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NEWS: ‘Climate Resilient Cities in Latin America’ projects aim to transform urban lives

The Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Fundacion Futuro Latinoamericano (FFLA-Ecuador) are delighted to announce the winners of their research call on Climate Resilient Cities in Latin America.

The one- and-a-half- year action research programme aims to identify and promote innovative solutions for climate compatible development in small and medium sized cities that are experiencing rapid growth – in order to ultimately improve the lives of the people who are most affected by climate change.

Latin America is already the world’s most urbanised region, with 80% of its population living in cities – and almost one fifth of these in shanty towns (UN Habitat). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that climate change will worsen the existing physical, social and economic vulnerabilities of urban settlements in the region.

The Climate Resilient Cities Initiative has awarded a total of $1.5 million in funding to solution-oriented, thought-leading proposals. The selected projects will explore how the rapid growth of small and medium cities in Latin America can be harnessed to deliver climate-resilient, transformative urban development.

“Home” as a catalyst for resilience: relocation in the Amazon Rainforest explores relocation schemes and their impacts. This project investigates how  new settlements can be designed to be resilient to climate change, create social cohesion and promote alternative livelihood opportunities. It focuses on Nuevo Belen in Iquitos, Peru, where the national government is currently relocating between 13,000 and 18,000 people from an area of constant flooding to a new one, but residents are resisting the move due to their social, cultural, and economical linkages to the old site. “Too often, social housing is designed and built without citizen participation, resulting in settlements that are not capable of fulfilling their needs,” said Belen Desmaison of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru. “Social housing should seek to reduce vulnerabilities and, more importantly, create resilient cities and citizens.  The research project seeks to work with future residents and local and national authorities to collaboratively design, implement and monitor prototype settlements that can be replicated in Nuevo Belen and beyond.”

A participatory decision-making approach towards climate-resilient and inclusive urban development in Latin America will develop and apply a practical, innovative and participatory methodology and toolbox to support  climate resilient, inclusive urban development in the rapidly growing cities of Latin America as well as strengthen the capacities of local stakeholders. The project focuses on Santa Ana in El Salvador; Dos Quebradas in Colombia; and Santo Tome in Argentina. “All three of these cities suffer from rapid population growth with inadequate planning and land use management – they need to accommodate different demands for land use in a coherent way that promotes an inclusive, safe and resilient city,” said Manuel Winograd of Alterra Stichting in the Netherlands. “We will support residents to explore these possibilities using the QUICKScan tool – a software programme and process for generating policy options and the likely impacts.”

Triangle city cooperation: building joint climate resilient development in the Parana basin focuses on three countries, three cities and one common challenge: climate change. The project investigates how city authorities and communities can work together to tackle climate related impacts at the meeting point of three countries: Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. This place is known as the triangle city region given that the cities of Ciudad del Este, Foz do Iguaçu and Puerto Iguazu share borders, separated by the Parana and Iguazu rivers. Also situated here is the Itaipu Dam, one of the world’s largest hydroelectric power stations. The cities in this transboundary basin are frequently affected by excessive rainfall and flooding. “We want to make sure people are aware of climate risks and find collaborative solutions on how to tackle them. This requires strong communication and cooperation among all the different stakeholders,” said Dr Paola Sakai from the University of Leeds. “We’ll find out whether city-to-city cooperation can provide solutions that can potentialize action and bring climate-resilience to the triangle city region”.

Building urban-rural linkages for food-secure and climate-resilient medium sized cities in the Andes will examine the contribution of alternative food systems to improving food security  and responding to climate change in the cities of Pasto and Popayan, Colombia. Rural areas surrounding the cities have the potential to produce much of the food consumed by urban residentsand there are also ample opportunities for growing food in the cities themselves. “We’re fascinated by the constant movement of goods and people between the rural and urban areas and what this means for food security and the possibility of climate-resilient food systems,” said Julián Idrobo of Universidad de los Andes. “We’re particularly interested in exploring whether the local knowledge of the area’s older residents can be reignited to help solve problems of urban food security in a changing climate.”

Strengthening climate-resilient development in urban-rural landscapes using a Water-Energy-Food Nexus approach will target the Amazonian city of Tarapoto and the surrounding Cumbaza River sub-basin in the department of San Martin, Peru. This project will generate evidence on the interdependencies and trade-offs between natural resource availability and demands on water, energy and food  in the sub-basin across different users – by farmers, industrialists and domestic consumers – and sectors in urban-rural areas.

“We’ll measure and map the resources available in the basin and how they’re used by different economic sectors and social groups,” said David Sabogal of the Global Canopy Programme. “We’ll develop options for how resources could be used and trade-offs managed in the future – under a ‘business as usual’ model of economic development where greenhouse gas emissions lead to high levels of climate change, and under a more sustainable economic model where climate resilient policies and activities  are implemented. The key part will be working through the different scenarios for availability of water and other resources in the river basin with stakeholder groups, and deepening their understanding of the policy choices ahead.”

Effects of booms and busts and climate disturbances on livelihoods and resilience of small Amazon delta cities will chart the history of economic misfortunes and climate variability and change in this area. The project will engage local citizens in recounting how they have adapted to economic and climate shocks during the past 30 years. It aims to empower citizens with information technology such as smartphone apps that they can use to monitor future shocks, and their own resilience. “We plan to produce information systems that state and municipal authorities and civil society groups can use to create climate adaptation and mitigation programmes,” said Sergio Rivero of Universidade Federal do Para, Brazil.

Walter Ubal of IDRC said: “This set of studies represent a smart bet to identify sustainable solutions for rapidly growing cities in a short time.  The research outcomes will be enhanced by a selected group of researchers who show converging visions of building joint solutions for small and medium sized cities of the Latin American region.”

Connie Espinosa of CDKN and FFLA said: “We are thrilled about this initiative. After a long selection process, the best proposals have been funded.  We are confident that the research that will be conducted will be significant in mainstreaming climate compatible development in small and fast growing Latin American cities.”

For more information about the Climate Resilient Cities Initiative, please contact Gabriela Villamarin, Fundacion Futuro Latinoamericano; Guipuzcoa E16-02 y Coruna, Quito, Ecuador. Email:  Twitter:  @ciudades_rc


Editors’ notes

‘Home’ as a catalyst for resilience: settlement relocation in the Amazon rainforest. Lead organisation: Centro de Investigación de la Arquitectura y la Ciudad, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, contact Belen Desmaison, email: Partner organisations: Instituto de Ciencias de la Naturaleza, Territorio y Energias Renovables; The Bartlett – Development Planning Unit of University College London.

A participatory decision-making approach towards climate-resilient and inclusive urban development in Latin America. Lead organisation: Instituto Internacional de Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo, IIED – America Latina, contact: Jorgelina Hardoy Partner organisations: Center for Urban Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience (CUDRR+R); Environment Research (Alterra); International Institute for Environment and Development, IIED.

Triangle city cooperation: building joint climate resilient development in the Parana basin. Lead organisation: University of Leeds, contact Paola Hernandez Montes de Oca email: Partner organisations: Federal University for Latin American Integration; Directorate of Meteorology and Hydrology of the Republic of Paraguay; Catholic University of Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion; National University of Asuncion; National University of Misiones – School of Forestry.

Building urban-rural linkages for food-secure and climate-resilient medium sized cities in the Andes. Lead organisation: Universidad de los Andes, contact Julián Idrobo email: Partner organisation: Adelphi Research.

Strengthening climate-resilient development in urban-rural landscapes using a Water-Energy-Food Nexus approach. Lead organisation: Global Canopy Programme, contact David Sabogal, email: Partner organisation: Centro de Desarrollo e Investigaciones de la Selva.

Effects of booms and busts and climate disturbances on livelihoods and resilience of small Amazon delta cities. Lead organisation: Universidade Federal do Para (Belem, Brazil), contact Sergio Rivero, email: Partner organisations: Universidade do Vale do Paraiba (Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil); the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), Earth Institute, Columbia University (NYC), USA; Universidade do Estado do Amapa; Governo do Estado do Para.



Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2014). Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

UN Habitat (2014). State of Latin American and Caribbean Cities. Nairobi: UN Habitat.


Image: Quito, courtesy M&M Photographers (


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