FRACTAL: Future Resilience for African Cities and Lands

Project Timeline
1 Jul 15 - 31 Mar 21
Project Contact
Alice McClure
Project Manager

FRACTAL’s long term goal is to increase the climate resilience of southern African cities by supporting decision-making processes to include climate knowledge.

FRACTAL aims to understand the decision context and the climate information required to contribute to climate resilient development in nine southern African cities. The FRACTAL team aim to help advance understanding of scientific knowledge about climate processes, regional and local climate trends, factors that influence decisions in these cities, as well as how climate knowledge might be better integrated into climate sensitive decisions at the city-regional scale (particularly decisions relating to water, energy and food with a lifetime of 5 to 40 years).

During phase one of the project (2015-2019), FRACTAL used a transdisciplinary co-production approach to engage scientists, engineers, government representatives and other stakeholders to co-explore city level decision landscapes, including climate sensitivities, and co-produce knowledge related to more resilient development pathways. Decision makers and other people working in FRACTAL cities have integrated this knowledge into their resource management decisions and urban development planning. There were also several city exchange visits, which created opportunities to build regional networks and share good practices for building climate resilience at city level.

The primary aim of the costed extension phase (2019-2021) is to scope the scalability and sustainability of the project’s transdisciplinary co-production and co-exploration processes, as well as the transferability of knowledge gained. Importantly in this phase, researchers are able to utilise and build on the networks and engagement routes that were established in phase one.

FRACTAL is undergoing City Learning Dialogues in three cities: Lusaka, Maputo and Windhoek. These City Learning Dialogues involve embedded researchers, who are immersed in the working world and practices of the people shaping and making climate-related decisions in city-region and learning lab events. At these events, decision-makers, practitioners and researchers (from the fields of climate science, social studies, governance and adaption) come together to jointly frame climate-related problems, and brainstorm solutions.

In addition to activities in these primary cities, FRACTAL is also working on climate resilience projects in Blantyre, Harare, Gaborone, JohannesburgCape Town and Durban.

Three learning exchanges between cities (Lusaka-Durban; Lusaka-Windhoek; Windhoek-Harare) including teams of researchers and decision-makers helped improve understanding the contextual barriers for resilient development in cities and the consequences of those barriers. These exchanges have encouraged necessary discussion with decision-makers about the benefits of climate information for planning.

During the transdisciplinary learning processes in phase one, the climate science team recognised that in order for climate information to support climate risk management activities they must tailor that information to be relevant to the users’ context. They therefore adopted a ‘humble science’ approach and are continuing to develop an accessible distillation framework that is grounded in transdisciplinary engagement.

This framework has been iteratively developed and considers sources, stakeholders, audience, methodologies, decisions, transparency and whether there are uncertainties or contradictions in the climate information. It also encourages the framing of a climate related issue as a development or governance challenge. One of the tools that has been introduced is the use of Climate Risk Narratives, which develop possible future climate scenarios as discussion items rather than as definitive information and which challenge the barrier of uncertainty. It also considers how the process is communicated beyond the project.

Ongoing fundamental climate science is being carried out to improve understanding of the physical climate processes that govern the regional system (observed and simulated).

Research Approach

FRACTAL was designed according to the work packages below. The research approach is transdisciplinary, iterative and cyclical. Research is carried out through dynamic clusters of research collaboration: climate information; cross-cutting; city-learning; decision-making; and nexus. There are also task teams in each of the cities.

This style of learning is key to developing useful outcomes that have a measurable impact during and beyond the project’s lifetime.

WORK PACKAGE 1: Unpacks the city-specific contexts, asking what are the urban climate change risks and impacts, how resilient are the cities and what decisions are being taken for adaptation and development?

WORK PACKAGE 2: Aims to understand the decision-making space in the FRACTAL cities and looks for opportunities to better incorporate climate information into local decision-making contexts.

WORK PACKAGE 3: Advances understanding of physical climate processes that govern the regional system (observed and simulated). From this, it develops robust and scales relevant climate information.


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