Social capital and disaster resilience: A case of flooding in informal settlements in Accra, Ghana
AffiliationArchitecture, Building and Planning
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2023-06-09.
© 2021 Eric Gaisie
The impacts of escalating climate-linked disasters have been acutely felt across sub-Saharan Africa in recent times. Rapid urbanisation and changing climate have complicated the frequencies, intensities, and associated impacts of disasters to unprecedented levels. In Ghana, the conventional approaches overly dependent on strengthening technical and physical infrastructure are inadequate and often disregard informal settlements that absorb much of urban growth and are at the interface of most disaster risks. Consequently, disaster resilience in informal settlements is restricted to the capacities, ingenuities, and resources available to residents and through their social networks. Yet, there is limited understanding of the influences of social capital on disaster resilience among households. Based on a case study of flooding in four informal settlements (i.e., Gbegbeyise, Old Fadama, Sabon Zongo, and Alajo) in Accra, this thesis addresses three main questions: (i) How do households navigate flooding in the informal settlements? (ii) How do household capitals influence their resilience to flooding? (iii) To what extent does social capital influence the resilience of households to flooding? The research adapted the ‘capitals-based’ framework and combined it with the disaster cycle to examine how social capital constructs influenced the pre-, during, and post-disaster resilience of households. It applied mixed methods involving household surveys and in-depth interviews, agency consultation, documents review, and observation to gather research data. Also, it used qualitative (e.g., themes) and quantitative (e.g., factor analysis and regression) procedures in analysing flood experiences and implications of social capital for disaster resilience. The findings reveal that the conflicting rationalities between households and agencies' perceptions about flooding have validated official neglect of informal settlements from risk reduction interventions, necessitating households’ reliance on their assets and social networks for resilience to disasters. As a result, although the households applied structural and non-structural flood preparation measures, they experienced multifaceted impacts on livelihoods, properties, and general wellbeing. Interestingly, the application of household capitals generated complex outcomes of disaster resilience on the disaster cycle. Contrary to popular conceptions, some dimensions of household capital were counter-productive to resilience. The study found that social capital is a critical resource for resilience in Accra’s informal settlements because it supported preparedness, mitigated associated multifaceted impacts, and facilitated responses and recovery. However, the benefits from social capital channels – i.e., bonding, bridging, and linking networks – differ at the various stages of the disaster cycle. These findings suggest that a more nuanced consideration of household capitals is required when developing policies for disaster resilience. Depending on the aim along the disaster cycle, different dimensions of household capitals may be enhanced. Moreover, the significance of social capital for resilience in informal settlements justifies the need for careful consideration and protection in urban planning policies and programmes. It is only when the non-structural features like social capital are included in disaster planning and management that cities can advance towards attaining global disaster resilience targets.
KeywordsSocial capital; Disaster resilience; Informal settlements; Flooding; Ghana
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