Issue No. 3

Dear friends and colleagues

Welcome to the December edition of our newsletter! We hope you enjoyed our August edition. In case you missed it, please check it out here. 2020 has been a whirlwind of a year, and we have had to learn to continue our work under very challenging conditions. As we reflect on this complicated time we can look upon all that we have achieved with pride, as we successfully managed to implement and innovate in response to new constraints. As we approach the end of the year, here's a recap of the exciting updates we have for you on the activities undertaken during the last few months:

  1. Spotlight on the Adaptation Fund Project at the city level: Building Urban Climate Resilience in South Eastern Africa
  2. Behind the Scenes: Adaptation Fund Project Team Building
  3. Let's take a deep-dive: Challenges and key interventions in Morondava, Madagascar
  4. Mayor's Take: Mr. Raharison Désiré Armand, Mayor (a.i.) of Morondava, Madagascar
  5. CityRAP in Africa and beyond: Fomboni City and Downtown Amman
  6. Highlights of the month: Mayors' and city leaders dialogue, Adaptation Week, Making Cities Resilient 2030 Campaign
  7. Zooming out: LOCS4Africa Conference
  8. What's Trending: Climate Smart Cities Challenge

1. Spotlight on the Adaptation Fund Project at the City Level: Building Urban Climate Resilience in South Eastern Africa

1.1. Launch of the Adaptation Fund Project in Zomba City, Malawi

On 7 October 2020, national governments and key stakeholders convened in Zomba City, Malawi, for the launch of the Building Urban Climate Resilience in Southern Africa Project, funded by the Adaptation Fund, implemented by UN-Habitat and OXFAM.

This project is an evolution of a process started several years ago, when UN-Habitat and DiMSUR developed the City Resilience Action Planning tool (CityRAP) and piloted it in the four target cities namely, Chokwe, Morondava, Moroni and Zomba City.

Implementation of the project will help build urban resilience in Zomba City, which is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, in the following ways:

  • Establishment of a city-wide early warning system for floods
  • Construction of multi-purpose evacuation centres
  • Rehabilitation of existing drainage channels and construction of new drainage channels
  • Improving solid waste management
  • River-focused interventions to prevent erosion and flooding
  • Construction and rehabilitation of bridges and dams on Likangala River
  • Sustainable urban forest management

Speaking at the launch event, the Minister of Local Government in Zomba City, Mr. Lingson Belekanyama called for collaborative efforts in the fight against negative effects of climate change in the country.

Mr. Belekanyama stressed on the need for communities to take ownership of the structures that will be built through the project and urged those implementing the project to cooperate with the residents to meet its intended purpose.

The message that I have is that they should cooperate so that the projects can realize the benefit of community insights,” Belekanyama said.

1.2. Launch of the Adaptation Fund Project in Chokwe City, Mozambique

A week later on 13 October 2020, the project was launched in Chokwe City, Mozambique, during a high level event attended by national and local governments, and relevant key stakeholders. Among the attendees were representatives from the Ministry of Land and Environment, delegates from Chokwe Municipality, UN-Habitat, OXFAM and local community leaders.

Implementation of the project in Chokwe City will include:

  • Improving the overall drainage capacity of the city
  • Construction of safe-havens
  • Improving solid waste management
  • Establish early warning for floods at community level

Implementation of these activities in Chokwe, Zomba and Morondava (as well as in Moroni where the launch has not yet taken place) will allow creation of temporary jobs, especially targeting poor/vulnerable people. To ensure sustainability and efficient maintenance of the project other activities will be carried out which include:

  • Local training sessions (including vocational/skill training) for both responsible municipal staff and community members;
  • Community awareness and sensitisation (with focus on gender/youth issues) regarding drainage/road maintenance, solid waste management, management and use of public rainwater harvesting systems, tree planting, enforcement of by-laws with climate adaptation focus, etc.;
  • Use of required maintenance equipment, among others;
  • Promotion of alternative livelihoods to support sustainable use of resources.

In this way, local capacity will be developed to ensure the management/maintenance of the priority sub-projects’ outcomes in the longer term.

1.3. City Project Team (CPT) kick-off planned activities in Morondava, Madagascar

Two months later, we met with OXFAM, municipal representatives and local authorities of Morondava to establish the City Project Team (CPT) in Morondava for the Building Urban Climate Resilience in South-Eastern Africa project.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr. Zaid, focal point of the project in Morondava municipality said, “Together, we will achieve good things for our city. It has been a long time since we started preparations for this project and we are counting on the outcome of our past effort

1.4. Fulfilling National Strategies and State Manifesto in Malawi

Speaking from State House during the nation-wide weekly update, the President of Malawi, H.E. Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera acknowledged the work of UN-Habitat and OXFAM through the 4 year Building Urban Climate Resilience in Southern Africa Project in Zomba City, to address the pressing challenges of floods and poor drainage systems.

In his statement, H.E. Dr. Chakwera highlighted how the recent floods in Zomba and Lilongwe do not just hint at environmental vulnerabilities, but also point to the need for interventions to address the problem of unplanned urban growth, which creates waste management challenges and increases the risk of disasters.

Such interventions are in fulfilment of our other manifesto promise to ensure systematic and coordinated urban development, culminating in cities and towns that are able to manage urban growth and development, including preparedness to respond to disasters...In this context, we will take an ecosystem approach that implements interventions locally and at landscape scale", H.E. Dr. Chakwera said

2. Behind the Scenes: The Adaptation Fund Project Team Building

December marks six months since the official launch of the project, Building Urban Climate Resilience in South Eastern Africa. To gear up for the work ahead, we held a virtual Team Building Retreat in October, facilitated by Lee-Anne Ragan of Rock.Paper.Scissors, Inc. who has worked with more than 40,000 participants in and from more than 125 countries.

The aim of the team building retreat was to establish better working dynamics and set in place ways to work with our geographically and linguistically diverse landscape.

The three day session was divided into two parts. The 1st part focused on 'Online Team Building' which covered:

  • Training of Trainers: Taking that beloved subject matter expertise of yours and teaching it to others for game-changing workshops with real impact
  • Tech tools for ease, efficiency, learning and communication
  • Working Better Together, including team building and the 7 C’s - communication, con res, culture, creativity, collaboration, celebration and change.

The 2nd part focused on 'Internal Team Coordination' where we unpacked:

  • Project Overview and Key Milestones
  • Adaptation Fund coordination meetings structure and plan
  • Working better together

The 20 member Project Supervision Team (PST) is comprised of a gender-balanced pool of experts in different fields from across the globe.

3. Let's take a deep-dive!

3.1. Challenges in Morondava

In each issue of this newsletter, we have been featuring one of the four cities of the Building Urban Climate Resilience in South Eastern Africa project. Today, for our third city, we travel to the Western Coast of Madagascar. The city of Morondava lies between the Mozambique channel and the Morondava river delta. As a coastal city positioned in the middle of a delta, Morondava is surrounded by water from rivers.

During high discharges, the water overflows the riverbanks and due to the lower elevation north of the river, the water then flows towards the city. In general, along the coastal stretch of Morondava, the main flooding type is swelling. Extreme weather events cause major floods in both the northern and southern sides of the city, especially in the neighbourhoods close to the river. Other key challenges are:

  • Expansion of informal settlements in high risk areas
  • Limited access and mobility
  • Poor drainage conditions
  • Inefficient solid waste management
  • Mangrove deforestation
  • Lack of disaster preparedness

3.2. Key interventions and activities

At the national level, tools, guidelines and training delivery on urban resilience and climate adaptation techniques will be developed for Madagascar. National and local officers will be trained in urban climate adaptation techniques.

At the city level, planned sub-projects will be implemented in Morondava based on priority, to help increase climate resilience. These interventions were identified through the participatory CityRAP process implemented by UN-Habitat in Morondava in 2016.The sub-projects include:

  • Rehabilitation of 180 ha of mangroves
  • Urban greening interventions in high risk areas
  • Establishment of a city-wide early warning system for floods
  • Construction of a resilient and multi-purpose safe-haven
  • Construction of a flood-proof elevated road with improved drainage capacity
  • Reconstruction of 3 bridges connecting different neighbourhoods in a resilient manner
  • Enhancing the drainage capacity in the city centre
  • Improving solid waste management

4. Mayors Take: Mr. Raharison Désiré Armand, Mayor (a.i.) of Morondava, Madagascar

Mr. Raharison Désiré Armand is the ad interim Mayor of Morondava City, Madagascar. Prior to this, he was the Secretary General of the Kily Be Association, Research-Action-Development. He has held various positions during his career since 1979 in both education and development fields. He has a bachelor and a master’s degree in History from Antananarivo University.

(i) What motivated you to get involved in the government of the city of Morondava?

I have been living in the coastal area since 1987. This has enabled me to witness the city degrading due to climatic hazards, such as marine erosion, neighbourhoods submerging, frequent flooding due to heavy rainfall and overflows from the Morondava river. Additional natural disasters include cyclones such as cyclones Cynthia and Geralda.

My goal was to protect the city of Morondava. It is in October 2015 that I was called upon to join the Mayor's team. Fast forward to 2020, we are cleaning out the drainage channels to improve resilience. However, we have limited resources and so in the event of a natural disaster or torrential rains, the water will destroy the repaired infrastructure.

(ii) What are the most urgent challenges related to climate change and natural disasters facing the city of Morondava today?

The most urgent challenges to be addressed are:

  • Reduce the impact of disasters (such as loss of human, economic and social life, infrastructure)
  • Set up early warning systems while developing residents' awareness on the risks of climatic hazards
  • Adopt coping mechanisms to help protect vulnerable neighbourhoods, save and rescue disaster victims and recover quickly in the event of a disaster
  • Make the city attractive and prosperous by increasing recreational areas, better waste management for good health, development of economic activities, particularly tertiary activities

(iii) CityRAP was implemented in Morondava in 2016. How has City RAP contributed to improving the city's capacity to plan and implement resilience solutions?

The activities carried out were all done with and for the inhabitants of Morondava City. Since the implementation of CityRAP, local, neighborhood and municipality officials have been introduced to the concepts of risk and resilience through participatory workshops which made us aware that the realities experienced involve disasters / vulnerabilities; hence the need to manage and plan better.

Previously, we from the municipality of Morondava, acted punctually when disaster occurred by warning inhabitants, observing, improvising and helping where needed. Almost all of the inhabitants were not aware of the importance of understanding climatic hazards, risks and resilience.

Since 2016, we have been led to understand, evaluate and gradually build a resilience plan. The identification and prioritization of challenges and actions were done through participatory exercises involving both women and men. Local testimonies and existing knowledge contributed to the development of a resilience plan.

The knowledge gained from the training session enhanced our understanding of risks and solutions based on past experiences. This contributed to the participatory mapping that each group developed based on their neighborhood. The issues and challenges as well as the priority action plans were respectively discussed and developed by all people involved.

In summary, to achieve the development of the urban resilience plan of Morondava, it was necessary to go through early stages of initiation, understanding the concepts of climate change and the process of developing an urban resilience plan. For this, various entities reporting to the authorities, municipality, civil society and its components as well as community leaders were involved.

(iv) The Adaptation Fund project will be implemented simultaneously in four cities, including one in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and Comoros. What are the best practices for building resilience in Morondava that can be learned by other cities? according to you?

  • Restoration of mangroves in collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Fisheries Resources, the urban municipality of Morondava has mobilized its inhabitants (association of young people, women, consortium, municipal youth council, etc.) to plant various species so as to restore the mangroves and maintain fishery resources.
  • Establishment of a nursery at the initiative of the regional environment directorate and to which each public entity including the municipality has had its share of woody forest species nursery.
  • Periodic cleaning of canals in the neighborhoods by labor-based workers in collaboration with specialized organizations such as the National Nutrition Office (ONN and ORN). This involves the community including vulnerable men and women where they're given food and money for work done.

(v) CityRAP is a highly participatory process. How has the experience of CityRAP implementation influenced the planning processes within the municipal administration of Morondava?

CityRAP has helped us draw up our local development plan, and implement the framework of the local consultation structure, that enables the municipality to involve various youth-led entities and disabled persons organizations, association of notables and the elderly, technical services, etc. through a participatory planning process. In addition, we've managed to conduct public consultations using a differentiate approach, aligned with the terms of reference for service providers.

(vi) What is your favourite place in Morondava: where can you go to take a break from your busy life as mayor?

At the beach, away from the city because it is not noisy, there is clean fresh air and it is far from public areas.

5. CityRAP in Africa and beyond

CityRAP Tool is a step-by-step participatory resilience planning methodology that includes a set of training exercises, activities targeting municipal authorities, communities and local stakeholders to build their capacity in action planning for risk reduction and resilience building. Implementation of the tool is done in four phases as shown below.

5.1. Implementation of CityRAP in Fomboni, Union of Comoros: Phase 1 - Phase 4

PHASE 1: Intensive Training Workshop

In June 2019, CityRAP was initiated in Fomboni Municipality by UN-Habitat and partners. Activities conducted during this period involved introducing CityRAP tool methodology and the concept of urban risk and resilience to the municipal focal points in order to reach a common understanding. In this phase, we identified the main problems affecting the city and the most vulnerable neighborhoods. We also trained the municipal focal points to lead the resilience planning process.

PHASE 2: Compilation and organization of data

This phase we employed participatory planning in neighborhoods by use of satellite images to stimulate discussion, engage different stakeholders and identify the main issues in the neighbourhood.

The main issues identifed include:

  • Coastal erosion
  • Drainage Problems
  • Periodic flooding (’flash flood’)/flood risks
  • Poor maintenance of the channels
  • Poor waste management
  • Lack of access to clean drinking water

PHASE 3: Data analysis and prioritization

Due to COVID-19 delays, five months later, we commenced with Phase 3 activities through focus group discussions. This phase involved presenting the data collected and analyzing the information to identify priority action areas. This was carried out in thematic focal groups (representatives of the municipality, communities, NGOs, CSOs, and other relevant actors) who analyzed each pillar of resilience data collected during Phase 2 and discussed the main priorities.

The prioritization workshop enabled participants to:

  • Present the results of the discussions of the municipal focal groups
  • Identify and discuss the commonalities resulting from focal groups
  • Present the three cross-cutting issues of urban resilience namely, climate change adaptation and mitigation; city growth; safe and inclusive cities
  • Classify priorities according to the cross-cutting issues of urban resilience to identify common areas for prioritization
  • Outline key questions for the City Resilience Framework for Action

Following the funnel process for prioritizing and planning, the following key issues emerged as the priority areas of action in Fomboni:

  • Establish a sustainable waste management system by creating specific jobs
  • Reduce the community vulnerability of informal settlements to reduce the impact of climate change in relation to floods
  • Preservation of natural areas (forests, sea coasts ...) for the development of a sustainable tourism through strategic planning at the island level
  • Support for local governance in terms of technical capacity building, material and financial
  • Promotion of renewable energies and sustainable management of resources from local energy production strategy

PHASE 4: Development of the City Resilience Action Framework

In November 2020, Phase 4 on development of the City Resilience Framework for Action (CityRFA) was implemented. A two day workshop was held to discuss and validate the CityRFA with the concerned authorities. In attendance was the Mayor of Fomboni, as well as, several institutional and public service representatives

5.2. CityRAP in Downtown Amman, Jordan

In a new and inspiring step between UN-Habitat's Regional Office for Africa (ROAf) and UN-Habitat's Regional Office for Arab States (ROAS), CityRAP (City Resilience Action Planning Tool) is going to be implemented in Downtown Amman, Jordan focusing on the hazard of flash floods. This will mark the first time the use of CityRAP is adopted in a different region, following its implementation in more than 30 cities across Africa. And it will be a hybrid virtual and in-person process to ensure compliance with COVID-19 measures in Amman, which is a new modality for us!

The mayor of Greater Amman Municipality checks flooded streets in Downtown Amman during a flash flood incident. (Photo by Greater Amman Municipality)

The collaboration comes as part of the project 'Strengthening the social stability and resilience of vulnerable Jordanian communities and Syrian refugees in Amman against flash floods', funded by the Japan Supplementary Fund (JSP) and implemented by UN-Habitat. The project aims to improve urban resilience, by strengthening the capacities of the government and community dwellers, to reduce the vulnerabilities of refugees and better manage flood disasters.

Implementation will involve participatory planning activities and capacity building with a focus on flash floods only, leveraging the tool's flexibility to adapt to different geographic, cultural and socioeconomic contexts. This is a promising step for increased knowledge sharing and learning between regions and will open the door for stronger links between regional and local experiences.

6. Highlights of the month

6.1. Understanding Risk Forum: Dialogue of Mayors & City Leaders on Building Climate Resilience in Southern Africa

Understanding Risk (UR) Global Forum is a pre-eminent conference that convenes experts and practitioners from all around the world to showcase the best practices in the creation, communication and use of disaster and climate risk information. As a part of the conference, UN-Habitat, alongside the World Bank and DiMSUR, organized a regional dialogue between government representatives, city leaders and disaster risk reduction (DRR) practitioners from across the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries.

The discussion focused on sharing of experiences on climate change adaptation between the different countries, key recommendations for developing a regional framework on urban resilience and reflections on the changing DRR landscape within the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

The session highlighted the key findings from the Regional Assessment on Urban Vulnerability and Resilience Discussion Paper, a key product of the project Strengthening Capacities for Reducing Urban Vulnerability and Building Resilience in Southern Africa. This project a part of the program 'Building Disaster Resilience to Natural Hazards in Sub- Saharan African Regions, Countries and Communities', which is financed by the ACP – EU and managed by GFDRR/World Bank.

6.2. Adaptation Week: Advancing a Resilient Recovery

Held from 30 November to 4 December 2020, UN-Habitat joined other Cities Action Track partners in the week long virtual campaign. Organised by the World Resource Institute (WRI), the campaign brings people together to highlight the urgency of climate adaptation and a resilient recovery. Activities involved sharing adaptation solutions in the lead up to the Climate Adaptation Summit in January.

UN-Habitat joined the conversation on social media to promote our work on the project Building Urban Climate Resilience in South Eastern Africa and advocate for the impact it seeks to achieve in ensuring a #ResilientRecovery using the CityRAP tool.

6.3. Making Cities Resilient 2030 Campaign

The Making Cities Resilient Campaign advocates for the need for local government authorities to reduce risk and develop urban resilience. Facilitated by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and delivered together with partners, the campaign has seen over 4,350 cities demonstrate their commitment by joining.

UN-Habitat and UNDRR share a joint vision of African cities and towns that are greener, safer, more resilient and are prepared to withstand the inevitable shocks and stresses. The long standing partnership between both organizations has yielded successful collaborations in the context of joint projects and activities, for example through the first 10 years of the Making Cities Resilient.

To reaffirm our commitment in this partnership, UN-Habitat's Regional Office for Africa Director (a.i.) Mr. Oumar Sylla participated as a key note speaker in the session, 'Africa Regional launch of the Making Cities Resilient 2030 (MCR2030)' which took place on 01 December 2020. The session's discussion highlighted some examples of disaster risk reduction and resilience by local governments aimed at inspiring other local governments to begin a resilience journey.

The role of national governments and national associations of municipalities in accelerating risk reduction and resilience implementation at the local level, was also brought in focus to inspire other national governments and stakeholders to scale up urban resilience. Lastly, there was a call for action inviting cities and partners to join MCR2030.

7. Zooming Out

7.1 Local Climate Solutions for Africa Conference (LoCS4Africa)

The LoCS4Africa Virtual Congress, facilitated by ICLEI was held from 3 to 12 November 2020 focused on the theme, "Financing for Change", to respond to the growing acknowledgement worldwide that, to tackle climate change, city-scale finance must be mobilised.

Our very own, Mr. Oumar Sylla, Director (a.i.) of UN-Habitat's Regional Office for Africa (ROAF) moderated the session, 'Demystifying finance for Disaster Risk Reduction' as a part of the 10 day virtual conference. The discussion focused on innovative insurance products for improving risk (disaster and climate) management in cities that should be integrated in post-COVID-19 economic recovery. It also provided a space for a balanced dialogue around the potential for insurance and recognition of some of the limits and the unknowns including lessons from leading African DRR-finance projects.

8. What's trending: Climate Smart Cities Challenge

What is your city’s aspirations to reducing greenhouse gas emissions whilst creating thriving communities?

We are inviting all cities to join the Climate Smart Cities Challenge and stand a chance to partner with us in running a city-based open innovation competition, host a real-world testbed, and invite problem-solvers to compete to develop and scale potential solutions.

  • Tell us about your city’s aspirations to reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and create a good future for all
  • Present a problem that is specific and solvable in the near-term, meaning potential solutions could be introduced, adapted and scaled within the next five years
  • Indicate a willingness to work with a global community of problem-solvers and investors and to commit resources to test and implement solutions to your problem in your city

If selected, your city will get:

  • The opportunity to co-design an open innovation competition based in your city around your specific problem, supported by a team of experts in innovation, challenge prizes, climate change, cities and sustainable development from UN-Habitat, Viable Cities and Nesta Challenges
  • A pool of solution-providers competing to solve your challenges
  • Access to potential investors and partners to implement projects in your city
  • Peer learning opportunities with other cities facing similar challenges
  • Profile-raising opportunity of being part of a global challenge, including being featured in the World Expo in 2021 and being profiled in a major media campaign over the course of the challenge

For more information on how to apply, please click here.

Application Deadline is 22 January 2021

We wish you a joyful and safe festive season and a happy welcome to 2021!


UN-Habitat | Shutterstock