Reflections from the ‘Pathways to Resilience Vision-building workshop’ in Kampala.

After a months-long flurry of preparations, the combined ResNexus group held an exciting vision-building workshop at the Grand Global Hotel in Kampala on the 26th of September 2017. The workshop brought together policy practitioners, academics, NGO’s in the Water, Energy Food and Environment sectors as well as householders from Bwaise and Kanyogoga. The ResNexus team consisted of the Kampala team, the Brazil team from the University of Sao Pauloas well as the team from the University of Sussex.

Organised around three world cafe sessions and a field-trip, the day kicked off with a warm welcome by Dr Richard Mugambe inviting the participants to engage in the day’s activities with open minds, in their multiple and varying capacities as citizens of Kampala, professionals and visitors. He explained the day’s proceedings and outlined its purpose as the exploration and co-creation of (1) an understanding of the current vulnerabilities faced at the WEF nexus, (2) how these vulnerabilities come about and (3) a vision for a resilient Kampala at this nexus in 25 years’ time (4) and possible priorities for the city to address.

In the first World Cafe session mixed groups explored the current vulnerabilities faced at the Water, Energy, Food and Environment Nexus in Kampala. The groups discussed sectoral challenges in water, energy and food and environment such as rising and fluctuating energy and food prices as well as unsafe water. They also emphasized the challenges which emerge at the intersection of these infrastructure and environment flows. For example, households may skip meals because of high energy prices and water safety is may be compromised by flooding or households drinking untreated water in order to reduce energy use.

Kickstarting the discussions!

Rali, Florence and Osbert dealing with water-centred vulnerabilities

After lunch, the group took a trip to Bwaise to meet the households who had been taking part in the ResNexus Kampala case study. Split into four smaller groups, each group spent some time with a household engaging in discussions about the day-to-day realities of provisioning water energy and food from the household’s perspective. All groups also got time to walk around the area, looking at water sources and different economic activities such as cooking, trading at the market and making furniture. The trip served as an eye-opener for everyone involved, including those in the groups who were Kampala inhabitants but had not been to Bwaise before. The use of unprotected water sources as well as wood chippings as a charcoal substitute were just some of the observations that made for sombre reflections on the way back to the workshop venue.

Back at the Grand Global Hotel, the second world cafe session centred on observations from Bwaise. Participants shared what they saw as well as the evident linkages between Water, Food, Energy and the Environment. For some it was the food insecurity that stood out, that households in Bwaise lived from one meal to the next. Although many food stalls were visible in the community, food seemed expensive. For others, it was the availability of different options for water including several tap stands and wells vis-a-vis the threat of contamination due to the lack of effective sanitation or flooding. Further still, for other participants the desperate situation households are in was most evident in the use of wood chippings as energy for cooking. For these participants the most pressing question in terms of the level of vulnerability the households face at the Urban Nexus was ‘what is likely to happen if the furniture shop that provides these chippings as a by-product was to cease operations? ‘ Discussions also took a positive note when the coping strategies of the households were highlighted. Such strategies included borrowing food from traders and neighbours as well as raising entrances to prevent flooding in the homes.

Armed with the beginnings of a common understanding of some of the problems faced by Kampala’s households participants engaged in the third and final world cafe session for the day, the vision-building exercise. The overall vision was for a resilient Kampala by 2042 in which empowered communities could access affordable housing, safer energies as a result of urban governance policies which took their departure from observed vulnerabilities. One narrative emerging from this exercise was the need to harness existing positives in settlements like Bwaise when formulating urban policies. Policy could begin to prioritise existing strengths such as the vast social capital that is deployed each day in informal communities as households support each other in enduring on-going vulnerabilities would be a valuable. Another emergent theme was for the policy support and regulation of sustainable practices such as the use of briquettes, clean cookstoves and other safer and sustainable energy options. Lastly, whilst participants were aware of the existing stubborn difficulties in governing informal urbanisation in cities like Kampala, one recommendation given was for policy to learn from other cities which have managed to address similar vulnerabilities.

As you can see in the pictures and video below, the vulnerabilities at the urban Nexus of water, energy, food and the Environment in Kampala are grave and may not be easily solved. However the first step towards making life for Kampala’s vulnerable households better is in understanding these vulnerabilities as they do, in conjunction with them.

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