You need courage to start working on a continent you do not know during the coronavirus crisis. Urban research and design studio Defacto was brave enough to take on this challenge. Since this spring, the company has been looking at ways to reduce both drought and flooding in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.
Defacto and its partners won the tender to carry out this basic feasibility study, which the World Bank financed. Founder and director of Defacto, Anne Loes Nillesen, shares her experiences.
The value of a good government network
Defacto had already carried out urban improvement projects in Asia and America, but not yet in Africa. They wanted to win the project in Kigali. That is why the company went looking for the right information with its partners HKV, Royal HaskoningDHV and Ecorys.
They contacted the Dutch embassy in Washington and the International Organisations Team (TIO) from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency for help. Defacto was already in contact with both. Together, they looked at how this specific project could work. TIO organised an online meeting. During the meeting, the Dutch embassy in Rwanda gave tips on how to approach the project.
Green ambitions for Kigali
Defacto wrote a project proposal on ways to improve the city of Kigali. The proposal focuses on nature-based solutions to make Kigali greener and a better place to live. One of the solutions is to slow down rainwater flows and collect them. This helps to prevent flooding and provides drinking water for farm animals. Also, letting the water filter into the soil makes it less dry.
The new situation is a challenge
The project is taking shape very quickly. Defacto, its partners and the local partners in Kigali have to decide in very little time. This is a challenge, as they cannot meet in person due to the coronavirus. “Looking for locations from a different country is an interesting experience. In a new project, visiting the locations is normally the first thing you do,” says Anne Loes Nillesen.
Thankfully, there is no delay. Normally, local partners commit to the project during a visit to the location. This time, they committed online. “Our urban planners play a big role in this social project. That is why we really hope to see our plan carried out,” says Anne Loes. Defacto and its partners will suggest nature-based solutions for 8 locations.
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