Differential vulnerability and adaptive responses to climate change-related hazards in informal urban settlements in Accra, Ghana

Publication Type:
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
Current processes of informal urbanisation and marginalisation of informal dwellers, present a challenge for sustainable adaptation to climate change in cities of developing countries. At present, over half of the global population live in urban areas while much of future urban growth would be in Africa and Asia. Yet, the nature of urbanism in these continents is characterised by persistent informal settlements, where disproportionate effects of the imminent climate crisis are likely to fall. In spite of this recognition, studies that analyse the vulnerability and adaptive responses of informal settlements’ residents in Africa remain few and excessively focused on the analysis of vulnerability to flooding hazards. Moreover, by the theoretical frameworks and ontological positions often adopted in these studies, the opinions of the actors, which have the potential to provide contextual explanations for the drivers of their vulnerability, tend to be overlooked. This study partly departs from this dominant ontology, as it examines the drivers of informal settlements’ residents’ vulnerability and adaptive responses including to wider climate change-related hazards from an actor perspective. The study which used Accra (Ghana) as a case, applied a mixed-methods approach. This involved the collection of data through households’ surveys (582 households), key informant interviews (16 sessions) and focus group discussions (14 groups) with community level and state actors. Its central argument is that patterns of differentiation in vulnerability to hazards among residents of informal settlements in Accra are underpinned by socio-economic, political and institutional factors as a contextual experience. Factors associated with the respondents’ ‘perceived vulnerability’ are their tenancy status, size of household income, length of stay in a community and perception of ‘threats of eviction’ over their land. However, the residents, who are active agents, do apply their individual and collective agencies in responding to their vulnerabilities, including climate change-related hazards. This study, therefore, recommends three entry points for addressing the vulnerabilities of informal settlements’ residents and to climate change. First is the need for local authorities to address the challenge of ‘threats of evictions’ in informal settlements. Second, is the need to recognise and integrate local knowledge of climate change in vulnerability assessments, and third is to recognise and integrate the differentiated household and community capacities in the implementation of a participatory slum upgrading intervention in Accra. Doing so will require a paradigm shift in urban planning practice in Accra and similar contexts. The study thus extends the discourse of social vulnerability and adaptive capacity in the wider debates on sustainable urban development.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: