SPHS researchers awarded $1.5 million for urban futures project

Monday, June 3, 2024
New Frontiers in Research Fund logo

A School of Public Health Sciences research team, co-directed by Drs. Craig Janes and Warren Dodd, is to receive more than $1.5 million through the federal government’s New Frontiers in Research Fund, which supports interdisciplinary and transformative research led by Canadians working with international partners. 

This funding will support The Urban Futures project: Toward health equity, inclusive governance, and climate adaptation in African informal settlements, which works with informal settlement residents in the African cities of Freetown, Kampala and Bulawayo to understand the lived realities of climate change. 

Informal settlement residents are often excluded from formal planning processes. Historic marginalization and structural inequalities mean that these residents are disproportionately exposed to cascading climate hazards that compound their socio-economic vulnerability. 

Craig Janes.

“The nature of informality in places like this is that people don’t usually have a voice in policymaking and governance, yet they are the most vulnerable to climate-related shocks,” says Janes. “This work seeks to address this issue by working collaboratively with policymakers and community members to enhance resilience in the face of climate change through developing locally appropriate and actionable adaptation measures. In doing so, we hope to reduce risks to livelihoods, health and well-being." 

Even within informal settlements, some are more vulnerable or excluded than others, such as women and girls, people living with disabilities and other minorities. The research, which is participatory, inclusive, interdisciplinary and trans-sectoral, focuses on risks to human health, living standards and critical physical infrastructure, networks and services, and it will necessarily involve other complex, intersecting risks to water and food security. 

Warren Dodd

“Previously, climate risks have been understood and addressed in silos by different sectors,” says Dodd. “To address this challenge, we will collaborate across different disciplines, institutions and sectors to generate new insights surrounding contextually appropriate adaptation pathways to support populations living in informal settlements.” 

The project includes other Waterloo co-investigators: Drs. Charity Oga-Omenka, Zahid Butt and Moses Tetui from the School of Public Health Sciences, and Dr. Luna Khirfan from the School of Planning.  

Internationally, the team includes co-principal investigators Joseph Macarthy (Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre, Sierra Leone), Isolo Mukwaya (Urban Action Lab, Makerere University, Uganda) Annie Wilkinson (Institute of Development Studies, UK), Artwell Kadungure (Training and Research Support Centre, Zimbabwe), Wisborn Malaya (Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations) and Rangarirai Machembedze (SEATINI Research, Zimbabwe). 

The New Frontiers Research Fund is awarding more than $3.4 million in funding to researchers at the University of Waterloo. To read more about recipients from other faculties, visit the Waterloo News story.