Name Sennan Mattar Programme, Year mphil/PhD, 1st Year Project Title

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Sennan Mattar

Programme, Year

MPhil/PhD, 1st Year

Project Title

An investigation into socio-environmental challenges and proliferation of informal settlements in Zambia from a climate justice perceptive.

Background to the project

It has been well-documented the threat to food security and access to water posed by climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa (Thompson et al, 2010; Ludwig et al, 2009), specifically the increased risk of persistent drought caused by reduction in overall precipitation (Barrios et al, 2006) and the disproportionate impact these changes have on the poor (Dahou et al, 2010). However, the majority of literature and policy responses have focused on adaptive measures in rural poor populations whilst limited research has explored adaptive measures for urban poor (Satterthwaite et al, 2007; Crush and Frayne, 2010).

This discrepancy in research does not reflect the upward trend in urbanisation that has been observed globally, but more relevant to this study, rapid urbanisation in Sub-Saharan Africa has already increased the total population living in urban areas from 27% in 1990 to 37% by 2014 and further growth is predicted to continue with 55% living in urban areas by 2050 (UN, 20141). The results of this rapid urbanisation are that local governments in the developing world have been unable to accommodate urban poor with the necessary infrastructure (WHO, 2010; WHO, 2005). In the case of Sub-Saharan Africa, this translates into 62% of the urban population living in informal settlements/slums in 2012 (UN, 20142).
Zambia is especially relevant for a study of informal settlements/slums due to having one of the highest fertility rates in Africa (6.2 children per woman) and being the most urbanised county in Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa), with 35-40% of population living in urban areas (Ministry of Finance and National Planning, 2010; UN, 2015).
What is the project researching?

This project aims to examine what extend the growth and challenges of informal settlements/slums in Zambia can be considered a consequence of climate change. A particular focus is the implications climate change has on rural-urban migration to these areas, given emerging research suggests a link between deteriorating rural conditions and migration to urban areas (Barrios et al, 2006; Girardet, 2008; Gebeyehu, 2014).

United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) 2015 explicitly highlights there is a gap in our knowledge concerning the daily challenges faced by inhabitants of informal settlements, including reasons for their proliferation, limiting the ability to form effective solutions and realize vulnerable communities’ human rights. As such, this project intends to establish an in-depth understanding of the causes and challenges of informal settlements in Zambia by employing qualitative methodologies, e.g. semi-structured interviews, questionnaires, case studies, focus group discussions.
With the focus on implications of climate change in rural areas, this translates into three key objectives:

• Determine the scale of growth of informal urban settlements

• Explore the determinants for rural-urban migration

• Analyse possible adaptive and empowerment measures

What are the findings so far?

At this stage, I have found literature specifically on the informal settlements of Zambia (and much of the developing world) is limited, as identified by UN-Habitat, but there is adequate research on urbanization patterns to justify this project’s research objectives. This justification comes in the form of disrupting literature and limited on-the-ground research, with many desk studies but few and recent investigations. One example is given below, illustrating difficulties with desk studies in reaching similar conclusions across multiple disciplines:

There is a general assumption that urbanisation and economic development closely act in positive correlation (World Bank, 1999). In the case of Sub-Saharan Africa, Fay and Opal (1999) argue this assumption has not been observed, urban areas have continued to grow despite lack of economic growth and this could be largely explained by rural-urban wage differentials (and subsequent movement of people to higher wages). Barrios et al (2006) would agree movement of people from rural to urban areas has accounted for continuing urbanisation in Sub-Saharan Africa, but cites storages in rainfall affecting rural agriculture and livelihoods as more significant push factors than urban bias. While Kessides (2005) argues internal migration is not the main source of urban growth, the case of Sub-Saharan Africa is not vastly different to other regions and cites institutional failure rather than economic factors for the current situation of urban poor.
While all papers acknowledged the situation of urban poor, the key determinants perpetuating urban poverty in Sub-Saharan are under dispute and dependent on interpretation of macroeconomic/climatic/population data. An investigation which sources data directly from urban poor in informal settlements/slums can shed light on key determinants most significant to these people, hence the current direction of this project.


  • Barrios S., Bertinelli L, Strobl E. (2006) Climatic change and rural-urban migration: the case of sub-Saharan Africa. Journal of Urban Economics; Volume 60, Issue 3, Pages 357-371.

  • Thompson H.E., Berrang-Ford L.,Ford J.D. (2010) Climate change and food security in Sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic literature review. Sustainability; Volume 2, Issue 8, Pages 2719-33.

  • Ludwig F., Kabat P., Hagemann S., Dorlandt M., Planck M. (2009) Impacts of climate variability and change on development and water security in Sub-Saharan Africa. Earth and Environmental Science; Volume 6, Issue 29, Page 292002.

  • UN-Data (2015) Zambia. Available from: Accessed: 20/10/15.

  • Ministry of finance and National Planning (2010) Zambia: Population and National Development. Available from: Accessed: 20/10/15

  • WHO (2010) Hidden Cities: Unmasking and overcoming health inequities in urban settings. Available from: Accessed: 22/10/15

  • WHO (2005) A billion voices: Listening and responding to the health needs of slum dwellers and informal settlers in new urban settings. Available from: Accessed: 22/10/15

  • Girardet H. (2008) Cities, People, Planet. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester; 2nd Edition, Pages 64, 97-103.

  • Gebeyehu Z.H. (2014) Rural-Urban migration and land and rural development policies in Ethiopia. Conference Paper; 2014 World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty, The World Bank – Washnigton DC, March 24-7, 2014.

  • Dahou K., Kibuka-Musoke D., Ngo B., Pavarini F. (2012) Climate challenges to Africa, a call for action. OECD Journal; Volume 2010, Issue 4.

  • Satterthwaite D., Huq S., Pelling M. (2007) Adapting to Climate Change in Urban Areas - The possibilities and constraints in low- and middle-income nations. Working Paper; Human Settlements Discussion Paper Series, Theme: Climate Change and Cities - 1.

  • Crush J., Frayne B. (2010) The invisible crisis: urban food security in southern Africa. Available from: Accessed: 22/10/15

  • UN (2014)1 World Urbanization Prospects. Available from: Accessed: 2/12/15

  • UN (2014)2 The Millennium Development Goals Report. Available from: Accessed: 2/12/15

  • World Bank (1999) World Development Report 1999/2000: Entering the 21st Century. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Kay M., Opal C. (1999) Urbanization without Growth: A Not-So-Uncommon Phenomenon. World Bank Publications; Volume 2412.

  • Kessides C. (2005) The Urban Transition in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications for Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction. Available from: Accessed: 2/12/15

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