The Flood-Hub: A Physical and Social Resilience Learning Center (Rev 03 15.12.22)
To build a center showcasing, demonstrating and engaging residents in best practices for local soft and hard responses for flood protection
This graphic highlights the types of damage typically sustained by Kibera buildings and the types of low-cost structural adaptation measures that could be implemented to increase physical resilience and demonstrated at the “Flood-Hub”.
EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA
Many Kibera residents live in mud-walled structures that are nor durable in the face of flooding or heavy rain. Of the 963 households interviewed by KDI following the 2015 “long-rains” 36% reported damage to their structures while more than 50% reported assets damaged or ruined. After each rain, residents are forced to invest time and money in temporary and often insufficient repairs or in uprooting their family and household altogether.
A significant proportion of households have reported some level of adaptation that reduces flood risk in their homes including doorway upstands (30%), improved drainage (25%), wall waterproofing (11%) and raised foundation levels (13%). At the community level households have reported taking part in drainage improvement activities and flood wall protection projects. Structural adaptations are developed with little technical knowledge and often misguided perceptions on exposure leaving communities and assets at risk.
Our idea is to build a ‘model’ Kibera household that will showcase best practices in simple structural flood adaptations and also serve as a center for social resilience building. We will partner with communities exposed to flood risk, learn local on-the-ground flooding adaptations, and further strengthen these local techniques with design and engineering knowledge. This project would act as innovation hub for testing new methods and exploring community-led social resilience through civil society and micro-enterprise.
The direct beneficiaries are community residents who benefit from an increased capacity to adapt to and cope with climate change, in terms of physical protection, environmental remediation and social and economic resilience.
In the long term the economic capital from micro-enterprises and economic savings from improved building technology adaptation can enable continuous investment in quality adaptions beyond small fixes thus benefiting both structure owners and renters.
HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?
A large percentage of the urban poor live in insecure rental accommodation in squatter settlements and informal sub-divisions. Largely driven by its mobile community and high cost of rent in the formal City, Kibera is no exception. This is likely to remain the case as the urban population of Nairobi is set to double by 2026 with the majority of the new arrivals expected to be housed in informal settlement. Under climate change scenarios, flooding is also expected to increase, resulting in a higher proportion of structures and household assets at risk.
Poor housing conditions evolve as a result of a lack of regulatory requirements for structure owners to provide a certain level of service to renters, while renters correspondingly do not have an incentive to invest significantly in a structure that they do not own. At the same time simple measures can be undertaken at the local level at little cost and evidence from Kibera shows that this happens often, albeit not to an ideal quality.
This project seeks to build-on existing community approaches to improving physical resilience of Kibera’s housing stock through raising renter-demand for flood-proofed housing. Our experience has shown that while hand-outs and trainings are great, seeing is believing. By providing a space where residents can witness and practice cost-effective building techniques the “Flood-Hub” will support improved physical resilience while providing a space for communities to discuss and build other social and economic resilience initiatives.
Yes, for two or more years
I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF
KDI is a design and community development organization that partners with communities living in extreme poverty to physically transform degraded environments, build social cohesion and grow resilience. KDI has been working with residents and community partners in Kibera since 2006.
IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?
This is a new idea coming out of ongoing work. KDI is currently leading a two-year (2015-2016) research/action program on integrating community perspectives to build resilience to flooding in Kibera, funded by the Swiss Re Foundation. The research so far, as well as our own experiences of living/working/designing in the flood-zones of Kibera, has revealed significant information on the types and effectiveness of coping strategies employed by residents and communities in the absence of governmental support.
The idea for the “Flood-Hub” came out of seeing the need for better design and implementation of these measures, as well as understanding that seeing and doing is the best way to learn new construction techniques. We’ve tested some of the physical solutions at our built public space projects, but this idea is new in that it proposes a central location where residents and community groups can test/improve some of these approaches, and apply them to their houses and communal areas.
HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?
LANDSCAPE DRIVEN SOLUTIONS: Feedback from local communities revealed that residents perceive flood protection as hard infrastructure. Our idea will challenge this perception by demonstrating landscape-driven flood protection solutions (eg bamboo, planted revetments) that improve aesthetics, are resilient to climate change and are cost-effective.
KIBERA EXPERIENCE: KDI has worked in Kibera since 2006, successfully partnered with community organisations to implement public productive spaces along the Ngong River and its tributaries with all projects incorporating some elements of flood protection. KDI has the technical expertise and local construction know-how to demonstrate how to apply these techniques.
PROJECT TIMING: Following the widespread impacts of the May 2015 floods and the developing El Nino weather patterns Kibera communities are already putting in place adaptation and maintenance measures to reduce flood risk. These include physical inventions and community preparation and maintenance activities. The project would support and develop these initiatives by providing information on appropriate designs, cost-effective techniques and appropriate materials.
The KDI Kibera Public Space Project (KPSP) network located along Kibera’s waterways
Gabion walls and a planted stoned-filled gabion mattress provide protection from the Ngong river at KDI Site 7 (KPSP07) currently in final stages of construction.
Rip rap and live stake planting is an example of how landscape driven flood protection solutions could be developed in Kibera to protect houses located alongside unstable banks. This is a design produced by KDI for the tributory upstream of Nairobi Dam.
Kibera residents' attempts to protect the stability of river banks by constructed rock gabions runs the risk of exacerbating flood risk and not providing protection. Information from the "Flood-Hub" of appropriate designs for various applications would assist this situation
Concrete and stone building flood protection with sandbag-filled gabions is another example of poor and dangerous autonomous adaptation.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?
KDI have previously demonstrated low-cost, minor structural techniques for Kibera households and communities to reduce the impacts of flooding, questions arise through scaling this idea to the "Flood-Hub" include:
1. Will structure owner be motivated to invest in long-term quality solutions versus quick fix? What information/ tools will best influence this decision?
2. What information/tools can empower residents to demand for better housing quality and flood resilience? Will renters be willing to pay more for this?
3. What opportunities can the "Flood-Hub" deliver to boost local economy (i.e. better employment prospects and building technology micro-enterprises)?
WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?
Kibera has an abundance of poor quality housing and rapid expansion within flood exposed and poorly drained areas. It isn’t that people aren’t actively trying to solve this problem of seasonal flooding within their community. The challenges of seasonal flooding persists because there isn’t clarity about what technique works best. Residents rely on their best instincts of what can work by mimicking techniques seen in other areas of the slum. The Flood Hub provides a community driven approach to upgrading housing quality and social flood resilience by developing, improving and sharing observed autonomous adaption techniques with technical expertise and best-practice construction knowledge.
HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?
Feedback from the community was gathered via an urban flooding “open-day” in Kibera on 20th Nov. To inform the development of the Flood Hub idea we asked Kibera residents to rate various flood protection techniques along two axises; cost and effectiveness. Key feedback findings include:
1. Many residents foster the misconceptions that “green” infrastructure (such as swales, water storage, infiltration) is only applicable in rural environments.
2. Flood walls and raised housing floor levels were perceived to be effective flood protection techniques but were often designed based on misconceptions of high water levels. This reflects the need for better evidence and communication around accurate flood levels.
3. Improved housing was voted on several times by residents in term of its impact to reduce the effects of flooding in Kibera. This result is supported by household survey data where significant structural damages caused by flooding were reported at locations both near and away from the Ngong River and its tributaries. This helped to understand the scale of the issue and the potential impact this project.
4. Lack of tenure security is a major concern for the renters of Kibera and is a repeated challenge. Development of this project will require in-depth discussions with structure owners and tenants to understand of their needs, challenges and constraints; and to explore how the Flood Hub can affordably provide materials for residents to use at their own home.
Kibera residents were asked to rate various structural flood protection techniques on a graph with effectiveness on one axis and cost on the other. This exercise revealed perceptions on what techniques were considered worthwhile of investment and provided information of some of the design and construction challenges faced.
Rating flood protection techniques at the Urban Flooding workshop organised by KDI as part of Nairobi Design Week
WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?
The "Flood-Hub" will act as a catalyst for the incremental improvement of housing quality within Kibera driven by community implementation and inclusion rather than traditional building regulations and enforcement methods which has so far been unsuccessful in Kibera. The project will demonstrate to governmental organizations that there are better methods of approaching slum upgrading that avoid the need for complete redevelopment and relocation of residents which is not only costly but creates widespread insecurity. It is envisioned that this approach could be used in other informal settlements in Kenya and elsewhere where similar challenges are faced.
How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?
The majority of residents and structure owners combat climate change and flooding through local and autonomous responses. At the same time the government, in particular the City County, has significantly raised their level of engagement around the urban flooding issue in slums, following the heavy rains of May 2015, and now the onset of El Niño in the short rains of late 2015 . We've been inundated with requests from local government, media and other NGOs to collaborate and share our learning so far and the Flood Hub seems like it could be a focal point and forum to bring together these diverse actors. It's also easier for the government to more nimbly engage in a single facility that doesn’t bring with it the political issues of resettlement. The approach could also be relevant beyond Nairobi - we discussed a few of these ideas last week with some folk in Ghana doing work on urban resilience in Accra: https://africa.rizing.org/10-lessons-accra-can-learn-from-kiberas-flood-hub