A Pioneer’s quest to building resilience in cities

Cities consume approximately 70% of energy, and 75% of global carbon emissions, and are home to 55% of the global population. As the population in cities grow, so does the impact of climate change in these urban metropolises. With global emissions and sea-levels rising, the impact of climate change will be catastrophic, not only to the environment, but also to the people living in these areas. Pioneers like Ama Kissiwah Boateng made their life mission to centre their research on climate change, urban sustainability, and cities—particularly in African cities.

A native of Ghana, Ama is interested in how cities plan for climate change, with the help of their local governments. “Building resilience to climate risks is paramount in the context of rapid urbanization, thus, it is necessary to revise governmental schemes and to foster an integral institutional approach that can address the metropolis transversely, rather than by territorial zones or thematic sectors,” she says.

Having previously worked in the Eastern Region of Ghana, overseeing environmental awareness programs in the various Municipalities and Districts Assemblies, and investigating environmental complaints, Ama realized that climate change mostly affected the urban poor. The absence of an effective urban climate change governance system also contributed to poor implementation of climate change projects and activities. However, to address this problem, Ama is focusing her research on ensuring effective institutional governance to urban climate change responses (adaptation and mitigation) in developing countries. She hopes to undertake her work in four Ghanaian cities namely; Accra, Koforidua, Sunyani and Tamale.

Through programs like Pioneers, Ama had a chance to engage with climate change policy and planning, and with colleagues from a multitude of cultures and backgrounds. Although she is from Ghana, and is pursuing her PhD in Hungary, her Pioneers placement took place in Czech Republic at the Ecological Institute Veronica. Ama is grateful for this kind of exposure and excited about being a Pioneer.

The program opens you up to diversifying your knowledge of different regions and learn how different countries and sectors approach, and address climate change—something that can be replicated around the globe.

Ama has already made connections with experts in her field and Pioneers alike, who she says are instrumental to her career progression. “The skills acquired at Pioneers will last you a lifetime,” she says. She has also broadened her knowledge and expertise, and can apply methodological advice on her research, which covers the area of planning for climate change. Before Pioneers, Ama had already engaged with multiple stakeholders, but it is through the program workshops that she learnt how to conduct stakeholder analysis, mapping, and communicate with all parties involved. In addition, Ama learnt from various E-learning courses and team-building activities through gaming exercises. While at her placement at the Ecological Institute Veronica, she conducted critical analysis, and monitored the energy used at the institute.

To lead and become a change maker, Ama has learnt to be flexible and adaptive to the situation at hand. Regarding the group’s diversity and rich multiculturalism, she says that a good leader is one who listens to different views, respecting varying ideas and accommodates all unique views to offer solutions, and is also a team player.

She hopes to return to Ghana and advance the gospel of sustainable cities—by engaging with policymakers and non-state actors to design for better governance structures; while also engaging school children and teaching about sustainability and how we can all provide to address climate change. She also hopes to develop adaptation and mitigation strategies for urban cities that will see the urban poor elevated from being at risk and from the catastrophes of climate change.