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Transdisciplinary research as a means of protecting human health, ecosystems and climate by engaging people to act on air pollution

Testing out a unique approach, researchers used interviews, storytelling, participatory mapping, theatre, play, and music to raise awareness of air pollution in the Mukuru community in Nairobi, Kenya. The aim of the study was to discover the community’s perception of air pollution, empowering those affected by poor air quality to take action.

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Büker, P., West, S. E., Bowyer, C. J., Apondo, W., Cinderby, S., Gray, C. M., Hahn, M., Lambe, F., Loh, M., Medcalf, A., Muhoza, C., Muindi, K., Kamau Njoora, T., Twigg, M. M., Waelde, C., Walnycki, A., Wainwright, M., Wendler, J., Wilson, M., & Price, H. D. (2024). Transdisciplinary research as a means of protecting human health, ecosystems and climate by engaging people to act on air pollution. One Health Cases.

The novel research methodologies of the AIR Network project were selected by the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) as a CABI One Health case.

The AIR Network researchers worked with residents in Mukuru, an informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya, to understand and create innovative solutions for air pollution in the neighbourhood. The research program and solutions were co-designed with community participants.

An abstract, colourful painting fills the frame, with strokes of red, yellow, purple, and brown. An eye has been painted in the middle. In the foreground, a Black hand holds a paintbrush loaded with paint.

As part of the project, brightly coloured murals were painted on walls in the community. Visual arts of all types were key to the transdisciplinary approach.

Photo: Wavebreakmedia / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Using co-created transdisciplinary research techniques, the researchers were able to gather data and insights on aspects of air pollution which they would not otherwise have been able to access. During one particular activity, for instance, the community residents took the researchers on walks around the neighbourhood to show them where they felt air pollution was particularly acute.

A blend of community workshops, collaborative visual arts, theatre, storytelling and music enabled the researchers and the community to work together to generate a wealth of information about air pollution in Mukuru. The creative processes meant that the project team attracted a large and varied group of community members to work with them, aided by the work of local community champions.

Through these co-designed activities, the researchers were able to develop a more well-rounded and precise picture of how participants perceived air pollution in their neighbourhoods, and empower the community to raise the problem with policymakers and stakeholders.

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SEI authors

Sarah West

Centre Director

SEI York

Steve Cinderby

Senior Research Fellow

SEI York

Fiona Lambe
Fiona Lambe

Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

Cassilde Muhoza

Research Fellow

SEI Africa

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CABI: One Health Cases Closed access
Topics and subtopics
Air : Pollution
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