Tuesday 6
Urban resilience and ecosystem services
Stephan Barthel
› 11:35 - 12:30 (55min)
› JOFFRE 1-6
Understanding resilience in rapidly urbanising areas – adaptive capacity and ecosystem services in the slums of Kampala, Uganda
James Waters  1@  
1 : School of Environmental Sciences  (UEA)  -  Website
School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK -  Royaume-Uni

This presentation introduces the importance of resilience in poor urban (slum) areas, and discusses empirical research that shows some key resilience determinants in this context. Whilst the study of resilience and ‘resilient cities' has developed in recent years, there is still little understanding of the specific features of resilience for the residents of poor urban areas. With rapid urbanisation especially in the developing world, slum populations are set to reach 1.4 billion by 2020 (UN-HABITAT 2006). Given the multiple conditions of vulnerability often found in these areas, resilience is a crucial trait for individuals to adapt, innovate and indeed thrive. This presentation focuses on what the most important aspects are in these contexts.


The presentation is based on the findings of a study in three slums in Kampala, Uganda. The study focuses on both social and ecological aspects of urban resilience, measured through the lenses of adaptive capacity, and ecosystem services. Resilience is considered at the individual and community level, using relatively novel tools such as an adaptive capacity assessment, and an ego-network analysis. Extensive fieldwork covering 720 individual questionnaires (as well as focus groups and in-depth interviews) allows some key determinants of adaptive capacity to be identified. The level of ecosystem service usage (including urban agriculture) is also discussed, as a component of social resilience. In addition to discussing the social and ecological components of resilience for poor urban dwellers, the study deals with specific differences in adaptive capacities between areas, and between population groups.


The study finds that while local demand for ecosystem services is low, green spaces still produce notable benefits and increase residents' sense of place. The way in which slum residents often deal with problems with the help of others is discussed, and thus the critical importance of social networks for adaptive capacity. Other important determinants of individuals' adaptive capacity are explained, centred on individuals' ‘sense of place'. From these findings, the benefits of incorporating green space amongst slum development, and building a local sense of place, are put forward. Given significant differences found in the adaptive capacity of different areas and different groups, the importance of measuring adaptive capacity at the local level is suggested. By understanding these specific capacities, it allows targeted responses for resilience building, increasing the likelihood of transformational change in a local slum area. Finally the way in which these tools may be made transferable is discussed. The determinants of resilience in poor urban areas may be unique, but once understood enable us to help reduce vulnerability for a vast proportion of the world's population living in slums and informal settlements.

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