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What is the Fate of Remnant Urban Natural Patches? Insights from Kampala City

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As settlements, industries and other city infrastructure expand into the landscape to settle and connect swelling numbers of urban dwellers, natural ecosystems continuously recoil together with the services they provide. Kampala City, the 13th fastest growing city on the planet best embodies this classical phenomena. From 1989 to 2010, corresponding with explosive population growth, the area of developed land within the city increased from 27% to 78%. Noteworthy, this development occurs at the expense of the natural assets that built areas replace and affects the capacity of ecosystems to provide their attendant services. However, there are natural vegetation patches that survive this wave of degradation and such enclaves referred to herein as remnant patches inspired a probe by a team of three researchers led by Urban Action Lab’s Professor Shuaib Lwasa. This investigation set out to examine why cities’ remnant patches remain after their parent ecosystems have been degraded and to provide clues on how long and strong these patches can stand the same destructive forces that created them. To provide insights into these two questions, a combination of remote sensing, GIS and surveys were conducted. High resolution mosaic of satellite images were classified and attributed using spatialized data from ground truthing exercises. Patch attributes such as closeness, connectivity, neighbouring landuse, biodiversity rank, ecosystem services change, and status were probed in a GIS environment. Such investigation provided answers and clues as to why and how some patches survive the same destructive processes that eroded parent ecosystems. Further analyses and interpretation of field surveys gave glimpses of the capacity of the city’s remnant patches to withstand future degradation forces. Findings indicated that patches that were connected or close to similar patches had significantly higher chances of withstanding destruction as compared to those that were distant from and/or not connected to similar patches. Patches that were protected by fencing or natural buffers also were at a low risk of being converted. Patch neighbouring landuses such as settlements and construction sites posed serious threats to patches than neighbours like beaches and recreation centres. This inquiry established that patch attributes such as connectivity, closeness, and neighbouring landuse were key indicators of patch dynamics such as resilience, a parameter that is increasingly becoming important in modern cities. Most importantly however, this investigation provided novel blueprints for city planners and conservationists which if replicated/mimicked on new or vulnerable patches could be a final frontier in conserving cities’ fast disappearing biodiversity.

By Benon B Nabaasa                    Shuaib Lwasa              Enock Ssekuubwa

UAL Coordinator Delivers Seminar at Oxford Martin School

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Leapfrogging urban development:navigating resource competition and low carbon transitions for inclusive and sustainable African cities.
The urgency of limiting global warming to under 2˚C has been emphasized by the recent rulebook at COP24 in Katowice. This comes after the release of the IPCC special report on impacts of 1.5 ˚C which identifies pathways for accelerated action to limit global warming and address resource competition through changes in multiple areas including: energy, water, land use and ecosystems, urban and infrastructure, and industry. Cities of the global south are growing fast but much of the urban landscape is yet to be built especially in Africa. Urbanising Africa has shown signals of practical solutions to low emissions, resource competition and sustainability and thus can provide lead in transitions to address climate change, disaster risk and resource competition while addressing development deficits. This talk will explore opportunities for leapfrogging urban development for inclusive and resilient African cities.
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The First Graduates from the Urban Action Lab (UAL)

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The first graduates from the Urban Action Lab (UAL) Buyinza Ambrose Wabwire and Teddy Kisembo graduated on the 15th Jan 2015 with MA Land Use and Regional Development.
Ambrose’s research thesis was on Seasonal Variability of Pasture Biomass and Carrying Capacity in Karamoja Sub-Region, he determined the grazing carrying capacity of pasture biomass for livestock (grazers) by classifying and quantifying pasture biomass for grazers in Karamoja rangelands and assessing the spatial-temporal variability of pasture biomass quantity. The study shows that the use of GIS/Remote sensing to complement field data is a dependable approach to quantifying pasture biomass and determining the carrying capacity of rangelands. The study was funded by BRACED (Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Change Extremes and Disaster)
Teddy’s research thesis was on Flood Risk Induced Relocation in Urban Areas: “Case studies of Bwaise and Natete Kampala”, she analyzed the decisions regarding relocation from flood risk areas by characterizing flood risk induced relocation, assessing the tipping points that make people relocate and the tolerable risk that makes people that make people live with risk and assessing the city level strategies for mitigating flooding. The study shows that flood risk induced relocation is a coping for households affected by flooding and can afford to relocate. The study was funded by CDKN (Climate and Development Knowledge Network) under the Disaster Risk Reduction project.
Congratulations Ambrose and Teddy


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As part of the Knowledge for Action in Urban Equality (Urban KNOW) project, the Kampala City team hosted a workshop on the 13th of December, 2018, in collaboration with research partners from University College of London (UCL). Also in attendance were researchers and stakeholders drawn from the Urban Action Lab, Makerere University (UAL), Kasubi Parish local Community Development Initiative (KALOCODE), Lubaga Charcoal Briquette Cooperative Society Limited (LUCHACOS), ACTogether (the support NGO for Uganda’s Federation of Urban Poor), Shelter and Settlements Alternatives: Uganda Human Settlements Network (SSA – UHSNET), Bwaise community members and a representative from Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development. The project examines how urban areas are increasingly becoming unequal places and how rapid urbanization in developing countries creates attendant challenges for growing urban populations. This project, therefore, seeks to deliver transformative research and capacity building for innovation in policy and planning to promote Urban Equality based on three selected development challenges;  Resilience, Extreme poverty and Prosperity across 3 geo-political regions (Africa, South-east Asia and Latin America), and in nine cities in developing counties including Kampala.  Each of the participating cities have developed projects that respond to at least one of the three development challenges with the goal of identifying pathways to urban equality within their local context.

The workshop enabled interaction between the different researchers and stakeholders who will be co-producing knowledge for more equal urban places, to share the project aim and how the Kampala city case study fits into the big umbrella of the KNOW Project.
Women of Kasubi zone III under LUCHACOS (Photo Credit: David Heymann)

To get a deeper understanding of the Kampala City Partners project, the Energy Briquettes Production, the workshop was preceded by site visits to Kasuubi-Kawaala, Nakulabye,and Bwaise communities that are involved in the production of the energy briquettes, and which will be the sites for the Kampala City research. The workshop discussions revolved around understanding of the inequality in Kampala, why energy briquettes and how their production contributes to reducing extreme poverty in Kampala, improving resilience and thus promoting prosperity, and how the different briquettes producing community groups are organized.

“We have to start with what we have and in Kampala, where materials that have been traditionally thought of as useless and therefore deserve to be transported to a landfill, and an extra tax burden to the urban dweller of Kampala and a cost for the city authority, can now be thought about as materials which can be transformed into energy briquettes, into animal feed, and into composite manure. The idea is to create economic opportunities that the city has not thought about” said Professor Shuaib Lwasa, KNOW project Kampala City Lead while discussing the Kampala Inequality. He also stressed the lack of a formal social income classification and how it is paramount that other measures other than income poverty (based on expenditure) are found to measure poverty.

KNOW Team with members of Nakulabye Briquette Making Technology (Photo Credit: David Heyman)

News Publication “Experimentation in an African Neighborhood: Reflections for Transitions to Sustainable Energy in Cities”

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Experimentation in an African Neighborhood: Reflections for Transitions to Sustainable Energy in Cities
10 December 2018
Studies on transitions to sustainable energy in cities point to different types of experimentation including niche experiments, bounded socio-technical experiments, transition experiments and grassroots experiments. This paper argues that experimentation in African cities cannot be definitively framed into such types because each case harbors a unique perspective with implications for how it is understood conceptually. This is based on a transdisciplinary inquiry into waste to energy pilots in an informal neighborhood of Kampala city, which demonstrated how a network of community actors overcome not only energy but also health and poverty-related challenges, through recycling waste materials for production of energy briquettes. Their experimentation is majorly driven by the following: (i) the desire to overcome confinement to services regulated by government and (ii) promoting alternative sources of cooking energy that stem from locally available technologies. Overall, the case study points to how transitions to sustainable energy in cities can start in experimentation at neighborhood scale, using alternative cooking energy solutions as the anchorage.Click here for more information.

UrbanKnow team Kampala, Uganda and Partners:

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ACTogether, SSA-UHSNET, UHCU, LUCHACOS and KALOCODE community Members at the KNOW inception workshop, at Hotel Africana, discussing pathways to Urban Equality. The Inequality in Kampala is mainly; inaccessibility to sanitation services, the supply of clean water, reliable electricity and good law enforcement due to unfavorable urban policies, bureaucratic tendencies and resistance towards change in investment priorities. Members sited Briquette production, Urban Agriculture, turning Wastes to Energy and Adoption of a participatory approach in policy development and/or policy review versus the existing conventional planning are some of the pathways to Urban Equality that were discussed.
The partners voluntarily committed to the KNOW Project and pledged to ensure that each party involved plays their role to reduce extreme poverty, build resilience of urban areas in the face of disaster and develop prosperity

Effective urban land use in Kampala against the backdrop of competing interests

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As part of a series of urban thinkers dialogues organized under the theme “The City We Need” – aimed at creating strategic platforms for multi-stakeholder engagements that can lead to a more transformative and sustainable urbanization process, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) in partnership with Uganda Community Based Association for Women and Children Welfare (UCOBAC) organized a high level dialogue, which will facilitated critical exchange between government departments, civil society and other key stakeholders on effective urban land use in Kampala against the backdrop of competing interests and needs.

Dialogue panelists

The dialogue focused on;

  • Recognizing different interests and needs in urban land use, e.g. in terms of hous
  • ing, commerce & business, industrial and infrastructure development, provision of services, and the environment
  • Exploring current urban planning procedures, especially with regards to reconciling different needs & interests, stakeholder participation, mandates & funding
  • Identifying gaps & challenges in regulatory frameworks, coordination, funding, and in dealing with competing interests and the political economy
  • Developing solutions and approaches to address above gaps and challenges for increased sustainable and effective urban land use.

Assoc. Prof. Lwasa Shuaib (Makerere University) presenting during the dialogue

Key Points:

  • Kampala has very complex land use activity systems, engendered by equally complex property and or land mkts, conflicting developments which favor the elite over smaller businesses, individualized rights which disregard public rights
  • Planning systems requires us to re-orient our thinking towards creating and harnessing opportunities that favor the majority rather than planning by the ‘book’ which benefits only a privileged few
  • To achieve this, we need to better understand the realities of our context, mainstream opportunities in land use and development policy and planning systems, enhance coordination and engagement between state and non-state actors and focussing on locally appropriate, scalable land use implementation


New Publication on “Gender Ideologies and Climate Risk: How is the Connection Linked to Sustainability in an African City?”

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Gender Ideologies and Climate Risk: How is the Connection Linked to Sustainability in an African City?
Kareem Buyana, Urban Action Lab, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
Loraine Amollo, School of the Arts and Design, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya
Shuaib Lwasa, Department of Geography, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
Peter Kasaija, Urban Action Lab, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

Although African cities are nodes of scalable solutions to climate uncertainty, adaptation efforts rarely build on the gender-climate nexus for sustainability. This article examines how gender ideologies intersect with climate risks, based on case study findings from Kampala in Uganda. Climatic hazards in Kampala include prolonged dry spells and seasonal floods; which destroy infrastructure, contaminate air and lead to unprecedented spread of cholera and malaria. Both conventional and emancipatory gender ideologies are characteristic of how the gender-climate nexus shapes adaptation at neighborhood scale“Click here for more information.

New Publication on “The urban south and the predicament of global sustainability”

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“The urban south and the predicament of global sustainability

Harini Nagendra,
Xuemei Bai,
Eduardo S. Brondizio &
Shuaib Lwasa
Nature Sustainabilityvolume 1, pages341–349 (2018)

Urbanization is a global phenomenon with strong sustainability implications across multiple scales. We argue that much of the associated challenges, and opportunities, are found in the global south. We show that urban issues in the global south are distinctly and statistically different from those in the global north, but our current urban knowledge is predominantly shaped by research on and from the global north. Cities in the global south have strong imperatives, and unique but often overlooked capacity, to innovate and experiment for sustainability. We call for a renewed research focus on urbanization in the south, and suggest targeted efforts to correct structural biases in the knowledge production system.Click here for more information.



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KCCA holds the third Kampala Public- Private Waste Water dialogue with the theme: Collaborated planning towards amicable actions for a pollution free Kampala city on the 8th of June 2018 at Speke Resort Munyono. The dialogue was attended by different Pollution Control Task Force made up of KCCA, NWSC, DWRM and NEMA supported by GIZ and IWaSP. UMA, UPCP as the industrial sector support and other actors like the ministry of Water, the Academia, Environment Alert etc. Prof Shuaib Lwasa from the Urban Action Lab Makerere University attended the dialogue and gave an inspirational talk on were he said industrial waste water can be managed better and nature is needed to treat waste water. The city is expanding whereby the population growth is an underlying driver of environmental change and therefore planning for waste water is important and there other pollutants that like faceal sludge and solid waste that also need to be considered. He talked about a need for doing things in a new way whereby nature, water, green, human, cultural are integrated through land use planning by having on site waste water decentralized system and construction of wetlands to help manage water. He concludes by saying to achieve a pollution free Kampala city we need to start thinking about a circular economy targeting zero waste and continuous dialogue with committed public private partnership will bring a solution. The launch event will be held in WRI’s office in D.C. Please find all the information here Click here for more information.

Prof Shuaib with some of the panelists during the dialogue