Rethinking urban green infrastructure and ecosystem services from the perspective of sub-Saharan African cities

Sarah Lindley (Lead), Stephan Pauleit, Kumelachew Yeshitela, Sarel Cilliers, Charlie Shackleton

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Urban green infrastructure and its ecosystem services are often conceptualised in terms of a predominantly western perspective of cities and their wider social, economic and environmental challenges. However, the benefits which are derived from urban ecosystems are equally – if not more – important in the cities of the developing world. Cities in sub-Saharan Africa are well known to be facing severe pressures. Nevertheless, despite the challenges of rapid population change, high levels of poverty and seemingly chaotic urban development processes, there are also tremendous opportunities. Realising the opportunities around urban green infrastructure and its benefits requires harnessing the inherent local knowledge and community innovation associated with a multitude of inter-connected urban social-ecological systems. Such systems are a powerful driving force shaping urban realities. Associated planning regimes are frequently lambasted as being either absent, weakly enforced, corrupt or wholly inappropriate. Much of this criticism is justified. However, it must also be recognised that decision-makers are frequently working in contexts which lack the scientific foundations through which their decision-making might be made more effective and complementary to bottom-up initiatives. The paucity of research into urban ecosystems in sub-Saharan Africa and the lack of development of context-specific conceptual, theoretical and empirical foundations is a problem which must be addressed. Drawing on papers from a Special Issue centred on urban green infrastructure and urban ecosystem services in sub-Saharan Africa, we consider what concepts and frameworks are in use and what needs to be considered when framing future research. We also synthesise key messages from the Special Issue and draw together themes to help create a new research agenda for the international research community.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
Early online date12 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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