By Aditya V. Bahadur, PhD.
Principal Researcher, Human Settlements Group
International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), UK
What are the actions that help build the resilience of vulnerable communities to the impacts of a changing climate?
This question has been the subject of a vast amount of academic research and endless debate between resilience practitioners. There is now a general convergence on the idea that resilience results from the development of various ‘capacities’ or the abilities that a community must possess to withstand shocks and stresses. Consensus has emerged that resilience results from the ability of communities to develop adaptive, absorptive and anticipatory capacities. While enhancing each of these capacities comes with its own set of challenges, developing anticipatory capacity particularly is tricky. This is because while providing information to communities on impending hydrometeorological hazards is technologically feasible, providing this in a way that allows them to use it to make decisions is incredibly challenging.
This is why I feel that the DARAJA initiative fills a critical gap. The project aims to reduce vulnerability to climate change in rapidly expanding urban settlements in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam through the improved use of climate services. While I had read about this initiative in various places, a new, highly engaging short documentary brings home the story of this remarkable project like no document could. The film follows James Kirika, a local community leader in Kibera, Nairobi who is the bridge between this initiative and the communities that it aims to serve. We see James engaging with those living in informal settlements, with meteorologists, climate scientists and radio presenters to ensure that a supportive ecosystem for decision-friendly climate information functions to support the most vulnerable.
Film insights and solutions to a changing climate
The film provides a number of valuable insights.
- Technological solutions are only one part of a complex puzzle. Socializing new technology and ensuring that it is aligned with the needs of those for whom it is intended, is the critical factor for delivering impact.
- The film drives home the point that enhancing the resilience of vulnerable communities requires the participation of a diverse range of stakeholders providing technical and institutional support.
- More specifically, the film reinforces the fact that enhancing the ability of vulnerable communities to anticipate shocks and stresses is not only a function of ‘what’ information they receive but ‘how’ this information is presented. The conversion of dense meteorological data into a daily, graphic-driven forecasts had made a huge, positive impact on the ability of James’s neighbours in Kibera to adapt to climate change.
Overall, this short and enlightening film makes a bold case for rapidly scaling up innovations in urban climate services to ensure that marginalised populations are able to not only function but flourish despite the shocks and stresses from a changing climate.
To view the 8-minute, “The Story of DARAJA and James” Film please click here.