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“Doing Things God’s Way” Community Understanding of Nature-based Solutions

By Martha Akinyi


NBS as a term is a foreign concept in African urban neighbourhoods, but the ecological functions emulated in this design thinking has lingered; with some of the practices adopted in rural and urban communities. From Focus Group Discussions (FGD) the R-U-NBS team held in March this year in Kibera, one of Kenya’s biggest informal settlements in Nairobi, it was clear that before the R-U-NBS project was implemented, the residents’ understanding of the concept in Kibera was limited, albeit some of the practices being relatable.


We found, however, that after the co-design, co-implementation and post-intervention management of NBS in their neighbourhoods, residents living around the intervention sites had gained a relatively good understanding of the concept.


Interestingly, the residents came up with their own definitions of NBS, and there was particularly one that stuck out: “Njia za kimungumungu”. Meaning ‘God’s ways’. The residents framed the concept in this way, referencing their spiritual and religious values, where nature originates from God. The fact that NBS copies natural systems thus led to this conclusion among the residents which portrays their practical understanding and relation to NBS, and reverence to divinity. This frame of thinking and perception of nature based solutions as therefore of divine reference, adds the fundamental functional aspect of spirituality to the ecological.


The specific solutions that were discussed in the group interview were:

  1. Filter drains

  2. Permeable paving

  3. Planter beds

  4. Infiltration soakaway & bioretention system

  5. Rainwater harvesting

  6. Rain Gardens.



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1 Comment


Keren Maina
Keren Maina
Jun 16, 2022

Interesting concept!

Good job Martha.

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