Nature for resilience reconfigured: Global-to-local translation of frames in Africa

Globally, various frames of urban nature are in circulation, each emphasizing particular challenges and natural solutions in the context of climate. However, the actors and dynamics shaping the translation of these frames into the African context remain unclear. This paper explores this global-to-local translation process through interventions funded by transnational actors, conceptualized as agents of policy transfer. Critical scholarship has observed that urban adaptation and resilience interventions in Africa are often characterized as technocratic and top-down, hence it is vital to understand whether these approaches are replicated through the proliferation of nature-based solutions (NbS). The study of a resilience-building intervention in Lilongwe, Malawi, reveals that transnational actors play important roles by deploying frames of urban nature through funding projects. However, rather than involving a top-down imposition of particular solutions, this sets dynamics in motion: in the competition for resources that frames generate, various constellations of transnational actors, subnational governments, and local NGOs reconfigure or relabel strategies and associated (nature-based) practices to suit global frames and the resources they generate. This shapes who is and is not included, and what kinds of NbS are being developed – for and by whom. There is a risk that community priorities get lost in translation.

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