upgrading aims to empower communities, enhance social cohesion and address the specific challenges faced by slum dwellers.

PPHPZ and the Zambia Homeless and Poor People’s Federation promote low-cost, green, and resilient housing. The construction of the houses was executed by the community members without any heavy machinery and the houses were built with clay bricks, which is one of the most eco-friendly construction materials during its entire life cycle. The low-cost, green, and resilient housing incorporates adequate insulation, proper waste management systems and proper supply of clean water. By integrating green and resilient measures into housing, we can lower emissions, conserve resources, and mitigate climate change.

This initiative significantly reduces the vulnerability of the urban poor to climate impacts. The financing mechanism involves various stakeholders complementing the federation’s local actions and savings. The grassroots mobilised their limited resources for land acquisition, and both the Stanbic Bank and the government are providing technical and financial support for housing construction. Although the initiative was purely a housing initiative, the Amplifying Voices for Just Climate Action (VCA) programme has worked tirelessly to popularise this union and mobilise other stakeholders to support the green building component that will not only reduce emissions but increase human safety in the face of climate change. As a result, PPHPZ signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Institute of Architects to support green building practices. The importance of housing in the climate space is gradually gaining recognition, and PPHPZ is leading the discourse by leveraging local knowledge and experiences from affected communities.

In light of the aforementioned, key actions are necessary is for the government to create a housing fund specifically dedicated to low-cost and social housing in high-risk areas affected by climate impacts. This fund can emulate the existing PPHPZ-Federation and Stanbic Bank model, which prioritises communities and their resources. Additionally, funding and prioritising slum upgrading is essential as it enables improvements in housing and infrastructure while attracting investment.

SDI at the Resilience Evidence Forum

A photo of laundry drying in an informal settlement in Khayalitsha, Cape Town.

Ariana Karamallis from SDI shares their programming at the Resilience Evidence Forum and highlights SDI’s work. 

– originally published by Global Resilience Partnership

Later this week, Slum Dwellers International (SDI) will co-lead the Urban Track at the Resilience Evidence Forum in Cape Town, South Africa. Over the past few months SDI, together with the GRP and USAID, has created a track of programming that spotlights key considerations for building resilience in urban centres of the Global South that are characterised by informality. As the impacts of climate change, conflict, the rising cost of living, and other natural and manmade disasters increase in frequency and severity, so will the number of people living in urban informal settlements continue to rise – increasing demands placed on cities and the need for urban practitioners to develop and implement effective, evidence-based, pro-poor resilience policies and development. 

Urban informal settlement in the Philippines. (PHOTO: Slum Dwellers International)
Urban informal settlement in the Philippines. (PHOTO: Slum Dwellers International)

Over the past two years SDI’s work in the climate and resilience space has been on the rise. As the impacts of climate change are more widely and acutely felt, the urban poor communities SDI works with have recognised a need to understand, embrace, and articulate their struggles, strategies and solutions in a language that speaks not only to urban planning and policy practitioners but to climate practitioners as well. Understanding SDI’s core work of organising urban poor communities to find alternatives to evictions through incremental, in situ slum upgrading is not separate from resilience and climate adaptation work. In fact, evidence increasingly demonstrates that the provision of tenure security and safe, affordable housing, basic services, and other infrastructure for the urban poor are essential climate adaptation strategies – particularly in urban settings. SDI was keen to ensure that this perspective, urban informality, and the role of urban poor communities was central to the #REF2023 Urban Track programming and is hopeful that the sessions developed will generate discussions, questions, and reflections to advance urban resilience efforts. 

Joseph Muturi, chair of the SDI Board and a national community leader from SDI’s Kenyan urban poor federation, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, will speak at #REF2023 about the key role of community-driven slum data as evidence to support policy and development in the precedent-setting, large-scale Mukuru Special Planning Area (SPA) slum upgrading project in Nairobi – as well as countless other slum upgrading and climate adaptation projects across the network. In all of the countries where SDI operates, federations collect quantitative and qualitative data about the settlements where they live and work in order to provide the necessary evidence to government and other development stakeholders in negotiating for and developing effective resilience-building efforts. Increasingly, federations include indicators and other data points specifically addressing climate and vulnerability risk, incorporating this into their profiling, enumeration and mapping methodologies. This kind of community-based evidence is invaluable in addressing the perceived data scarcity that many urban-decision makers face. The question we hope to answer at the Resilience Evidence Forum is how to bridge the various gaps communities are faced with to get their data into the hands of decision-makers to drive meaningful change by influencing climate action plans, resilience strategies, development plans, and more. 

Youth data collector from the National Slum Dweller Federation of Uganda. (PHOTO: Slum Dwellers International)

To complement Mr. Muturi’s inputs, Charlton Ziervogel, director of the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) – support NGO to SDI’s South African social movements – will share a panel with Daniel Sullivan, Director of Resilience from the City of Cape Town, among others, to explore the constraints of data currently being used and how to bridge existing data gaps while ensuring the inclusion and agency of evidence producers – especially the urban poor. This session is sure to provide an important opportunity for community-based practitioners and local government officials to reflect on the use of community-collected data to inform policy and practice, including the experience of the South African SDI Alliance’s 2016 engagement with the Western Cape Provincial Government around the development of a provincial level approach to informal settlement upgrading. Thanks to deep grounding in the informal settlement communities and a strong practice of community-led data collection, CORC was selected in a competitive bid process to use community-led data collection practices to conduct a rapid appraisal of all informal settlements in the Western Cape (RAP) to inform the development of the Western Cape’s Informal Settlement Support Framework and Programme (ISSF and ISSP).  

SDI’s experiences in Kenya, South Africa, and across the roughly 20 countries represented by the SDI network will hopefully showcase the tremendous value and opportunity for transformative impact available to urban practitioners through meaningful collaboration with urban poor communities – particularly around the production of community-based evidence for resilience-building efforts. 

SDI at the COP27 African Regional Resilience Hub

Join SDI at COP27 African Regional Resilience Hub from the 19th – 22nd of September 2022, as we shed light on and discuss important priorities, and actions. and more to be amplified at this year’s COP.

The COP27 Africa Regional Resilience Hub will see partners come together to disentangle and communicate African priorities, actions, solutions and challenges to be amplified at the COP27 Resilience Hub.

The COP27 African Regional Resilience Hub is one of four regional hubs, which intends to offer a dynamic and diverse space at and between the UNFCCC Cops to advance inclusive and innovative action on climate adaptation and resilience.

The Resilience Hub aims to mobilise and create levels of ambition and action from across Africa on building resilience to climate change and serves as the home to the Race to Resilience campaign at COP. This represents more than 1500 non-governmental actors taking action on resilience around the world. 

Aims of the COP27 African Regional Resilience Hub

The Africa Hub aims to ensure the voices and perspectives of African communities and constituencies, most impacted by climate change, increasingly drive the global resilience agenda. The Hub aims to deliver a programme of in-person and virtual sessions and engagements on regional priority topics from August to September 2022, culminating in a virtual programme of events from 19-22 September.

This year’s COP27 Africa Regional Resilience Hub is led by the Climate Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), hosted by SouthSouthNorth.

The virtual programme will include 16 sessions on the priority themes of finance and investment, food and agriculture, resilient infrastructure, water and natural ecosystems, and cities and urbanisation. Cross-cutting themes include gender and social inclusion, and engaging and amplifying local voices.

The events SDI will be a part of:

Confronting the climate crisis in African Cities: How urban poor communities are driving locally led adaptation and building resilience

Date: Tuesday, 20 September 2022 

Time: 16:30-18:00 CAT/CEST

Register HERE.

Climate proofing locally led adaptation (LLA) solutions among the vulnerable groups in Sub-Sharan Africa

Date: Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Time: 13:30-15:00 CAT/CEST

Register HERE.

Inclusive community-led climate change adaptation financing in urban and peri-urban informal settlements

Date: Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Time: 15:00-16:30 CAT/CEST

Register HERE.

For general Africa Resilience Hub queries, please email Michelle du Toit:

For communications-specific queries, please email Emma Baker:

SDI Co-developed a Working Paper on Locally Led Adaptation

As part of our climate justice work, SDI co-developed a working paper entitled “Locally Led Adaptation From Principles to Practice”, highlighting the value of Locally Led Adaptation (LLA) in managing climate risks faced by local communities and Indigenous peoples.

The paper was co-developed by a consortium of global partners working together to deliver the Adaptation Action Coalition’s Locally Led Adaptation Workstream. These partners are Centro para la Autonomía y Desarrollo de Los Pueblos Indígenas (Center for the Autonomy and Development of Indigenous Peoples), the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute, ENDA, Huairou Commission, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, the International Institute for Environment and Development, Save the Children Australia, Slum Dwellers International, SouthSouthNorth, and World Resources Institute.

Presently, LLA recognises that there is value in local knowledge and expertise in addressing climate risk and ensures that local actors on the front lines of the climate emergency have equitable access to resources to build adequate resilience.

READ |The Worlds Poorest Have the Strongest Resilience, yet Their Voices Remain Unheard

May 2022, saw more than 70 organisations and governments across the globe endorsing eight Principles for Locally Led Adaptation which provide foundational guidance for an approach to adaptation which emphasises priorities on the ground.

There is a growing focus placed on ensuring that adaptation finance is accessible by grassroots players. Simultaneously, there is a growing body of knowledge and research offering guidance for the implementation of LLA and underscoring it as a global priority.

What the working paper addresses

The working paper SDI co-developed, reviews 21 examples of approaches to implementing the Principles for LLA through interventions, programmes and policies across Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Caribbean and Latin America. The aforementioned paper provides real-life examples of how funders and governments can follow through on their commitments to fast-track and scale the implementation of LLA. Governance and financing processes that prioritise the agency of grassroots actors are vital for LLA. Adapting these processes to redress power imbalances and emphasise local priorities can be complex and challenging. This paper provides examples of approaches to make these shifts and demystify funders and governments’ steps to operationalise and scale adaption.

Subsequently, these approaches can be utilised to turn investments and commitments to LLA into policies, practices and actions to ensure that grassroots partners have equitable access to climate finance and are the centre of decision-making processes.

The Principles for Putting LLA into Practice

Principle 1: Devolving decision-making to the lowest appropriate level
Principle 2: Addressing structural inequalities faced by women, youth, children, people living with disabilities, the displaced, Indigenous peoples, and marginalized ethnic groups
Principle 3: Providing patient and predictable funding that can be accessed more easily
Principle 4: Investing in local capabilities to leave an institutional legacy
Principle 5: Building a robust understanding of climate risk and uncertainty
Principle 6: Flexible programming and learning
Principle 7: Ensuring transparency and accountability
Principle 8: Collaborative action and investment 

Recommended Strategies for Advancing LLA

Based on the review of 21 projects, the paper found recommended strategies for advancing LLA.

Early on funders and governments should pursue opportunities to scale LLA by increasing the amount of climate finance it allocates, improving the quality of finance by making it more accessible and flexible for grassroots actors, and adjusting governance and decision-making processes to ensure that those actors have agency in adaptation planning and implementation.

Undoubtedly, the Principles for LLA must be addressed holistically to ensure that adaptation investments, policies and interventions enable and scale LLA in a multitude of ways simultaneously.

Funders and governments are to commit to advancing active learning and research on LLA processes, outcomes and impacts to continue to fill knowledge and evidence gaps and improve the collective understanding of best practices for equitable and effective LLA.

We encourage funders and governments to ensure social equity is integrated into LLA efforts. This may include building such considerations into standard practices, processes and decisions, and investing in mechanisms which are specifically designed to support groups that experience disproportional vulnerabilities.

SDI co-developed this working paper alongside incredible partners. W encourage engagement around the implementation of the Principles of LLA and its importance in pro-poor urban development and ensuring grassroots players are at the fore of climate change solutions. 

Read the full report here

Zimbabwe’s Urban Resilience Programme

ZIM-Stoneridge_ (14)

Project Background

Dialogue on Shelter, the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation (ZHPF) and the Zimbabwe Young People’s Federation ZYPF) are part of a consortium of non-governmental organisations implementing the Urban Social Assistance Programme in 3 Zimbabwean cities: Harare South, Epworth and Bulawayo. The Urban Social Assistance Programme has two complementary focus areas, namely the cash transfer (CBT) component and the urban resilience (UR) component. Since November 2019, the Zimbabwe SDI alliance has been implementing preliminary activities in order to roll out the urban resilience work with collectives in the targeted domains. The preliminary activities have centered on mobilizing and organising grassroots savings collectives which will spearhead vital community-led urban resilience interventions that are needed alongside cash transfers to improve food security.

What is urban resilience for the Zimbabwe SDI alliance?

Inadequate sources of income may lead to urban food insecurity, but urban poverty cannot easily be addressed by raising income levels. Limited access to safe and secure housing and services directly contributes to malnutrition and food insecurity. Meanwhile, poor tenure can further impair access to basic services and decent housing. The residents of low income and informal settlements are often overlooked by government. These communities often rely on collective organisation and brokered co-production partnerships to secure political visibility and voice to negotiate longer term structural solutions to their problems, for example, the regularisation of their informal neighbourhoods and/or access to affordable services. As a result of inadequate access to services and low incomes, those living in low-income neighbourhoods suffer from increased exposure and sensitivity to the environmental risks including those related to climate change. All these factors affect the ability to build resilience to a range of shocks and stresses. Effective practical responses and strategic policies are needed to address urban food insecurity in both its income and non-income dimensions. the Zimbabwe SDI alliance’s response to these challenges is to promote incremental and participatory slum/informal settlement upgrading through the following activities:

  • Building women-centred savings collectives
  • Community-led data collection processes
  • Emphasising participatory informal settlement upgrading
  • Promoting horizontal learning processes for capacity-building
  • Co-production of knowledge for policy-influencing and advocacy
  • Establishing co-created/co-governed settlement/city level urban poor funds
  • Promoting community-led livelihoods interventions


Complementing cash transfers with community action in urban areas

Whether in rural or urban areas, the focus of social protection efforts by both international and national organisations has been primarily on cash transfers to individual households. Where targeting has been used, there have been concerns that this selectivity reduces solidarity between households in any given neighbourhood and therefore leads to less collective action, whether to do with political pressure or to provide essential goods, rights and entitlements and/or to provide basic services through self-help. Hence, there is a tension between collective action and individual support. While this is not an exclusively urban problem, this tension is exacerbated in urban informal settlements because of the need to negotiate with the state for regularisation and improved access to services. 

More generally it is recognised that there is also a need to build collective social and political capital in order to enhance the resilience of communities in the long run. It is clear that no one financing mechanism can deliver resilient communities. Different social protection and finance mechanisms will continue to serve different purposes. Local savings collectives often provide a space for low income urban communities to save and borrow money, the revolving nature of these funds means that resources can go further. More effective approaches to poverty reduction including food security can be developed by converging and harmonising institutions (local gov, civil society, private sector and humanitarian agencies) to ensure coherent planning and to develop local alliances to enhance local resilience and well as improved development options

Layering urban resilience and cash-based transfer interventions

Under the urban resilience component, the Zimbabwe SDI alliance is implementing a set of activities which are aimed to building resilience amongst the targeted domains. Below, a summary of the activities is provided;

  • Establishment and strengthening of savings collectives – this activity entails the setting up of community-level institutional structures for facilitating savings and loan activities for supporting livelihoods and building resilience. The collectives are constituted on average by 20 households per group with members meeting regularly to save and discuss priorities for the membership. The savings and loan groups will, therefore, be geared towards building a pool of financial resources through which the groups will then, in turn, give out loans to members to meet household requirements such procuring food, meeting medical expenses and school fees. The savings collectives are also meant to contribute towards building the much-needed social cohesion for groups to better engage decision-makers regarding accessing improved urban services.
  • Community networking and exchanges – under this activity, the targeted communities undertake peer-to-peer exchange visits. The exchange visits include on average 5 people from a selected settlement visiting another settlement. The horizontal exchanges seek to provide learning opportunities for communities with similar conditions of vulnerability enabling them to learn how their counterparts are dealing with similar urban shocks. The exchanges, therefore, act as a capacity building and strengthening tool through sharing of experiences around, for instance, resilience-building activities implemented in other geographical parts of the project.
  • Participatory data collection processes – these constituted participatory data collection processes meant to generate information on socio-economic and spatial attributes of the targeted settlements. In particular, the assessments are meant to document urban shocks and community responses. For instance, the recent outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the need to understand its impacts as an urban shock. The findings from these participatory assessments were in the form of impacts, community responses and settlement development priorities that will help inform and sharpen the resilience building activities. It is also expected that the findings will help in defining a clear agenda on existing infrastructure needs during the engagement processes between the communities and decision-makers thereby enabling the access to improved urban services.

Urban resilience interventions should build on the on-going CBT activities in the targeted domains. Directly layering the urban resilience activities onto the same household that receive CBT proves to be challenging, given the different targeting methodologies associated with urban resilience and CBT activities. For instance, participation in savings collectives is voluntary under the urban resilience pillar, it is not a guarantee that everyone on CBT will join the savings collectives, and there may be some members who have not received CBT but are willing to join the savings collectives under urban resilience. However, given the settlement-wide focus of collective urban resilience interventions, the urban resilience activities have indirectly benefited households that have not been the subject of CBT interventions.

SDI at CBA14: Claiming Space for Communities



From 21 – 24 September, a delegation of SDI slum dweller leaders and support professionals will participate in the 14th International Conference on Community-based Adaptation to Climate Change (CBA14) – “From local solutions to global action.” The conference brings together practitioners, grassroots representatives, local and national government planners, policymakers and donors working at all levels and scales to discuss how we can drive ambition for a climate-resilient future.

SDI federations and other grassroots groups use innovative approaches to address climate change in their communities, yet their unique experiences, needs, and priorities continue to be overlooked — or they are seen as the consumers or beneficiaries of other stakeholders’ planning and development, rather than important partners in the planning and development of their own communities, cities, and futures. SDI believes – and our work at all levels reflects – that effective interventions must involve representative organisations of these communities as stakeholders that lead the design, planning, implementation, evaluation and learning from the changes that are needed so urgently.

We hope that those of you planning to attend CBA14 will join SDI at some of the events listed below, where you will be sure to find community representatives speaking directly to their own needs, priorities, strategies and solutions.

CBA14 Opening Plenary | 21 September, 13:00 CET : In this opening session, the LDC Chair – Bhutan, will welcome participants to the CBA14th Virtual conference. We will use this opportunity to take stock of progress on the Global Commission on Adaptation’s Locally-Led Action track – first introduced at CBA13, asking the CBA community to help shape future milestones for locally led action. These milestones will frame discussions at CBA14 and set the stage for an engaging, interactive conference.

COVID-19 and Grassroots Responses from the Frontline| 22 September, 08:00 CET: The dialogue style session will provide an interactive platform for grassroot speakers/leaders to exchange lived experiences of responding to an immediate crisis such as COVID-19 given existing capabilities, resources and knowledge. It will create a learning opportunity to identify the patterns of community actions; navigate the challenges faced and determine ways of scaling up such locally-led responses to build a future that is more resilient to shocks and uncertainty. Through capturing their response and drawing lessons from their practices, grassroots organisations and social networks can enhance community resilience in the face of future disruptions, disasters and emergencies such as those driven by climate change. Session is capped at 35. Sign up here. 

Listening to Grassroots Voices / Voices from the Ground | 22 September, 13:00 CET: This session will showcase grassroots leaders’ experiences and insights gained over years of organising to build community resilience and influence policy. Urban and rural grassroots leaders will describe how they have transferred and scaled up their efforts, claiming resources and recognition from local, national, regional and global institutions. They will share effective organising skills for addressing climate change issues through community based adaptation, including key challenges and successes in resilience-building work. Leaders will showcase the power of community data collection and mapping to negotiate with local level stakeholders to strengthen local plans and service delivery of programs. Finally, leaders will highlight the critical role of collaborative partnership to champion community-based solutions to climate change will be another key point of discussion. Session is capped at 35. Sign up here. 

Preparing the next generation of youth leaders to accelerate Climate Adaptation in cities | 22 September, 16:30 CET: Climate change science requires the assessment of complex nexus issues at the intersection of natural, built and human environments. Resilience planning requires collaboration across disciplines, political boundaries and sectors to address gaps and respond to emerging and current risks from climate change. There is considerable need to support knowledge development and capacity building at all levels from science to practice in order to support scaled action on urban resilience, while addressing the divide in the educational system itself. Universities are uniquely positioned to mobilize talent, develop knowledge and experience across disciplines and continental divides. Partnerships between universities, community organizations, city governments and the private sector can drive inclusive and resilient urban development. Session is capped at 35. Sign up here. 

Impacting Policies – perspectives, trends, challenges and success factors | 23 September, 08:00 CET: Grassroots movement building and leadership in community based adaptations have played a significant role in shaping policy debates on climate change adaptation. Despite this, barriers remain in the decentralisation of power and decision making, flow of financial resources, and policy support towards community based adaptation efforts. This session will bring together grassroots leaders and policy makers, calling attention to the influence of social movements on global policies, highlighting the current policy trends, shifts in local and national budgets, accomplishments, and roadblocks experienced in attempting to bring more policy incentives and financial resources to urban and rural grassroots communities. Session is capped at 35. Sign up here. 

Putting Money Where It Matters | 24 September, 08:00 CET: Financing for climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction (DRR) is not getting where it matters, neither to the countries nor communities that need it most. This session first presents findings from new research showing donor funding for adaptation and DRR financing has not targeted the most climate vulnerable countries, and when funding does reach the countries that need it most, local actors are currently unlikely to access it. The session then looks forward, offering an opportunity to collaborate around advocating for greater adaptation financing and co-develop practical principles for better climate adaptation and DRR financing with the CBA community – so that it is more effectively helping the most vulnerable countries and communities. Session is capped at 35. Sign up here. 


Media Making an Impact: #ChangeOurPicture

Originally published on urbanet, SDI presents the work of youth slum dwellers across the SDI network linked to documenting issues linked to resilience, livelihoods and housing.

A photo competition called for urban residents in African countries to portray how they use media to change the narrative on their environment. Slum Dwellers International presents some beautiful results of the #ChangeOurPicture competition.

The CoHabitat Network in partnership with Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and The Bartlett Development Planning Unit announced a photo competition for urban citizens across Africa, aimed at documenting how they make media to make change.

Presented with a theme and using a cell phone camera, the competition portrays the innovative ways in which communities document their history as well as the histories of how homes and cities are built. Communication through media thus becomes instrumental to approaches to development and social change.

The power of grassroots movements is reflected in the structure of the competition: “Federations” from informal settlements organise around collective goals they identify. Having agreed on the need of a platform for creative storytellers to document their lives, the Federations, in partnership with the CoHabitat Network, initiated the competition.

Own Your Narratives

“Nothing for us, without us” is a slogan of the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) across the SDI network. This slogan serves as a reminder that grassroots must remain at the forefront of planning and that it is essential for residents to own the narratives that emerge from their communities.

Informal settlements are hubs of resilience and innovation. When media emerges as a key mode of communication, it highlights the dynamic lives of those living in informal settlements, constituting an opportunity to shift the conversation.

All across Africa, people are building their cities and are documenting the social production of habitat. Documentation –for example through photography – recognises these processes as meaningful, thus acknowledging these people’s actions as contributions to society.

Pictures Telling Stories

To make media to make change, it is essential to recognise the power media has across languages and cultures. As a photography competition relying on cell phones, #ChangeOurPicture is open to anyone, including those living in informal settlements, across Africa. Photos serve as a tool of storytelling; they capture informal spaces as spaces full of innovation and resilience.


Small teams across Africa submitted photographs with captions that were taken with cell phones. They focus on themes that speak to the varied landscapes and most pertinent issues of those living informally. These captions serve as snapshots of a larger story of their lives, challenges, and their perseverance within urban slum environments.

In order to encourage diversity of submissions, when the competition was first announced, there was no theme. The process of establishing themes emerged from a consultative process with youth media makers from across the SDI network. The below photographs are a sampling of the submissions – and of the immense talent of media makers across Africa, narrating the beauty and the pain of life within informal settlements.

They say my neighborhood is informal but we have the joy of life. Despite the determination of the defenders, our goal scorer keeps his cool.
Federation in Burkina Faso

Money & Livelihoods

I’ve always believed that one woman’s success can only help another woman’s success…… You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive.. © Bernadett Nkhoma, Federation in Zambia


Before the cock go wake up, every soul and spirit don wake up de look 4 wetin to chop up and down. Na wetin go make you real hustler for lag nai be that oo, as Dem de talk am, no food for lazy man. We no go give up becos say pepper never red. Last last we go de alright.
© Nasu Abdulaziz, Nigeria Slum/Informal Settlement Federation

Courage & Heroism

“As a young producer, I want to put a smile on someone’s face with my work through storytelling. What keeps me going is the people, their story and self motivation. My favorite quote, “Life is a battlefield, don’t rest until you win the battle.” – Nasu Abdulaziz
© Shawn Okechukwu Samuel, Nigeria Slum/Informal Settlement Federation

All submissions to the #ChangeOurPicture competition can be viewed here.

Slums Made Better Together: Impact and Continued Learning

With innovative media being published by grassroots communities, this competition seeks to continue learning and encourage this type of knowledge dissemination.

A selection committee working on civic urban media will engage those with the most creative photography, identifying the finalists that will move forward in the competition process. The grand prize to be won in this competition is the opportunity to participate in an exchange with other media makers from across the continent. The finalists will receive the training and the resources needed to develop their photo series into a documentary.

The work will continue to be shared with partners and stakeholders around the world, as a traveling exhibition that engages the world with pertinent issues such as climate, informal slum upgrading, livelihoods – and the shared, social production of communities.


Screenshot 2019-10-17 at 15.30.39

A publication by C40 Cities, ICLEI, IIED, SDI, and UN Habitat, with support from Cities Alliance. 


Climate change will worsen many existing shocks and stresses, in addition to creating new challenges in informal settlements (‘slums’) 1 . Climate and disaster-related risks in cities cannot be addressed without upgrading informal settlements; likewise, upgrading will be futile unless the impacts of climate change are taken into account and incorporated. Due to low incomes, fewer assets, and limited voice in governance, residents of informal settlements often lack the capacity to cope with climate risks. Additionally, recognising that informal settlements are not a homogenous group and individuals can be characterised by age, gender, occupation and disability etc, is crucial for policy interventions. Oftentimes, these individuals are likely to be more vulnerable than others and therefore should be considered in upgrading, to ensure an equitable distribution of benefits across an informal community.

This report explores how upgrading informal settlements can simultaneously help in achieving climate resilient, inclusive and low carbon development leading to multiple benefits. Upgrading is a process of improving living conditions in informal settlements, often by providing shelter and services while supporting economic development via stronger links with the ‘formal’ city. Interventions can range in scale and levels of community participation, and they may vary in scope from single-sector projects (e.g. water-taps, electrification) to multi-sectoral programmes. Along with analysing the benefits of key upgrading actions, the report offers a case study of a holistic intervention currently planned in Nairobi’s informal settlement of Mukuru.

This report identifies ten particularly promising upgrading actions with potential to foster multiple benefits and advance several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These interventions are specific to the context of Mukuru and are:

  1. Increasing the efficiency of solid-waste management
  2. Increasing the diversion of food waste, organics, and recycling with benefits for livelihoods
  3. Cooler housing design
  4. Provision of green space
  5. Maintaining high-density neighbourhoods
  6. Mixed-use development
  7. Pedestrianisation
  8. Increase cycling
  9. Solar power for street lighting
  10. Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) stoves for cooking

The above initiatives have significant potential to yield multiple benefits, as highlighted in Section 2 and Appendices 1 and 4, such as:

  • Social benefits; such as including the promotion of gender equity, community pride and social cohesion between local actors.
  • Health benefits; such as from improved air quality, increased physical activity and reduced vector diseases.
  • Climate benefits; such as through reducing CO2 emissions (e.g. a potential of 218 metric tonnes & 808 metric tonnes CO2 reduction from residents cycling and walking to work in Mukuru respectively) and adapting to local climate risks.
  • Economic benefits; such as through protecting assets such as houses and enhancing livelihoods through potential costs savings of up to 80% from switching to LPG from charcoal as cooking fuel.
  • Environmental benefits; such as through lower emissions and improved air quality.

The study of Mukuru also provides several key considerations and recommendations for international, national, local policymakers and NGOs as outlined in Section 4. The key lessons learned from Mukuru are:

  • Integrated Upgrading; Mukuru’s integrated plans and governance structure helped the government understand how a neighbourhood can be transformed using multi-sectoral strategies to foster resilience, rather than a single housing solution.
  • Federated grassroots organisations; Linking grassroots organisations with residents to support each other and share a multiplicity of experiences can make residents feel empowered to undertake improvements in their own settlements.
  • Devolved local government; A democratic and adequately resourced local government can secure national interventions in informal settlements and bridge the gap between national government and grassroots organisations in need of support.

Click here for the full report. 

Know Your City & 100RC Joint Work in Cape Town

This report outlines the engagements between the South African SDI Alliance and the City of Cape Town, as part of a partnership between 100 Resilient Cities and SDI’s Know Your City programme. 

Initial engagements with 100RC City of Cape Town: the Agenda Setting Workshop (19 May 2017)

The SA SDI Alliance involvement in the 100RC activities of the City of Cape Town began in earnest on the 19 May 2017 when the members of the alliance together with SDI attended the agenda setting workshop hosted by the City of Cape Town.  The Alliance presented profiling and enumeration work done in partnership with the City of Cape Town and the Provincial Department of Human Settlements in the Western Cape — the key being to reaffirm the position that community driven data collection not only produces excellent data but also places communities at the centre of their own development agendas.

At the event, the team worked in a small group with the Mayor and the facilitators took the participants through a process of identifying shocks and stresses that affect the city. This was then mapped and it was clear from this exercise that the stresses identified, when mapped, basically reproduced the spatial footprint of informality.

This event saw the naming of the CRO and Deputy CRO and laid the foundations for future engagements with the alliance around resilience issues.

Picture1Members of the SA SDI Alliance team and SDI participate in the identification of priority shocks and stresses (Mayor Patricia De Lille & CRO Craig Kesson)

The use of KYC data to engage the City of Cape Town (16 March 2018)

While this connection to the City of Cape Town 100RC process was underway, the alliance also identified another strategic objective in trying to link its strong data collection processes to resilience building in Cape Town. In particular, it was clear from the agenda setting workshop Cape Town was not equipped to address some of the fundamental daily stresses that face the residents of Cape Town’s informal settlements. From the Alliance’s perspective, the need for basic services was a critical starting point. The Alliance developed a parallel strategy, using Know Your City data as the basis for engagement with City departments.

On the 16 March 2018, the Alliance secured an introductory meeting with the Director of Informal Settlements, Riana Pretorious, which was attended by FEDUP and ISN members from across Cape Town as well as key officials from various line departments. This meeting built on the introduction that the Alliance achieved with Ms Pretorius in February 2018 at the African Centre for Cities Urban Conference where she sat on a panel with Rose Molokonae (FEDUP coordinator) and SDI affiliates from Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. This panel discussion opened up the space to discuss the power of community collected data and Ms Pretorius approached the Alliance afterwards for a follow up meeting.

The meeting on the 16 March 2018 sought to achieve the following:

  • Present a clear picture of who the SA SDI Alliance is, what it does, and how it operates
  • Present an overview of the city’s informal settlements using sub-regional reports based on KYC data.
  • Specific asks:
    • What projects can we collaborate on?
    • How do we get our communities’ projects onto the budget for the new financial year?
    • Can we target one settlement per sub-region where we try to demonstrate an effective partnership with the CoCT?
    • Is it possible to convene an inter-departmental team working with the alliance to tackle the settlements with the toughest problems in Cape Town?
  • Discuss potential exchange to Nairobi for exposure to Mukuru project
  • 100RC feedback

The biggest outcome of this meeting was to hold 4 sub-regional forums across the city where CoCT and various line departments would meet with communities from the sub-regions. This would be based around discussing data with a focus on the provision of basic services.

100RC Inception meeting between CoCT and the SA SDI Alliance (4 April 2018)

On the 5 April 2018, the Alliance met with the CRO and deputy CRO for an inception meeting to begin sharing between the CoCT resilience team and theAlliance. The Alliance used the meeting to cover all aspects of our work and from the City’s side they began to share some of the work that had been started. What was very important to note is that Riana Pretorius was also part of this meeting. The deputy CRO would be the main connection to the alliance team but it was stressed that the aim of the CoCT resilience team would not be to duplicate work already being done between the Alliance and the informal settlements department but rather to enhance it.

Out of the meetings mentioned above, a series of activities unfolded over the period April to August 2018. What follows is a table summarizing the activities and some of the key outcomes achieved.

Month Activities
April ·       Lead up to first sub-regional forum with the CoCT – alliance prepared sub-region with analysis of data, overview of projects, budget workshop with the help of the IBP to unpack the specific City budget for the specific sub-region

·       18 April – first sub-regional meeting held in Blaauberg. Alliance.

Outcomes of meeting and action items 

1) Quick wins – 4 settlements for basic services

  • Joe Slovo: Marikana and Siyahlala
  • DuNoon: Ezulwini and Soweto
  • Action item: arrange walk about on DuNoon and Joe Slovo site
  • Follow up discussion: toilet issue

2) Settlements under threat of evictions – win-win solutions

  • Joe Slovo: Siqalo
  • DuNoon: Ekupholeni and Soweto
  • Follow up discussion: evictions / demolitions / land invasions / planning together

3) Detention pond settlements and pilot project

  • Joe Slovo: Ekuphumleni, Siyahlala
  • DuNoon: Soweto , Ekupholeni
  • Follow up: 
    • Ekuphumleni as case study / pilot project
    • Set up a team of relevant officials to find solutions to above settlements

4) Other action items:

  • Mtshini Wam retaining wall
  • Exploring the realities of joint profiling and enumeration between Alliance and City for settlements that are not yet recognised by the City
    • How can the Alliance assist the City with service mapping – e.g. manhole mapping
    • Use Alliance enumeration data to identify who works close to the railway line in DuNoon (as Riana indicated that relocation of some people is likely)
  • Backyarder discussion: How does the Alliance engage with backyarders?
  • Who to contact to set up a walk about
  • Update from city about potential sites city is planning to acquire in DuNoon

5) Way forward:

  • City and Alliance to complete other regional meetings
  • Once we’ve done a round trip in all areas we create a list of action items
  • Today’s focus: basic services (easier to get on to budget)
  • Longer term focus: discuss alignment of budget and timeframes when it comes to in situ upgrading (tougher to get on to budget)
  • 23 April 2018 – Follow up meeting to present Preliminary Resilience Assessment for Cape Town to SDI – City Resilience team presented the PRA which revealed some of the main focus areas and how the city was rated in each area.
May ·       Lead up to second sub-regional forum with the CoCT – alliance prepared sub-region with analysis of data, overview of projects, budget workshop with the help of the IBP to unpack the specific City budget for the specific sub-region

·       8 May – second sub-regional meeting held in Mfuleni

o   Mfuleni settlements with no basic services including solid waste managements and electricity

o   Mfuleni settlements with inadequate basic services including solid waste managements and electricity

o   Settlements under and on servitudes

o   Settlements under eviction threat

o   Pilot projects appearing on BEPP

o   Proposed pilot projects

·      Lead up to third sub-regional forum with the CoCT – alliance prepared sub-region with analysis of data, overview of projects, budget workshop with the help of the IBP to unpack the specific City budget for the specific sub-region

·       16 May – third sub-regional meeting held in Khayelitsha

o   Overview of the region

o   Basic services, Electricity, water and sanitation, solid waste, settlements on servitude or wetland, public lighting, access roads, data collection, proposed pilot projects

June ·      Lead up to fourth sub-regional forum with the CoCT – alliance prepared sub-region with analysis of data, overview of projects, budget workshop with the help of the IBP to unpack the specific City budget for the specific sub-region

·       11 June – fourth sub-regional meeting held in Central sub-region

o   Settlements with no basic services

o   Settlements with inadequate basic services

o   Settlements under servitudes, detention, retention ponds

o   Pipeline projects

·       Official from Resilience Department attended engagement between CORC and Informal Settlements Dept. in Central Sub-region

·       Alliance members attended 3 focus groups for the development of the City Water Resilience Framework (CWRF)

·       22 June 2018 – Alliance hosted a site visit and engagement with community members for the consultants developing the CWRF

July ·       12 July – Consolidation meeting between Alliance and the CoCT around all discussions covered in the 4 sub-regional meetings, action plan developed tracking activities across 75 informal settlements, 7 thematic areas identified for follow up that would be developed into either forums, city wide programs or once off workshops.

·       16, 17, 18 July – Alliance attended the SDI hosted Resilience learning exchange in Cape Town. Director of informal settlements from CoCT in attendance along with deputy CRO from the CoCT. Deputy CRO agrees to a strategic follow up session for a deeper dive into the City Resilience Index tool

August ·       22 August – Meeting between alliance and deputy CRO for deep dive into CRI tool and mapping way forward for collaboration

o   Alliance to assess tool

o   Deputy CRO to share questions that build up the tool

o   Alliance to attend the CoCT PRA launch 21 September 2018

·       29 August 2018 – strategic review meeting between alliance and CoCT informal settlements department to discuss way forward.

September ·       3 – 8 September 2018 – alliance members to travel with Riana Pretorius from CoCT and David Ali from Provincial human settlements department Western Cape to attend a learning exchange in Sierra Leone.


Way forward

With respect to the interactions with the Deputy CRO the following way forward was agreed to:

  1. Alliance review of CRI tool and identify what questions were missing
  2. Look at identifying potential projects that could be done in partnership, exploring innovation around resilience building.
  3. Alliance to attend the launch of the Preliminary Resilience Assessment in September.
  4. Alliance resilience team and deputy CRO to meet once a month to track progress. Produce critique of tool and improve it to better reflect realities of cities with large amounts of informal settlements. Plan would be to link with other SDI affiliates who are linked to resilience cities and begin to develop a tool that factors in informality.
  5. Look at time horizon of three years – when the CRI could be run again but using our improved version – look at how KYC data could feed into this process.

With respect to interactions with the CoCT department of informal settlements using KYC data as a locus around which communities engage the city on resilience the following way forward was agreed, including concrete steps to deepen the partnership and the upgrading strategies in order to deepen and broaden impact.

Challenges and lessons learnt

It must be noted that the partnership between the CoCT and the Alliance is currently going through a rebuilding phase. This process has meant re-establishing trust and learning from the mistakes of the past. City officials in these engagements know the Alliance but have not held the space when changes in strategic leadership happened inside the city. A strategy needs to be developed to ensure that the partnership has ways of withstanding major institutional shifts.

From the city official side, it was noted that at times the city did not want to have communities present but through a process of building trust and creating safe spaces for sharing, officials began to understand that communities are a critical part of the alliance process.

From the Alliance, side the engagement of over 75 settlements across the city could be difficult to manage and at times leaders who were not fully up to speed with the rebuilding of the relationship used other forums of engagement to attack the city – this had the potential to set things back – but these issues were tackled between the Director of Informal Settlements and the Director of CORC as well as leadership from ISN and FEDUP.

On the CRO front, the challenge is to manage the expectations of the city who have put a lot of work into their  development framework without using the Alliance as a major stakeholder. This is shifting, however, and from the PRA it can be seen that informality has been prioritized within the city plans. The key is to develop clear lines of communication, dedicated teams assigned to specific tasks from both sides and a broad understanding of the strategic direction the partnership wants to take.


The resilience work in Cape Town has followed a two-pronged approach by developing a partnership with the CoCT resilience team as well as the Department of Informal Settlements and Backyarders. This does not exclude the building of relationships with various line departments in the city. The Alliance has learnt to develop these relationships at various levels to ensure that the changing of officials in strategic positions (which happens often in the city) does not derail the process. It is hoped that the relationship with the CoCT resilience team will help establish protocols of engagement that would withstand the institutional shocks that come along with municipal reshuffling and in particular try to drive a community process to the centre of municipal processes so that community engagement can be embedded inside the city and withstand the onslaught of the national elections next year.

The Collaborative Urban Resilience Exchange: How KYC data & partnerships support more inclusive development outcomes

The Collaborative Urban Resilience Exchange

Resilience building has emerged as an important priority for cities worldwide. With an increasing number of cities developing Resilience Strategies, there is a pressing need to understand how these strategies intersect with issues of exclusion and poverty. In cities with large portions of their population living in informal settlements it is critical that more attention is given to understanding these intersections. Triggered by a collaboration established under the Community of Practice for Resilience Measurement , SDI100 Resilient Cities and Itad have begun this work.

Given the centrality of peer-to-peer exchange in its learning approach, SDI decided to host a Collaborative Urban Resilience Exchange in its recently launched Know Your City Resource Center in Woodstock, Cape Town. As part of the exchange, which took place from July 16th-18th 2018, SDI brought together city officials and community organizations involved in resilience planning and implementation in Cape Town, Accra and Durban. The exchange supported reflection by officials and communities from the three cities about how community-collected data on informal settlements and partnerships between government and organized communities (a package of strategies known as Know Your City by SDI and its partners) can support resilient city strategies capable of generating more inclusive city development outcomes.

Learn more about the reflections and outcomes of the exchange by clicking on the image above.