5 min

Tackling Floods and Climate Change in Sub-Saharan Africa: By leveraging the power of nature-based solutions and fostering strong community partnerships, the SUNCASA project promises to make a significant impact on climate adaptation and resilience in sub-Saharan Africa, setting a precedent for sustainable urban development worldwide.

A transformative project known as SUNCASA (Scaling Urban Nature-based Solutions for Climate Adaptation in Sub-Saharan Africa) has been launched by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in partnership with the World Resources Institute (WRI). Over the next three years, this initiative aims to bolster the resilience of over 2.2 million people living in flood-prone areas in Dire Dawa (Ethiopia), Kigali (Rwanda), and Johannesburg (South Africa). The project’s strategies include watershed restoration, urban greening, and other nature-based solutions (NbS) identified in collaboration with local organizations focused on climate adaptation and gender equality.

Enhancing Resilience in Three Cities

Dire Dawa, Ethiopia: Flash floods and catchment degradation pose significant risks to Dire Dawa. The SUNCASA project will focus on restoring the Dechatu River catchment through reforestation and agroforestry. Women farmers and local SMEs will play a key role in these efforts, which aim to mitigate water stress and improve economic resilience. Urban tree planting will also be conducted to reduce heat in low-income neighborhoods.

Johannesburg, South Africa: Invasive species in wetlands and river systems have increased flood risks and threatened biodiversity in Johannesburg. SUNCASA will collaborate with local communities along the Jukskei River to remove these species, rehabilitate riverbanks, and support local cooperatives. This initiative will not only reduce flood risks but also create employment opportunities, particularly for women and youth.

Kigali, Rwanda: Rapid urbanization and climate change have heightened flood risks in Kigali. SUNCASA will aid local farmers and women-led cooperatives in restoring upstream micro-catchments of the Nyabarong River. These efforts will reduce flood and landslide risks, protect agricultural lands, and expand urban forest cover, thus improving air quality and agricultural productivity.

A Comprehensive Approach

The SUNCASA project exemplifies a “triple win” strategy, addressing climate resilience, societal needs, and biodiversity conservation. Funded by Global Affairs Canada through the Partnering for Climate Program, approximately CAD 29 million will be invested in the three cities by 2026. Local stakeholders have been integral in developing and guiding the project’s high-impact solutions through multiple rounds of engagement, ensuring that actions are tailored to the unique challenges of each city.

Mayor Kedir Juhar of Dire Dawa emphasized that the investment will put more women and youth at the forefront of climate adaptation measures, boosting water security in Dire Dawa and neighboring cities. Lord Mayor Samuel Dusengiyumva of Kigali expressed anticipation for working with partners to align with Kigali’s green development goals and strengthen communities against climate impacts.

Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda of Johannesburg highlighted that protecting and restoring ecosystems can address flood risks, enhance water quality, preserve critical habitats, and safeguard ecological integrity. Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s Minister of International Development, stated that Canada’s Partnering for Climate supports projects using nature-based solutions to help sub-Saharan communities become more resilient to climate change impacts.

Patricia Fuller, CEO of IISD, noted that nature-based solutions have wide-ranging benefits but need to be scaled up to fulfill their potential, making SUNCASA a significant opportunity. Ani Dasgupta, CEO of WRI, emphasized the need to harness the power of nature, such as trees and green infrastructure, to clean and cool the air, build flood resilience, and improve health and well-being.