Learning adaptation from Mozambique. #Manchester lags behind… #LootingTIvoryTower

lootingivorytowerManchester could learn from Mozambique is the message in this second “Looting the Ivory Tower” blog post. But do we have the either the humility and capacity to do so?  Jon Silver of Durham University reviews a really good academic paper…

[“Looting the Ivory Tower” blog posts involve  MCFly readers taking academic papers and ‘translating’ them for the general public.  If you have topics or papers you want to see covered, get in touch.  mcmonthly@gmail.com.]

Broto, V.C., Boyd, E. and Ensor, J., 2015. Participatory urban planning for climate change adaptation in coastal cities: lessons from a pilot experience in Maputo, Mozambique. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 13, pp.11-18.



Their argument in a tweet: Adaptation needs to involve local communities, be based at a neighbourhood-scale, and take participation seriously.

Should activists pay attention? Yes. Looking to adaptation planning in places like Maputo may provide ideas and inspiration for taking forward stuff in Manchester.


What’s the issue? (and why should we care)

Paper reflects on a ‘rights’ based approach to urban planning in Maputo for climate change adaptation. Mozambique might be far away and coastal but it offers some important ideas for cities like Manchester that have hardly even started to adapt, let alone think how it might be done in an engaging and open way. This article provides a short discussion on literature exploring the role of participation in planning, followed by an example of co-production of knowledge based on the neighbourhood of Chamanculo C.

What do they have to say?

That in order for urban adaptation strategies to be successful they have to involve low income/vulnerable communities. To do this authorities must open up processes to ‘participation’ – but this does not guarantee outcomes that might improve people’s lives.

That climate change planning involving ‘communities’ can provide opportunities to address wider inequalities in cities – from exclusion in policy making through to local economic development.

It will be messy and open to local elite capture but has potential to create future visions about climate change adaptation.

Finding consensus on climate change hazards through discussion requires facilitators and technical knowledge to feed into conversations.

How convincing is their methodology?

Very convincing; this academic paper comes out of a long term partnership between academics, local communities, municipalities and civic organisations that has been recognised by the UNFCCC’s ‘Momentum for Change: Lighthouse Activities’. For academics this paper and the associated work is a guide to breaking out of an ivory tower, for others a way to think how academic debates about terms such as participation and planning effect the real world.

What would a critic say?

Where’s the discussion on neoliberalism?

What else could they have said

  • While they draw attention to some of the problems of planning in Maputo in relation to failing to prepare for climate change (luxury home construction in mangroves anyone?) they are perhaps quieter on this form of ‘participatory planning’.
  • Mention participatory budgeting at the very end as idea that could take planning to implementation but little discussion on the practicalities of this.
  • How these lessons might travel to other places? Are there other examples like this?

What else do these people refer to that looks interesting?

Mohan G, Stokke K: Participatory development and empowerment: the dangers of localism. Third World Q 2000, 21:247-268. A hugely influential paper in development that casts a sceptical eye over the rise of participatory and assorted other planning terms

What are the implications for (Manchester-based) activism?

  • Same old problems of the state disappearing after the planning work has been done but before implementation.
  • Thinking more about action-research projects around climate change adaptation.
  • How to use technical knowledge to work at neighbourhood scale to consider climate change impacts (flooding etc) (See also the work of superstormresearchlab.org/).
  • Need to think how different social groups will be differently affected by climate change and how this will shape adaptation strategies.




About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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