Insights from the AIR Network: a transdisciplinary approach to addressing air pollution in informal settlements

The AIR Network, Fiona Lambe, William Apondo, Cressida Bowyer, Patrick Büker, Cindy Gray, Matthew Hahn, Miranda Loh, Alexander Medcalfe, Cassilde Muhoza, Kanyiva Muindi, Heather Price, Charlotte Waelde, Megan Wainwright, Anna Walnycki, Jana Wendler, Sarah West, Mike Wilson

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Air pollution remains a major environmental, health, and policy challenge in both developed and developing countries, particularly those that are rapidly urbanizing. Despite considerable research into the effects of air pollution on human health and well-being, and the implementation of mitigation measures, awareness raising and exposure reduction campaigns in Sub Saharan African cities including Nairobi, neither a reduction in particulate emissions nor significant positive effects on the health of informal settlement dwellers have been observed. Interventions surrounding cookstove use, for example, have not been successful in terms of health outcomes. There are various, multifaceted reasons for the lack of positive health effects, including that air pollution is often not visible and that non-communicable diseases linked to air pollution are not as high on people’s ‘concern agenda’ as challenges linked to income and livelihoods. The Air Network brought together a multidisciplinary research team from Kenya and the EU, and residents in Mukuru, an informal settlement in Nairobi, to explore these reasons and allow us, in future projects, to co-create innovative, robust and effective interventions to reduce air pollution and people’s exposure to it in informal settlements in Sub Saharan Africa. We applied creative and qualitative mixed methodologies including theatre, medical anthropology, participatory mapping, music, and storytelling to explore with community members their personal experiences of air pollution in Mukuru. The approach revealed differing definitions of air pollution amongst residents, depending on individual belief and personal experience. From here, several unexpected entry points for possible solutions to local air pollution were identified. For example, when discussing air pollution with residents, discussions often were not specifically about air pollution, but instead about job creation, urban design and smells. Inadequate waste management emerged as a as a key source of local air pollution, and an area where well designed interventions could have an impact. Furthermore, we found that using theatre and storytelling created an opportunity to shift power dynamics between residents and policy makers and provided new channels for constructive dialogue on upgrading key services in Mukuru.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2019
EventInternational Transdisciplinarity Conference 2019: Joining Forces for Change - University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
Duration: 10 Sept 201913 Sept 2019


ConferenceInternational Transdisciplinarity Conference 2019
Internet address

Cite this