Working with Intermediary Cities in Kenya to Empower them Against Impacts of Climate Change

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Urbanisation in developing nations provides an opportunity for intentional economic growth that is based on the inter connectedness of market oriented growth and sustainable development solutions. As populations rise in their primary cities, emerging secondary (intermediary) cities are expanding to accommodate the increased demand to agglomerate economic opportunities in a sustainable way. As local governments (municipalities and counties) rush to meet the demand, there is a pertinent need to ensure that they do so in a resilient way that enables them to future proof the urban centers with emphasis on climate adaptation and mitigation.

Urban Centers’ managers need to ensure that their urban climate resilience approaches embrace climate change adaptation, mitigation actions and disaster risk reduction while placing emphasis on the need to create dynamic systems that are responsive to the evolving climatic environment. This is especially true for secondary urban centers’ managers who are for the first time not only dealing with rapid increase in their urban population but a surge in the demand for urban quality and responsive urban services coupled with the lack of funding to put in place adequate planning that will inform their land use and investment projects. Without a concerted effort being put on making planning decisions, there is a potential to miss out on the need to marry planning for climate change and urban development which will lead to negative economic development outcomes.

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In the recent past, Kenyan local governments and institutions have focused on the impact of climate change to determine how they will adapt to its projected effect such as decreased water resources in arid and semi arid areas with significantly little thought given to how they can proactively utilise varied development methodologies to generate future local adaptation approaches. In developing Kenyan intermediary cities (municipalities) there is an increased sense of responsibility to develop their urban areas in a way that is climate sensitive. This is because predictions show that within urban centers, climate change has the potential to reverse urbanisation and development gains through infrastructure destruction caused by natural disasters. Further, if urban resilience is not prioritised as urban centers develop, there will be a continual economic cost of disasters that will need to be incorporated in municipal budgets greatly hindering their progress in economic development. As such, urban resilience has become a necessary agenda for urban centres’ managers due to its potential to cause socio economic shocks that may stunt their economic advancement.

Sustainable Urban Economic Development Programme (SUED) Urban Adaptation: How the UK Government is Working with 12 Cities in Kenya to Empower them Against Impacts of Climate Change



It is imperative to note that to achieve sustainable urban economic development, the local leadership needs to have in place spatial or development plans mainstreaming climate change that will help them manage the urban development process. If they lack a pathway that incorporates adaptation/mitigation

2 Lake Region Economic Bloc Kisii and Bungoma, North Rift Economic Bloc Eldoret and Iten, Frontier Counties Development Council Mandera and Isiolo, Mt. Kenya and Aberdares Region Economic Bloc Kathwana and Kerugoya/Kutus, South Eastern Economic Bloc Kitui and Wote, Jumuiya Ya Kaunti Za Pwani Malindi and Lamu

Opportunities to advance urban resilient development in emerging urban centers should include developing and implementing integrated urban economic plans that incorporate climate change in the identification of viable value chain and infrastructure projects that are geared towards providing equitable economic prospects for their population.


The UK Government, through its Sustainable Urban Economic Development Programme (SUED) is working with intermediary cities (municipalities) in Kenya to develop Urban Economic Plans (UEPs)1 that support the local leadership to identify value chain projects and supporting critical climate resilient infrastructure that will maximise their economic potential. The programme did this thorough a multi faceted approach to ensure that climate resilience and adaptation are interlinked into identified economic development projects. In doing so, the programme has worked closely with the 122 supported municipalities to inform their decision making on how they will attract investments to systematically address the interactions between climate change and urban development. This has helped them harness the experience they had from the direct impact of climate change such as severe flooding and extreme drought to determine how they will “climate proof” to prepare for future climatic changes especially sea level rise, drought, and flooding.

An urban economic plan is an advisory document that builds on existing work and priorities identified in the county and municipal planning documents. It helps provide an inclusive economic strategy that will guide future development aimed at prioritising economic activities and climate resilient infrastructure.

Programme Intervention/Strategies Applied

2 | Page measures, they stand to lose in understanding how critical resilient planning can help them maintain continuity of functions through any climate related external shocks

While there has been an increase in the level of information and data on climate change, hazards, and adaptation in Kenya, what has proven to be an uphill task is the application and mainstreaming of this information within local urban planning. There has been a distinct disconnect in the synthetisation of climate change impact and its consequence in targeting municipal specific economic sectors and what the impact means for the supported municipalities. Within its support, SUED has embedded an approach that is geared towards supporting the municipalities to increase their urban centers’ resilience to climate change. The programme has done this by working closely with the local leadership to develop climate smart Urban Economic Plans (UEPs)that will help them manage and sustain their urban growth.

In its UEP development support, SUED carried out a municipal specific climate risk assessment on the supported municipalities. The assessment looked at their physical environment, land cover, land use, socio-economic characteristics, current climate, and hazard vulnerabilities through the lens of their future economic development. The climate change vulnerability assessment helped profile the municipalities and inform how the urban center managers understood the trends and changes in climate variables to help design sustainable economic sectors that would make them economically competitive and environmentally resilient. The assessment proved to be a critical source of information in helping the programme work with the municipalities to plan for adaptation. While the programme utilised various sources of information such as county specific climate risk profiles to inform its impact assessment, there was need for concerted effort in ensuring that they were incorporated in the UEPs. This shift from disaster risk management in the future planning documents was necessary to go beyond of passively preparing a preparedness approach to climate change but moving towards actively addressing the causes of climate change and how the urban centers could be developed to both adapt and mitigate against climate change. SUED opted to carry out municipal specific climate risk when developing the UEPs because climate change impacts will affect municipalities differently based on a number of factors such as their location, the condition and structural integrity of existing infrastructure, the size and needs of their

Results: Working closely with the municipal and county leadership, the programme identified the need for investment in Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SuDS) to protect the population and infrastructure from flooding in the Central Business District (CBD). Through this local solution, the municipality proposed for a nature-based solution that will address the risk of flooding by directing storm water through a biopark into a natural reedbed system This proposed measure will directly counter the effects of droughts and enable safe water flow through the urban centre. In doing so, the municipality has in place a development framework that is based on climate resilient urban development.

Isiolo Municipality- Isiolo County- Priority Climate Risk: Floods Municipality Profile: Isiolo is a largely arid and semi arid area that experiences long periods without rain which are often followed by intense rainfall resulting in floods. The Municipality soil is largely dry with high clay content and has limited vegetation which results in poor natural run off capabilities that are further exacerbated by poorly maintained stormwater drainage systems.

3 | Page population and the capacity of their municipality(ies). An understanding of the risks against the mechanisms in place both in municipal urban planning and supporting regulation was key in determining the readiness of the municipality to adapt to climate change.

Sanitation and waste management projects, reforestation efforts and prevention of further deforestation as well as urban drainage systems featured prominently among municipal priorities. The snapshot below shows how SUED has worked within the local systems to mainstream urban resilience into planning and future economic development:

SUED’s Climate Proofing Approach

In depth assessment and analysis: SUED helped Isiolo Municipality carry out a climate risk assessment to identify the direct impacts of climate change e.g., flooding. The assessment focused on determining climate change stressors they needed to incorporate in their planning to mitigate against long term changes in rainfall patterns and increase in temperature. Using this information, SUED programme is supporting the Municipality attract climate finance towards reducing flooding risks through sustainable urban integrated infrastructure.

Multi-stakeholder approach: the programme worked closely with the municipal and county leadership to determine what Isiolo’s economic priorities were and how climate change was a hindrance to them meeting their economic growth. This understanding of how climate change would affect the population helped drive the conversation of how the leadership could prioritise climate-resilient infrastructure to ensure that they reduced their exposure to hazards and increase their capability to adapt and respond to climate change.

Mandera Municipality Mandera County Priority Climate Risk: Drought Municipality Profile:

Mandera is located in Kenya’s northern eastern most and driest region, an area that has been historically marginalised by the national government. Its disconnection from the main urban areas in the country has resulted in resource scarcity that is currently been addressed under the newly constituted county structure. The municipality’s primary climate risk is persistent and recurring drought conditions that strain the already limited water resources available for people and livestock. Most recently, the county and

Results: By analysing the municipality’s climate vulnerability, SUED was able to better understand who and what the vulnerable groups, areas, economic sectors, and urban infrastructure were. This helped inform the development of Mandera’s UEP. By incorporating future climate knowledge in the UEP, the municipality’s urban resilience approach can be informed and sustained as the urban centre develops.

Climate Change awareness: While working with the county and municipal leadership, the programme shared cases studies from similar climate regions and how they were adapting to climate change. For Mandera, a relatable case study was on how Mozambique was working with Women and the youth to drive urban resilience within various value chain project similar to how Mandera was working with women and youth groups in its greening project to reduce evaporation from various water sources and increase soil water retention as a pro-rain-fed agriculture approach that doubled as a way to reduce the heat stress in the urban area.

Malindi Municipality – Kilifi County Priority Climate Risk: Sea Level Rise Malindi is a coastal town located along the Indian Ocean. The County’s climate is moderately hot and dry throughout the year and is particularly sensitive to the impact of extreme weather such as drought due to weak coping strategies. Further, the changes in the magnitude and severity of extreme events and sea level rise are a significant risk to energy, transportation and building infrastructure. With future sea level rise and changes in precipitation, the municipality needs to employ sustainable climate solutions.

4 | Page municipal leadership have put in place a greening project to support its afforestation efforts by planting trees in the urban center.

SUED’s Climate Proofing Approach: Integrated stakeholder management: In Mandera it was critical to incorporate young voices into its future climate proofing because of the pastoralist nature of the community which meant they were highly transient. The programme needed to know as it developed Mandera’s UEP the capacity of the pastoral community to withstands the impacts of climate change and how they dealt with long periods of drought and the resultant pressure on pasture.

SUED’s Climate Proofing Approach: Information harnessing: With SUED’s support the county was able to amalgamate region wide research and customise it into the plausible economic impact of climate for the municipality. It showed that the municipality could potentially lose out of its natural capital, agricultural land, fisheries infrastructure, and

Building local government capacity: SUED’s technical assistance support to Mandera in the development of its UEP utilised a varied approach of mentorship and guided on the job coaching to increase the leaderships knowledge of climate mitigation and adaptation to combat the climate change realities in their urban centers.

Developing climate resilient infrastructure and value chain projects: the UEP development process premise is the identification of critical value chain and infrastructure projects that will help the municipalities become climate resilient. By working closely with key stakeholders in Mandera the programme was able to ensure that future hazard profiles were realistic based on local knowledge and experience. This ensured that the programme was able to advice the leadership on how they could use alternative infrastructure design approaches focused on infrastructure resilience. For instance, the leadership has learned to appreciate the huge green energy potential the municipality has that can help them increase their green energy generation and advocate for the use of green energy within households, public institutions, and commercial enterprises.

Combine Soft and Hard Approaches: When integrating climate resilience into urban economic planning, a one size fit all approach will not yield the best results. There is need to combine physical system with soft measures to ensure that the proposed approaches are both implementable and sustainable. For instance, in Isiolo, while designing the SuDS (physical structure) there was need to ensure that the leadership was able to begin to put in place supportive policies that would ensure the clearing of the riverbanks to enable the construction of the system.

5 | Page livelihood due to the impact of the sea-level rise. By having in place, a plan that integrates information on climate the programme has helped the municipality to climate proof incorporating climate lens approach planning to mitigate against potential economic impact of climate change.

Best Practices to Replicate Improve Climate Information: As the programme was developing the UEPs, its aim was not only in researching previous climate assessment and how to harness that information, SUED was keen to internalise that information and develop responsive climate action oriented UEPs. It merged knowledge on what was being done within the climate sector and what was locally adaptable into a useable climate focused economic strategy.

Participatory Modelling: In the development of the UEP the programme used a multi faceted approach in how it engaged the key stakeholders. For community members, SUED employed participatory process to gather firsthand data through Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) to gain local knowledge on how they act against climate change. When engaging senior county officials, the programme utilised Key Informant Interviews (KII) to determine what measures had historically being in place to mitigate against climate change. By utilising this approach, the programme was able to see the double impact that climate change would have on the coast with not only marine habitats being reduced in functionality but the potential in land human migration due to rising sea levels. Using this information, the programme was able to ensure that the UEP diversified Malindi’s economic sectors to ensure that they were not overly reliant on marine resources and were able to put in place measures that would safeguard them.

Tap into Local Expertise: The temptation remains to shun indigenous information in how climate change has been tackled in the past. By incorporating local traditional knowledge of weather patterns and climate trends, SUED has been able to better design urban infrastructure to drive the achievement of resilient structures. In Mandera, the engagement of the pastoralist community helped inform the selection of the economic priorities based on the climate patterns and how the community aligned to it. Such as how a cooling center was prioritised to keep agricultural produce fresh for local use and inter county export due to the high temperatures that caused wastage of produce between farms and market.

Marrying Present Challenges with Long Term Climate Visioning: Urban center managers are at times hard at task between addressing current challenges as flooding and developing systems that will reduce hazard incidents. This is primarily because of budget constraints, high staff attrition rates at the county level which makes it difficult to assign the responsibility to an individual opting for an institution. In Malindi, the long term climate change impact is the rising sea level while the current challenge is the lack

Results: Using the diagnosis carried out in Malindi, SUED was able to work with the technical team to internalise what that meant for their socio economic development and identify economic priorities that would ensure that they could optimise their infrastructure development to respond to the urban pressures that they currently faced while incorporating sustainable climate resilient approaches. By understanding the existing urban vulnerabilities, the programme helped the county and municipal leadership to formulate efficient and effective responses to the future sea level rise This was done through simulating climate extreme events to determine what ecological impact the sea level rise would have and design responsive and functional infrastructure to mitigate against it.

Identify Local Climate Champions: Within its support, SUED has embedded a strong capacity building approach that is based on mentorship and peer learning. To advance urban resilience, SUED recognises that it can only be implemented if the leadership buy into its need. As such the programme has worked closely with various urban center managers to better understand how climate change affects the urban center and as a result themselves directly. This has ensured that there is commitment and accountability that is informed by sound climate information.

6 | Page of a waste management infrastructure. To help the municipality and county leadership to see the need to interconnect the present and the future SUED worked with them to develop a multi functional sanitation and waste management plant design that would reduce the environmental impact. By having in place, a waste management system that promoted a circular economy that would utilise the by-products into briquettes which will offset the environmental impact that deforestation has caused by the utilisation of wood fuel. This will help the local leadership identify which tree species are tolerant to rising sea levels that can be used to revegetate the coast.

Green Finance and Economic Growth: SUED’s work is geared towards working with the municipalities to attract finance that promotes low carbon development pathways and circular economic modelling for the value chain and infrastructure projects identified in the UEPs. For example, when working with Kisii Municipality, the programme has helped them prioritise projects that will enable climate change adaptation by committing £1.3 million. The projects include a water reticulation system that will help them better manage storm water runoff and re purpose it for use within the municipality. By allocating fund the municipality is increasing investment in areas such as climate-smart and sustainable value chains and climate resilient infrastructure to counter the present and future climate challenges.

Gender and Social Inclusion Integration: As urban resilience is integrated within urban development its critical to see how it influences various groups in the community. Further, there is prudence in ensuring that usually excluded voices are included in the conversation on urban resilience and how it looks like for the urban areas. This is because as urban systems are designed to respond to future climate events there is merit to ensure that people and institutions systematically learn from experience and adapt to the lessons learned to ensure that future planning is based on emerging evidence.

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