ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability is a global network working with more than 2,500 local and regional governments committed to sustainable urban development.


ICLEI World Secretariat
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ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability is a global network working with more than 2,500 local and regional governments committed to sustainable urban development.

ICLEI Regional Secretariats and country offices

Inclusive Metabolism: Using co-produced theory of informal decentralised urban infrastructures to transform the delivery of urban food, water and energy services in Ghana & South Africa

What we are doing

This project uses narrative and photography to convene stakeholders and explore interlinkages between food water and energy security in Cape Town and Kumasi. An understanding of African urban metabolisms is invaluable to shaping policies and plans which can provide basic services to rapidly growing urban populations in ways which support socially-inclusive and environmentally-restorative development. Studies of urban metabolism tend to focus on resource flows conducted through networked, centrally-operated infrastructure systems, inadvertently leading to an emphasis on energy and water. Such research findings conclude that, for Africa, improved service delivery is akin to providing networked infrastructure. These findings overlook the reality that multiple services in African cities are delivered in informal manners, in the form of capable interactions which are typically ‘hidden’ from decision makers awareness and processes. These hidden nature-society interactions are uniquely demonstrated in food systems, which are typically informal. Many urban households do not (or cannot) grow their own food and rely on local supermarkets, chain stores or informal small businesses to purchase the food they consume. Tracking the amounts or quality of these foods is difficult, making effective interventions in the food system uncertain and complex. A healthy food flows system will improve sustainability of resources and reduce food loss and food waste, while achieving the desired goal of ‘nutrition for all, forever’. Similarly, urban decision makers need tools to track the levels of water security and energy security, to ensure improved service to their citizens, and to result in improved economic production and social wellbeing. Finding detailed ways to articulate water and energy security as well as track these flows will improve this endeavour.

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How we are tracking

1. Participate in project initiation workshop 2. Co-supervise Masters researcher 3. Co-Author Paper 4. Comment/Support on narrative exploration of food systems in each city 5. Co-facilitate Cape Town Workshop 6. Contribute to Theory Building 7. Co-Author preliminary workshop reports 8. Facilitate Co-sponsorship of printing facilities by Photographic Companies 9. Facilitate Co-sponsorship of prizes for this campaign. Lead Curation of Instagram Themes 10. Contribute to theory development 11. Participate in internal co-production workshop 2 12. Co-Author Final Paper 13. Design & layout of policy brief & photographic digest, and disseminate to city decision makers 14. Support on project report 15. Project Administration

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What we are achieving

This research will take place over five semi-concurrent phases: 1. Literature analysis undertaken by researchers to understand existing and previous research topics and approaches. 2. Initial engagement & interviews in each city using narrative collection and documentation, and photographic expression to explore food production, processing, and distribution systems. 3. Co-production around food and social infrastructures will be undertaken at a workshop in which narratives will be presented, and stakeholders will be invited to co-produce theory about their food systems based on these findings and their experience. 4. Visualising socio-technical infrastructures using photographic expression. 5. The second workshop will expand the co-production of theory from food to other infrastructure systems, based on the outcomes of phase 2, the continued research of phase 1, and phase 3’s community-produced expressions, and express how this theory supports future development imaginaries and planning.

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Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Stellenbosch University,

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