Before the flood
Situated in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, Kibera is also the country’s largest slum. It is estimated to be home to anywhere from 200 000 to 1 million people, who live in single-story dwellings in an area about two-thirds the size of New York City's Central Park (2.3 square kilometres). Unsurprisingly, Kibera residents face a host of challenges, including high levels of poverty, crime and insecurity, inadequate water and sanitation infrastructure and a near-total lack of public space.
Another major issue in Kibera is physical access. Often navigable only on foot, its narrow dirt alleyways can become all but impassable during the wet seasons due to heavy rains and localised flooding. Flood risk is highest along the Ngong River and its main tributaries, an area of Kibera that attracts the city’s poorest with low rents. Kibera’s flood zones encompass not only people and dwellings, but also bridges, pathways and essential infrastructure such as drainage ways.
Since 2007 Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI) has been working in Kibera to build "productive public spaces" that reclaim flooded spaces on the Ngong River and its tributaries and turn them into usable and safe places for people to live, work and play. In 2012 it successfully completed three such projects with support from Swiss Re's International ReSource Award for Sustainable Watershed Management. In its final report, KDI highlighted the urgent need to further develop – with the active input and support of local stakeholders – technical and policy tools for managing flood risk in Kibera.
The overall objective of this follow-up project was to create a toolkit that can be used to implement flood risk reduction strategies in Kibera and ultimately in other informal settlements too. By the end of the project, KDI:
- Produced a strategic Flood Risk Assessment toolkit tailored to the needs of institutional stakeholders that incorporates social and economic impacts as well as resident perspectives.
- Provided physical evidence of how the toolkit can help in planning physical infrastructure by identifying and constructing two local flood protection schemes in collaboration with community groups. These projects incorporated green space as a buffer to flooding.
- Built the capacity of institutional stakeholders to use the toolkit to make sound spatial planning decisions for flood management not only in Kibera and Nairobi, but also in other rapidly urbanising cities around the world.