The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU Urban ARK Malawi Visit

29 February 2016

Urban Africa Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK) is a 3-year programme that seeks to better understand the nature and scale of disaster risks in urban centres.


By studying the interaction of environmental hazards - such as earthquakes and temperature extremes - in areas with poor housing and marginalised communities, the research aims to break the cycles by which vulnerability and the incapacity to cope with hazards accrue in society.

Colleagues from DPU are working on the “governance and planning” work programme which will bring together an action research agenda and work with key actors to better understand and help inform contemporary decision-making and planning for the future. It will focus on a range of governance spaces and actor types that together mark out the emerging structural forces shaping urban futures in Africa. This work on governance and planning will involve three selected urban centres; Ibadan (Nigeria), Niamey (Niger) and Karonga (Malawi).

To kick off the work in Karonga, DPU colleagues Cassidy Johnson, Emmanuel Osuteye and PhD student Donald Brown visited the town to get a first-hand appreciation of the urban development landscape and identify development projects that would form the basis of detailed studies to examine the effectiveness of planning policies, regulatory frameworks and existing mechanisms in addressing urban risks. This visit took place at the end of the “2016 Urban ARK International Science conference” and Annual Meeting held in Lilongwe and Mzuzu in Malawi.

DPU’s work in Malawi is in Partnership with Mzuzu University and their team is led by Mr Mtafu Manada (Senior lecturer in the Department of Land Management) who incidentally is a proud alumnus of DPU. The visit was also a good opportunity to meet the team of locally recruited project assistants from the Mzuzu University.

One of the anticipated legacies of the Urban ARK Project and DPU’s involvement, is the creation of an Urban Resource Hub; a physical space to serve as a means of grounding the learning process and facilitate the production of actionable knowledge by and for the local community. DPU colleagues also visited the Mzuzu University Campus where a building has been provided by the university to tentatively serve this purpose.

Two further field trips have been planned for later in the year, and will involve close work with identified stakeholders and a number of capacity building workshops. For more information on the Urban ARK project see: www.urbanark.org