In Namibia, located in southern Africa, unplanned peri-urban growth (approx. 7.2% per annum) and exposure to climate-induced hazards (e.g., drought, rising temperatures, falling dam levels, localised flash flooding) continues to erode basic infrastructure and public services, ecosystems, and entrench historical inequalities. For example, in 2018, the state of informal settlements in Namibia was considered a humanitarian crisis, and in 2019, following six years of drought, a state of emergency was declared. These factors threaten future progress towards achieving healthy communities, regional economic development, and multiple sustainable development goals.

Photos illustrate various forms of ecosystem services and urban green infrastructure in Windhoek, such as grasses collected from riverbeds to be sold to cattle farmers as fodder, riparian buffers in informal settlements, and urban agricultural plots in informal settlements. Students explored the mechanisms of governance, and policies for management, of these assets. (Photo: Dr Jessica Thorn, University of Cape Town/ York – 2019)

In these circumstances, pro-active engagement and inclusion of local stakeholders, especially marginalised voices, in urban planning has the potential to improve decision-making, reduce historical inequalities, promote benefit-sharing and social-ecological resilience. Yet, few attempts have been made to assess the drivers of unplanned informal settlement expansion, their reciprocal interaction with social-economic and environmental impacts (e.g., food, water, energy, land and livelihood security), how this feeds into current planning processes, now and in the future.

Participatory workshop conducted for the Shack Dwellers Federation Namibia – Namibia Housing Action Group (SDFN-NHAG) on the science and implications of climate change, as well as the role of ecosystems in ameliorating these impacts. (Source: Dr Jessica Thorn, University of Cape Town / York – 2019)

By applying a participatory values-based scenario modelling approach that allows diverse stakeholders, including marginalised rural-urban communities, to articulate their perspectives concerning future urban policy planning processes, the project’s aim is to encourage the co-design of equitable future climate resilient urban development pathways, and serve as a future policy model for the country, with wider application across SEI research in health and wellbeing, urban green infrastructure and African urbanization.

Example of ecological infrastructure in Namibia Nalitongwe, Windhoek. Source: Dr Jessica Thorn, University of Cape Town / York – 2019)


PURE has the following interlinked objectives:

  • Urban public policy participation: To enable the active participation of stakeholders, especially poorer rural and urban communities, and the inclusion of their varied views and value systems, in the policy and multi-level governance processes informing future urban climate resilient strategies in Windhoek, Namibia.
  • Empirical data collection, partnerships and capacity building: To collect primary data, using household surveys, biophysical observations, and scenario analysis workshops, key informant interviews and focus group discussions, from urban and rural communities focusing on value perceptions of rural-urban linkages, climate change impacts, livelihoods and urban informality.
  • Building partnerships: To strengthen collaborations between organizations active in Windhoek’s development, with research organizations in Namibia, South Africa and the UK across public, private and civil sectors including researchers, practitioners, policymakers, business and civil society.
  • Dissemination and outreach: To produce a policy brief with ICLEI Africa, for municipal authorities from environment, health and human settlements departments tasked with urban settlement upgrading and produce a training handbook describing how to apply PURE’s hybrid methodology. Alongside this, academic articles will be co-produced in a leading international peer-reviewed journal in the urban-environment-development space.

Expected outcomes

PURE’s success will be measured by:

  • Development of inclusive and participatory urban climate resilience strategies that are crucial to securing regional economic prosperity and social-ecological sustainability.
  • Raised awareness on climate-resilient urban development and future water energy and food resource flows in the face of the ongoing drought in Namibia.
  • A co-designed grant application with international partners  focusing on extending the application of our methodology to other GCRF ODA countries will be prepared and submitted.
  • A young cadre of Namibian climate and social-ecological system researchers in the innovative methodology and fieldwork methods will be trained.

Project Team and Partners

Project Investigator

Dr Steve Cinderby (Stockholm Environment Institute York; SEI head of Health and Wellbeing; Senior researcher, Co-leader SEI Initiative on City Health and Well-being)



University of York

University of Winchester

University of Cape Town

University of Namibia

Namibian University of Science and Technology

Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia/ Namibian Housing Action Group

  • Dr Anna Muller (Responsible for representation of the informal settlement residents)

ICLEI Africa

Research Assistants

  • Amayaa Wijesinghe (ACDI, University of Cape Town)
  • Kornelia Iipinge (University of Namibia)