Preserve, Conserve and Tinker

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This exhibition focuses on urban nature in Bo City (Sierra Leone) and Cape Coast (Ghana) where the Urban Natural Assets (UNA) Resilience project has been active over since 2021.

In April 2023, photovoice workshops were conducted in these cities. These workshops involved community and stakeholder groups visually reflecting on their environment through photography, capturing current challenges, potential solutions, and the benefits and ecosystem services associated with their cities’ urban natural assets. This people-centred approach allowed stakeholders to explore and reflect on the nature in their cities, and highlight what they perceive as important and in need of care.

Additionally, youth workshops were held, where young people gathered to collectively imagine the future they envision for their city and its natural assets. They translated their aspirations into colourful drawings, blueprints and maps, offering a glimpse into their visions of a better future

The goal of this exhibition is to emphasise the importance of preserving what we have, conserving that which takes care of our needs, and tinkering towards a more resilient future. Join us to Preserve, Conserve, and Tinker for better cities! Together, we shape a resilient future. Get involved now by sharing your reflections and making commitments to nurture the nature in your city!

Download the exhibition statement here to learn more.

Scroll to explore the exhibition below…

Preserve

In the hustle and bustle of urban life, it’s easy to overlook the natural assets that offer solace, inspiration, and a breath of fresh air. Urban nature isn’t just aesthetically pleasing; it plays a vital role in our daily lives, providing clean air and shade from the heat, essential resources to support our livelihoods, soil for growing food, water for drinking, washing and fishing, mental rejuvenation, and habitat for wildlife. As we navigate the challenges of urbanisation, it i’s essential that we recognise the worth of these natural sanctuaries and actively work to preserve them for future generations.

‘Preserve’ showcases the inherent value of nature thriving amidst buildings, settlements and human activity in our cities. From scenes of green and blue spaces, to illustrations capturing the imagined future by youths, these captivating images and dillustrations by youths serve as a poignant reminder of the invaluable connection between urban nature and the well-being of future generations.

Let these photographs be an inspiration to protect and nurture our urban natural assets. Through mindful stewardship and a collective commitment to sustainability, we can ensure that these precious spaces continue to thrive. Together, we have the power to foster a harmonious coexistence between our cities and the natural world, creating a future in where urban landscapes are interconnected with vibrant ecosystems that enrich our everyday lives.

Illustrated map showing human and nature interactions in Cape Coast. Download here.

Illustrated map showing human and nature interactions in Bo City. Download here.

Waterwall by Philip Quaque School; first school in West Africa

Coastline activity protected by waterwall

Wooden bridge

Photovoice submission by Mary Boima, on behalf of Group 2

Bo City

Man outside Cape Coast Castle reflecting on ocean

Three trees in Fosu Lagoon

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Youth illustrations in response to the prompt: Visioning our future city in 50 years’ time

Conserve

‘Conserve’ brings to light the symbiotic relationship between humans and urban nature. These photographs draw our attention to the critical areas in our cities that need our dedicated protection. They are places where people connect, work, play, and find solace. However, in the wake of rapid urban development, these spaces are often overlooked or de-prioritised. It is clear that we, too, must extend our care and commitment to ensure that natural public space continues to exist. Urban nature is not just a backdrop to human existence; it’s a lifeline, a source of sustenance for both our communities and the environment.

Urban nature’s importance lies not only in its capacity to nurture us but also in its ability to empower communities and livelihoods, reduce pollution, and mitigate the impacts of climate change. It’s a reminder that as we care for nature, nature cares for us in return.

These images inspire us to pause and reflect on the ways in which we need to look after our vital natural assets. In many ways, conservation is not an option but a responsibility. Through our collective efforts, we can ensure that these urban natural assets survive and thrive, providing essential benefits for generations to come. When we care for nature, we care for ourselves, fostering healthier, happier communities and a more sustainable future.

Transport into the Mendekwei Community over broken bridge

Where clean cloths are hung

Water by ancestral mangrove tree shrine

Stream close to farm in Mendekwei community

Right to food 

Photovoice submission by Nana Ama Ewul and Nana Kwesi Egyin

Cape Coast

Chosen by the participants as the winning image.

Bo City photovoice workshop in Mendekwei Community 

Cape Coast photovoice workshop by Fosu Lagoon

Fishing activity ongoing at Fosu Lagoon

Photovoice submission by John

Cape Coast

Sand mining at the shore of Fosu Lagoon

Photovoice submission by John

Cape Coast

 

Moving by foot to carry wares for sale close to the water wall.

Tinker

‘Tinker’ urges us to embrace the power of community-driven imagination, experimentation and resilience in shaping our urban landscapes. This collection of images captured by residents of both Bo City and Cape Coast, confronts the spaces that demand our collective involvement to forge a brighter, more sustainable future. Tinkering demands our resourcefulness, creativity, and the determination of individuals who recognise the potential for change.

Urban nature is both the canvas and catalyst for tinkerers to utilise available tools and resources to address challenges. These photographs capture the spirit and insights of those who are actively nurturing natural assets in the face of rapid urbanisation, land use change and climate threats. By prioritising urban natural assets, we are not simply preserving nature; we are investing in our own resilience and a brighter future for all.

To tinker means to constantly explore, try, seek the new, the possible, the small seed that can grow wider change. Let these images inspire you to become a tinkerer in your own community. Dispose of waste responsibly, plant a seed, volunteer for a local environmental project, clean your waterways, raise awareness of the importance of urban nature and collaborate with neighbours to breathe new life into forgotten or exploited natural spaces. 

The future is in our hands, and through collective action, we can transform our urban environments, one small effort at a time, creating a legacy of harmony and joy with nature.

Make your commitment

The value of urban nature in cities | Urban Natural Assets for Africa: Resilience & restoration 

Thank you to the committed city officials of the Cape Coast Municipal Assembly and the Bo City Council who have worked tirelessly alongside the ICLEI Africa team, to co-create and co-design the UNA Resilience programme into what it is today.

Thank you to the Bo City and Cape Coast community members who have participated in and contributed their invaluable perspectives to the UNA Resilience programme since 2021. Without your unique insights into your cities, this exhibition would not be possible. Thank you to the creative and courageous youth who shared their exciting visions for their cities. Your drawings have inspired us to commit to actions that preserve, conserve and tinker for a more sustainable urban future.

Thank you to our generous funder SwedBio for trusting the UNA programme and its process over the last decade.

Stay in the loop

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Our cities and regions across the continent are gearing up to make their voices heard loud and clear at COP28, through a range of interventions, stressing the urgent need to scale up a rigorous all-of-economy, all-of-society approach which leads to urgent and significant climate action this decade.