Mapping for Change: Profiling Informal Settlements in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Emmanuel Osuteye's picture

As part of the Urban ARK Work Programme 4 (WP4) work on ‘Governance, Planning and Urban Development in Freetown’, the DPU team represented by Emmanuel Osuteye and Rita Lambert organized a 3-day capacity building workshop in Freetown, Sierra Leone. This was done in partnership with researchers from the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC) led by Braima Koroma who are serving as the city leads for the Urban ARK work in sierra Leone.

The main purpose of the workshop was to train a team of recruited volunteers drawn from residents of a number of informal settlements, members of the Federation of the Urban Poor and other local NGO representatives that are active within the informal settlements, in risk mapping methods integrated into a wider process of conducting a settlement profiles (both manually, and aided by the use of GPS-enabled mobile phone applications). The tools and method learnt as part of the workshop were immediately applied in profiling two selected informal settlements; Cockle Bay and Dwozark. These two represented the most common geographic and physical characteristics of informal settlements in Freetown (coastal and hillside respectively).

The focus of this profiling exercise was to gather information on the range of risks that were prevalent in the settlements and the corresponding vulnerabilities of residents. As well as document the risk mitigation, reduction and recovery strategies, and the investments and interventions that characterized their collective capacities to act in the face of the risks or disasters.

The scope of these settlement profiles as part of the WP4 component of the DPU’s Urban ARK research led by Adriana Allen, is to work in 15 informal settlements across Freetown by July 2017, and this will be coordinated by the DPU and SLURC teams working closely with smaller groups of the trained workshop participants.  All the data gathered will be synthesizes and visualized in the online tool “ReMapRisk Freetown” - an interactive cartographic database developed by the UCL team to document and monitor how risk accumulation cycles or 'urban risk traps' materialise over time and where.