Search type


CLimate change and Urban Vulnerability in Africa (CLUVA)

Urban ecosystems are increasingly recognised as a core component of the drive towards sustainable cities.

In the context of climate change, they also have an important role in adaptation and mitigation since they help to reduce vulnerability and people’s exposure to hazards, like flooding and heat-waves.

The cities of sub-Saharan Africa present a challenge for sustainable development and the preservation and enhancement of urban ecosystem services. They tend to be characterized by high rates of growth and a rapid pace of change as a result of a combination of demographic, migratory and development factors. Decision-makers struggle to enforce existing environmental regulations and often lack strong planning and legislative frameworks, not least for issues associated with climate adaptation. As a result, development can lead to an erosion of green infrastructure – the basis through which people living in cities can gain associated benefits like environmental moderation, provision of food, fuel and water, support for flora and fauna and spaces for recreation and cultural practices. Losses of green structures – such as trees, shrubs, natural riverine corridors, grasslands and croplands – mean that cities not only have fewer resources to help with anticipated future changes but are also developing on increasingly unsuitable land. In turn, these developments have a knock-on effect on the wider urban area and make the whole city less resilient.    

This raises a number of important questions:

  • What urban ecosystem services exist and how do they vary across urban areas?  
  • Where and how much change is occurring?
  • How is climate change affecting green structures and their ecosystem services?
  • What are the prospects for using green infrastructure for climate adaptation in African cities?

Dr. Sarah Lindley led research into each of these questions in close collaboration with the Technical University of Munich (Germany), Ardhi University (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania), University of Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), University of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), University of Yaoundé (Douala, Cameroon), and the University of Gaston Berger (Saint Louis, Senegal).The research was centred on five cities in different climate zones across sub-Saharan Africa: Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, Douala, Ouagadougou and Saint Louis.

The research included:

  • Conducting the first comprehensive assessment of green structures based on Urban Morphology Type (UMT) characteristics in sub-Saharan African cities.
  • Developing empirical baselines showing pressures on urban green structures and their ecosystem services.
    • For example, in Dar es Salaam, the period 2002-2008 has seen a loss of around 30% of all woody biomass. The impacts of such losses are likely to be felt most acutely by people living in low income settlements. For example, in the Dar es Salaam neighbourhoods of Suna and Bonde, 19 different green structure types were identified to be of particular importance to local communities. Download the full report.  
  • Tailoring a suite of methods developed in Manchester to the African urban context, including city-wide assessments of regulating urban ecosystem services using surface temperature modeling.
  • Constructing GIS-based models of urban development in collaboration with local practitioners.
    • Results demonstrated that business-as-usual scenarios could result in the loss of around a third of Addis Ababa’s agricultural land and a fifth of its other vegetated areas between 2011 and 2025. Furthermore, there would be a loss of around 60% of the area of Dar es Salaam’s riverine corridors, increasing both the intensity of flooding and the numbers of people exposed. See the full report here.
  • Using UMT maps for Dar es Salaam, Addis Ababa and Ouagadougou to consider which particular communities are likely to be most impacted by flooding. See the Further Information section for a list of related publications.  

Further information

The work outlined on this page covers only part of the research undertaken as part of the CLUVA project. The project also involved a wider analysis of urban vulnerability and climate change, covering climate change modeling, hazard assessment, social and infrastructure vulnerability analyses and the evaluation of urban governance and planning systems. Visit the the project website for more information.

Our project deliverables (see D2.8-2.10) and upcoming book provide a comprehensive documentation of the research and its findings. We also produced a practitioner guide about the methods used and findings produced.