3. Community driven processes in Kibera – inspiring visions of Nyhamnen


This blog post is written by Brianna Bergström & Joel Talje, students at the MSc course Act Local, Think Global. 

Nyhamnen, Malmö. Photo: Alexia Moulin 

Student project of Nyhamnen

The repurposing of the former industrial harbour district Nyhamnen in Malmö will give space for and enable many purposes for the city. The coastal line and water will be accessible for the general public, enabling spaces for recreation and leisure. The amount of available space is also important regarding the demand on housing and Malmö City’s goal of densification. Access to the area and remnants of the harbour industry is also an important part of the city’s heritage and identity. There are also challenges with these possibilities. Envisioning how the new city district will function and be shaped by social life can be difficult. It therefore becomes necessary to think of how to activate a space rather than only imagining a static vision of what the new district should be. A big part of this challenge is to understand what qualities the space currently contains and designing with undiscovered potentials in mind.

SLU and Architects Sweden visits JKUAT. Photo: Emily Wade

Kibera public space project

The situations and projects of Kibera are vastly different from any situation in Nyhamnen, though the underlying ideas of community driven processes are inspiring for the urban development and activation of public spaces in Nyhamnen. It is not only the commonality that is relevant, but the differences in approaches which can be thought provoking in a necessary way. In KDI’s public space projects, multi functionality has been a big focus. Combined use of public space to work with sanitation, management of crime and availability of drinking water. Also engaging with social and economical challenges when working with climate related issues is helpful in creating solutions that are sustainable on more than one level. Even though much might be different from Nyhamnen, the question of multifunctionality in an increasingly dense environment is just as relevant in Malmö and many other cities.

Kibera is mentioned to have a strong social fabric and sense of community activism, giving community driven processes much potential. This strength in community and enabling of bottom up movements is something that sometimes is missing in large developments such as Nyhamnen. Bottom up movements aren’t unique to Kibera, but the demanding environment of Kibera also requires community structures and engagement. Highlighting the importance of the people being able to have their voices heard. This can also function as a reminder of core values that if not valued and protected could be overlooked in a seemingly well thought out and well functioning system.

Act local, Think global

The completely different preconditions of Nairobi and more specifically Kibera, demands a different approach to solving issues than what is praxis in Malmö. This highlights the value of acting local and thinking global, as different local contexts allow or even demand different approaches. As issues relate to human and ecological themes always are a common denominator for people and cities. The local perspective can help influence new ways of thinking, understanding complexities and to come up with new solutions.

This blog post is the third one in a series of four blog posts from the Master’s course Act Local, Think Global given by SLU and JKUAT Nairobi.

4. Food security and urban agriculture in Nairobi


This blog post is written by  Aleksandra Arent at the MSc course Act Local, Think Global.

Landscape Architects faces many challenges. Photo: Emily Wade

Food security is one of the most pressing issues of our time. In Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi, some people spend even 80% of their income on imported food, some eat meals provided by the NGOs operating within the settlement, and others engage in the practices of local urban agriculture. The dominating practices are growing kale in sacks, corn in unbuilt spaces and cultivating arrow root directly in the Nairobi Dam which comes with many health hazards (Gallaher et al., 2013). The water in Nairobi Dam is highly polluted and deemed unsuitable for human and animal consumption (Mandela, 2016). However, due to the unavailability of good quality local farmland accessible to the urban poor, the people of Kibera are forced to consume the toxic aro roots. Yet, just North of the settlement there lies a vast, irrigated Royal Golf Club sized around 80 ha containing grass monocultures and patches of woodland. The golf course is one of the sites left from the era of British colonialism and bears the symbolism of the extreme social inequalities persisting since that period, which drive the internal and cross-border migrations today.

Kibera has a constant inflow of inhabitants, fleeing from the rural areas in search of better employment opportunities in Nairobi. Currently, it has around 800 000 dwellers and is one of 200 informal settlements hosting a total of about 2 500 000 people within the capital, which makes up 60% of the city’s population. The question arises: why do people in Kenya leave their rural dwellings to live in these dense settlements with very low access to food and barely any land available for cultivation? What drives food insecurity in the rural parts of the country? Following Walden Bello (2009), one of the answers lies in the structural adjustment programme in the 1980s encouraged by the World Bank and incorporated into policy-making in exchange for 1 billion USD of loans given to various African countries (Federici and Achebe, 2001). This has led to the dismantling of state support for farming and the inadequate takeover of public institutions by the private sector. That ultimately enhanced the favouritism of commercial large-scale food producers leaving smallholders with no means of support. Bello also underlined the disadvantageous export rates to the EU and the USA, making the African farmers deprived of public subsidies to compete with European and US markets with their food prices paradoxically lowered by governmental financial support. The threat of food insecurity and financial ruin of the African smallholder farmers is partially linked to the prioritisation of production for export to finance the ever-growing foreign debts. Finally, the World Bank’s vision for the development of the continent’s agriculture is a further expansion of corporate agriculture alongside the preservation of traditional practices in ‘reserves’ (Bello, 2009), which will lead to further displacement of rural communities to urban settlements.

From this brief analysis, we arrive back in Kibera and the need for a rethinking of urban agriculture, which is still perceived by the decision-makers as a sign of importing rural backwardness to the cities. Yet, is not a matter of choice in the growing dominance of large-scale export crop monocultures outside the urban areas. The inability of rural landscapes to provide livelihoods to their inhabitants puts even more pressure on rational land use within the cities and making space for efficient and varied local food production. It also emphasises the irrelevance of the 80-ha golf course serving the capitalist elites with its enclosed irrigated vegetation bordering an informal settlement of 800 000 people doomed to eat toxic arrow roots from the Nairobi Dam polluted with sewage, rubbish and pharmaceuticals.



Bello, W. (2009). The Debt Crisis, Africa, and the New Enclosures. In: The Food Wars. Verso.

Federici, S. and Achebe, C. (2001). The Debt crisis, Africa and the new enclosures.

Gallaher, C.M., Kerr, J.M., Njenga, M., Karanja, N.K. and WinklerPrins, A.M.G.A. (2013). Urban agriculture, social capital, and food security in the Kibera slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Agriculture and Human Values, [online] 30(3), pp.389–404. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-013-9425-y.

Mandela, O. (2016). Management strategies for restoration of Nairobi Dam. [online]

Available at: http://erepository.uonbi.ac.ke/bitstream/handle/11295/153080/Mandela_Management%20Strategies%20For%20Restoration%20Of%20Nairobi%20Dam.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

This blog post is the fourth one in a series of four blog posts from the Master’s course Act Local, Think Global given by SLU and JKUAT Nairobi.

It is all in the seagrass – exploring small-scale fisheries in the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park


This blog post is written by Carolina Åkerlund, a MSc student from the Department of Aquatic Resources at SLU, during a field trip to Mozambique October to December 2022.

Fishers gathered at a landing site on Sitone beach on Bazaruto Island after a day of fishing. Photo: Charlotte Berkström

In October last year, I travelled to Mozambique with another Master’s student, Amanda Rydhem, to conduct fieldwork in the beautiful Bazaruto Archipelago as part of our Master’s work. We got the chance to experience stunning environments and meet wonderful people in a setting very different from Sweden. We also got the opportunity to collaborate and work with local scientists, students and NGOs, participating in capacity building of marine science in the region. Our thesis work focuses on exploring small-scale fisheries within the national park of the Bazaruto Archipelago. 

Why work with small-scale fisheries?

Small-scale fisheries contribute to the livelihoods of millions of people in developing countries, being a key contribution to food security and income. In the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park, many people are highly dependent on small-scale fisheries for their subsistence. The area’s high marine biodiversity and occurrence of charismatic fauna, including sea turtles, several species of sharks, dolphins and East Africa’s only viable population of dugongs, led to the creation of the Bazaruto Archipelago national park in the 1970s. A common feature of the shallow seascape in Bazaruto is the seagrass that forms lush meadows which are important habitats for fish and crustaceans etc. Due to the park’s protection of certain areas, including coral reefs, most of the small-scale fisheries are practised in and around seagrass habitats. They serve as key fishing grounds, and many of them have local names. Lack of fertile soil on the islands limits agriculture, and this together with a steadily increasing population and few alternative livelihood options increases the pressure on the seagrass fish community. Decreasing catches within the park have raised concerns regarding sustainability and the future of the seagrass fisheries.

One of the targeted species, carapau (Decapterus spp), caught in the tidal channels close to the seagrass meadows. Photo: Charlotte Berkström

Managing small-scale fisheries is in many cases challenging due to complex social-ecological interactions and small-scale fisheries target a variety of species using a range of gears. These fisheries are also generally data poor, which makes it difficult to make informed decisions about proper management measures. Measures often include gear restrictions and seasonal and/or temporal closures. To study small-scale fisheries management within the Bazaruto Archipelago national park, we joined a group of scientists and students from five universities in Sweden, Mozambique and Brazil to take a closer look at the seagrass habitats and collect spatial, ecological and socio-ecological data.

How did you become familiar with the environment and the techniques needed for data collection?

The project started with a weeklong workshop in Bazaruto Island to get familiar with the diverse marine habitats, and together discuss and practise the different methods to be used in the upcoming fieldwork. The team practised snorkel techniques, fish- and seagrass identification, and survey methods as part of capacity building of marine science in Mozambique.

Students from Sweden and Mozambique practising data collection of fish and seagrass. Photo: Carolina Åkerlund

What did you do during your stay?

Nevertheless, all good things must come to an end, and so do educational and rewarding workshops. After an intense week of learning, we stayed on another eight weeks to conduct fieldwork. During these weeks, we spent time both under and above the sea surface and a variety of ecological and socio-ecological methods were used to get an overview of the seagrass  and small-scale fisheries in the park.

Not all days doing fieldwork are sunshine and calm seas. Photo: Amanda Rydhem

Fish communities were surveyed using two different methods: 1) underwater visual census (UVCs), where all fish within a certain predefined area were identified and counted during low tide and 2) deployment of GoPro cameras to identify and count fish during high tide.

Preparing GoPro cameras before deployment. Photo: Charlotte Berkström

Together with representatives from the Bazaruto Archipelago national park and Mozambican university students, we conducted interviews with fishers in three villages in the northern most parts of Bazaruto Island. The aim with the interviews was to gain knowledge on important seagrass areas for fisheries, fishing effort, targeted species, preferred fishing grounds, and local ecological knowledge concerning habitat use and connectivity for some of the targeted species.

A fisherwoman with vast fishing experience being interviewed in Sitone village, Bazaruto Island. Photo: Santos Mutondo

Our thesis work is part of a larger project in collaboration with researchers, students and park representatives from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Stockholm University, Federal University of Santa Maria,Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Universidade Pedagogica and the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park. Information gathered within the frames of this project will contribute to an increased understanding of fish communities of tropical nearshore ecosystems; how these are affected by environmental factors and by fishing pressure related to the UN Sustainable goals (SDGs) 13 (Climate action) and 14 (Life below water). Knowledge of how these factors are interacting in shaping the seagrass fish communities and how certain species may respond differently will be helpful within management efforts aiming to develop sustainable small-scale fisheries, providing food security (SDG 2), boosting social and ecological resilience and reducing poverty (SDG 1).

A sundowner together on the beach is the perfect way to end a day of fieldwork. Photo: Carolina Åkerlund

For more info see: Joint efforts in studying Mozambique’s important seagrass beds by Swedish and local students | Externwebben (slu.se)

The Mozambique project is part of  SLU Aqua’s international development cooperation


Safeguarding mangroves is crucial for our future


This blog post is written by Josefine Norgren and Johanna Pettersson, students at the MSc course “Sustainable Forestry and Land Use Management in the Tropics” during a field trip to Tanzania December 2022. 

The mangroves in Tanga district, Tanzania. From left: Josefine Norgren, Yusuph Kajia and Johanna Pettersson. Photo: Ulrik Ilstedt.

During a field trip to Tanzania with SLU we got the chance to visit a mangrove forest located in the coastal district of Tanga. We had the privilege to learn from a local guide, Yusuph Kajia, who is working for the Tanzania Forest Service Agency.

We discovered that despite mangrove forests having many important functions, they have not received the same attention as other forest ecosystems on the planet. Yet, they are one of the world’s most important ecosystems! You have probably heard about climate change and the importance of reducing CO2 emissions. You may also have heard how trees and forests can mitigate climate change and their potential to sustain  livelihoods for millions of people. But have you heard specifically how the mangrove ecosystem is connected to these topics? And why should we even care about an ecosystem that makes up only 0.1% of the Earth’s surface? We want to tell you why!

Why are mangrove forests important?

The mangrove forest ecosystem is a unique and vital part of the Earth’s natural landscape, providing a wide range of ecological, economic, and social benefits to both local and global communities. These forests are found in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide and are characterized by their ability to thrive in salty, coastal environments. Mangrove species have one of the most unique reproductive strategies in the plant world. Some mangrove species are viviparous, which means that seeds germinate into seedlings while still attached to the parent plant[1]. Our guide Yusuph explained another unique strategy, so called aerial roots, that some of the mangrove species have developed in order to survive in this aquatic environment.

Viviparous seeds on a parent plant. These seeds will eventually fall to the ground and take root. Photo: Josefine Norgren

Tanzania has ten different species of mangroves that have many important functions. Apart from acting like a carbon sink, they also provide shelter for a vast number of plant, animal and aquatic species, holding great biodiversity[2]. Yusuph explained that the mangroves also serve as natural barriers against storms and erosion, protecting inland areas from flooding and other natural disasters. He also mentioned that these forests support the livelihoods of local communities who rely on them for a range of activities, such as fishing and wood harvesting, which provide food, shelter, and income for millions of people.

Aerial roots (at the bottom of the picture). Photo: Josefine Norgren

Why should we care about saving the mangroves?

Historically, mangroves have been extensively logged, leading to a decline in their extent and quality. Today, they still face many challenges and threats mainly caused by human activities, such as land conversion, pollution from industrial and agricultural activities, and the impacts of climate change, according to Yusuph. This is a concern considering its many important functions mentioned earlier. Another important factor that can incentivize safeguarding of mangrove ecosystems is that they can capture and store carbon at a much higher rate than most terrestrial forests. When carbon is captured by the worldÂŽs oceans and coastal ecosystems, it’s called Blue carbon. Most of this carbon is stored below ground in the soil and is often thousands of years old[3]. Coastal mangroves are also estimated to store up to four times more carbon compared to temperate and boreal forests![4] This makes them an essential tool in the fight against climate change.

Overall, mangrove forests are a vital and complex ecosystem that provides a range of important ecosystem services. Losses of mangroves can have a huge impact on the climate, biodiversity and people’s livelihoods, which should be a strong incitement to care about the conservation and restoration of this forest ecosystem.

What is done today?

The tide has turned and things are changing for the better. The loss of mangroves is declining and our knowledge of their value and importance has improved[4]. In recent years, there has been a renewed focus on sustainable management of these ecosystems to ensure that mangrove forests are protected and managed in a responsible manner, according to Yusuph. This includes the development of new management plans, the implementation of conservation measures, and the enforcement of forestry regulations. Yusuph explains that they also work with local communities and other stakeholders to ensure that the benefits of mangrove forests are shared equitably and sustainably. They are, for example, establishing plantation forests aimed to fuel wood harvesting to relieve the pressure on the mangroves.

“Government cannot protect the forest alone, we need to include the locals to save the mangroves” – Yusuph

Another example is an area of 69.3 ha of mangroves in the Tanga District in Tanzania that was rehabilitated successfully between 1994 and 2003 as part of a collaborative coastal management approach involving local communities[5].

The most recent effort connected to the issue of mangrove deforestation was a report launched in September 2022 by The Global Mangrove Alliance (GMA). The GMA consists of over 30 organizations that work together to accelerate mangrove restoration and conservation measures around the globe. The report is given out annually and aims to compile the most current information on what we know about the mangrove forests and what is being done to reverse the downward trend. Nowadays, we also have access to more extensive and reliable data about the current status of the mangroves via the Global Mangrove Watch maps.

We have learned that the mangroves support many important functions that are crucial for humanity and that this ecosystem can play a key role in mitigating climate change. To stop the loss of mangrove forests across the globe, it is essential that we work together to identify and address the root causes of habitat loss and degradation. This may involve working with local communities to promote sustainable land use practices, supporting conservation efforts, and investing in research and monitoring to better understand the dynamics of these complex ecosystems. By taking a proactive approach, we can ensure that these valuable ecosystems continue to thrive and provide a range of benefits for future generations.

[1] Reproductive Strategies of Mangroves. https://www.nhmi.org/mangroves/rep.htm [2023-01-10]

[2] Tanzania Forest Service Agency (TFS). Tanzania’s Mangroves. https://www.tfs.go.tz/index.php/en/forests/tanzanias-mangroves  [2023-01-10]

[3] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. What is Blue Carbon? https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/bluecarbon.html [2023-01-10]

[4] Leal, M. & Spalding, M. (2022). The State of the World’s Mangroves 2022. Global Mangrove Alliance.

[5] Erftemeijer, P., de Boer, M., Hilarides, L. (2022). Status of Mangroves in the Western Indian Ocean Region. Wetlands International.

How can pearl millet and cowpea be good for healthy diets?


This blog post is written by Sunera Zulficar Nurmomade, PhD student at the Department of Molecular Sciences at SLU in Uppsala.

Mothers are informed about the interview process. Photo: Sunera Zulficar Nurmomade

When I think about undernourished children in Mozambique, I wonder how I can contribute as a researcher to reduce these alarming malnutrition rates in my home country. 

In 2020, I was in Cabo Delgado (the northern part of Mozambique), doing fieldwork. I had the opportunity to talk to and ask some questions to mothers and community leaders to understand the problems connected to undernourished children in these areas. These questions and observations were important to understand food habits, cultural choices and traditions, which helped me to develop different ideas for the project. The idea to choose pearl millet and cowpea in my research is because these grains are locally produced, available, affordable, nutritious and drought resistant. During my fieldwork it was possible to interact with the people in these communities to understand the problems and explain how these grains can be a potential choice to incorporate into their diets, especially into children’s diets, to prevent malnutrition and food insecurity. Furthermore, how to apply traditional processing methods to these grains, such as soaking, germination and fermentation, and why it is very important to apply these treatments to enhance the nutrients and make them bio-available and bio-digestible.

Mothers are informed about the interview process. Photo: Sunera Zulficar Nurmomade

Pearl millet (left) Cowpea (right) Photo: Sunera Zulficar Nurmomade

Soaking, germination and fermentation have been used as traditional processing methods for decades in some parts of African communities since it is affordable and effective in improving nutritional quality and reducing the anti-nutritional factors of the grains. In addition, these traditional processing methods benefit grain digestibility and give favourable characteristics to the final product.

Germinated grains have a high activity of hydrolytic enzymes, which is important for breaking down the major compounds such as starch and non-starch polysaccharides, to reduce the viscosity of thick porridges without dilution with water. Using flour from germinated grains increases energy density and improves the content of some nutrients. On the other hand, fermented grains are important because microorganisms and enzymes produced by the natural microflora alter the composition of the substrates in various ways, improving texture, taste digestibility and nutritional value.

Pearl millet and cowpea are as nutritious as other grains; the key is to know how to prepare them to enhance the nutrients and reduce the anti-nutrients present in the grains. Pearl millet is a good source of macronutrients such as fat, protein, carbohydrate, and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. It is also a gluten-free product. Cowpea is a plant protein source used to enrich infant cereal food. Its high lysine content makes it an excellent enhancer of protein quality to add as a complementary ingredient. Moreover, it is beneficial for people that do not have access to animal protein.

Why is this important to know and why is it interesting to study the effect of traditional processing methods on the grains?

Mozambique is a low-income country in the southern part of Africa; 43% of children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition. Food quantity is not always the principal problem, improper feeding practices, i.e. a poor combination of food products, and insufficient knowledge on enhancing nutritional quality through traditional processing methods are the primary problem. This project provides knowledge on changes caused by traditional processing methods on the physicochemical and microstructure properties of pearl millet and cowpea grains and gives potential knowledge about the raw material and possibilities to develop new novel food products.

My study showed that the traditional processing methods, such as germination and fermentation, positively affects the grains, changing the physicochemical properties and microstructure characteristics. Germinated pearl millet showed high enzyme activity, which reduced the amount of total starch content and amylose content, something that is important to increase the energy density of the porridge and soluble dietary fibre. These soluble fraction of dietary fibre are essential because it attracts water and turns to gel in the gut, trapping carbohydrates and slowing the absorption of glucose. Fermentation also changed the physicochemical and microstructure properties of pearl millet and cowpea. However, total starch and amylose content was not affected by fermentation.

This research can have a global impact contributing to Agenda 2030 by improving nutrition and achieving food security. We all know that malnutrition is one of the biggest problems in the world, and this research can help other countries facing the same problem as Mozambique.


Read more? Visit the webpage about millets at SLU Global.