Green infrastructure for health promotion within informal neighbourhoods in Lagos and Akure, Nigeria
 PrincipaI Investigator:

Dr Olumuyiwa Adegun, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria


University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria


This project deals with health-related impacts of urban green infrastructure at the neighbourhood level in low-income informal communities within Lagos and Akure, Nigeria. It adopts an integrated approach for knowledge co-production, with the aim of showing how urban greening can reduce disease burdens among low-income households within informal neighbourhoods.

The project extended core objectives of SHLC by:

  1. Extending SHLC’s work into a new geographical context – two Nigerian cities, in this case by undertaking neighbourhood level research on green infrastructure and health in informal urban areas.
  2. Enhancing capacity of researchers, especially early-career researchers and post-graduate students who actively participated in the various project activities.
  3. Fostering transdisciplinarity (collaboration with non-academic stakeholders), interdisciplinarity (across the urban/spatial and health disciplines) and networking among researchers involved and/or connected to the project activities.
Lagos, Nigeria. Credit: Flickr, Andrew Moore
Lagos, Nigeria. Credit: Flickr, Andrew Moore


The specific objectives at the project’s onset were:

  1. To understand the links between green infrastructure and the health of poor residents in informal neighbourhoods. For instance, what does proximity to/presence of a wetland mean for disease (communicable and non-communicable) prevalence among residents? How does the absence of green spaces (e.g. parks, street trees) affect residents psychologically and physiologically? What are the direct and indirect links between presence or absence of domestic/communal gardens and nutritional lifestyle?
  2. To show ‘how’ neighbourhoods can move from status quo to the desirable state – through co-production of what will improve health outcomes in relation to green spaces and natural ecosystems.

These objectives changed slightly in the course of the project. The first objective (1) was devolved into two. The study first sought to understand the level of green infrastructure (GI) available/adoption and factors related to these. It then explored the links between green infrastructure and health burdens, with the burdens categorised into communicable diseases (CD) and non-communicable diseases (NCD). A summary of preliminary analysis presented in the Outcomes section below shows results indicating how these objectives were achieved.

For the second initial objective, the ‘how’ was implicitly achieved. The project revealed the absence of GI and indicates what might be advanced to promote health and other benefits.

Contributions to challenges in low and middle-income countries (LMICs)

The burden of diseases and public health challenges within informal neighbourhoods in cities within developing countries is high and represents an intersection of complex challenges. Nigeria provides a fitting example, and offers opportunity to address the challenges through an integrated approach. This project involved three main activities.

  1. Stakeholders’ forums

Two formal stakeholder engagement events were held. The first was held in Akure in May 2021. The second was held in Lagos in June 2021. Both events involved the participation of several local stakeholders (See Local Involvement section below). The two activities offered the opportunity for co-production of knowledge between actors from the urban planning, health and non-governmental sectors in both cities.

  1. Training on data collection

In preparation for collection of data, the project team provided capacity development for young researchers who had agreed to be involved in this phase of the project. Two meetings were held to train up to 16 postgraduate students who later assisted with data collection. The postgraduate students involved were 8 PhD and 8 Masters students conducting research in fields related to Architecture, Geography and Urban Planning.

  1. Data collection and analysis

This activity primarily addressed collection of data through the research instrument (a questionnaire). The instrument was co-produced, that is, its iteration took place through discussions with non-academic actors during the stakeholders’ events and informal meetings between the PI and some stakeholders individually.

The research instrument was used in the survey conducted. It engaged up to 1435 residents within informal neighbourhoods in Akure and Lagos.


The project involved data collection on green infrastructure and health burdens across three informal neighbourhoods, 2 in Lagos and 1 in Akure. In total, 1435 residents were engaged through a survey. The following preliminary results were derived from the field study.

  • The presence of GI within the informal neighbourhoods studied is low. Notable GI components at the household dwelling scale within the areas are gardens, shrubs/grasses within 6m radius, creeping plants, trees within site, and green road verges.
  • At the neighbourhood level, over 40% of residents live within 2km distance to a wetland, while only 4.79% make frequent visits to parks. Only 2.68% of these visits are done daily/weekly.
  • Health burdens are present. The prominent communicable diseases are skin rashes, cholera, malaria, typhoid and dysentery, while the prominent non-communicable diseases are hypertension, diabetes and asthma. Over 70% reported problems with malaria, followed by typhoid at 20%.
  • So far, the analysis suggests a correlation between the presence of GI and malaria occurrence within the neighbourhoods. The quality of existing GI might be responsible for this. No correlation is yet established between GI and aspects of mental health.

These results point to areas where interventions can be made so that the desired change is achieved. Clearly, it shows the need to develop GI and maintain existing ones. Future projects will attempt piloting absent GI components at the site/dwelling scale. This appears to offer a low-cost, ‘do-it-yourself’ opportunity to effect change from the bottom up.

Project Outputs

Deliverables being processed from the project are:

  • A publication plan has been developed. Two scientific articles in two peer-reviewed journals are being developed. The targeted journals are – Health and Place (published by Elsevier) and Urban Studies (published by SAGE). The Urban Studies article will be part of a Special Issue dealing with ‘just environmental futures in cities’.
  • An open editorial in Conversation Africa and Policy Briefs will follow completion of the peer-reviewed publications. The policy brief will be directed at local level stakeholders (NGOs, community leaders) to address greening opportunities for healthy slums.
  • Through stakeholder engagement, which involved representatives of the state, the team was able to create awareness and inform areas where policies and programmes can be improved. This relates to areas of greening, development control within informal neighbourhoods, house numbering (to enhance contact-tracing) in quasi-formal areas and so on. Newspaper and local radio station covered and reported one of the events. This raised awareness to the greater public.
  • The team provided capacity building for up to 20 early-career academics and postgraduate students involved.

Local Involvement

This project involved engagement with non-academic stakeholders from

  1. Government ministries – Lagos Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA)/Ministry of Physical Planning & Urban Development; Ondo State Ministry of Environment; Ondo State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development; Ondo State Epidemiology Office.
  2. NGO/Community Organisations – Nigerian Federation of Slums/Informal Settlements; Kids and Teens Resources Centre; Nigerian Conservation Foundation; Centre for Effective Community Environment.

The stakeholders came together for discussion on the project. This was held in Akure (May 2021) and Lagos (June 2021). A total of 26 people participated in the Akure event, out of which 11 were non-academic stakeholders. In Lagos, 33 people attended the event, out of which 19 were non-academic stakeholders.

With presentations from the core disciplines/stakeholder domains (health, urban planning, civil society) within the research theme and subsequent discussion, the forum was able to identify policy gaps and opportunities, especially low-hanging fruit. A practical example was the need to improve enumeration, profiling, and house numbering within informal neighbourhoods to make contact tracing easy when communicable diseases are detected. The forum also helped to raise awareness. Apart from these issues and items, the stakeholder events involved discussion that shaped the research instrument used for the survey.

Some of the stakeholders were involved with data collection within the communities serving as study areas. The stakeholders are expected to participate in further interpretations, analysis, and possible implementation of relevant research results. For example, implementation of relevant greening initiatives might happen through possible future projects which are offshoots from this research.

Future Activities

There are two main activities envisaged going forward. The team believes these activities can build on gains from the activities held. The first is that, after completing and publishing peer-reviewed articles from the research, they hope to write one open editorial and policy brief presenting the results and their practical implications. The second activity aims at expanding exposure to integrated research for knowledge co-production beyond the early-career team members and postgraduate students who participated in the project. They hope to host a training event for PhD students to address their often-siloed approach to knowledge production. The proposed training seeks to build capacity of doctoral students regarding transdisciplinary (TD) research, stakeholder engagements and communicating with non-academic audiences.

Capacity Strengthening

The research and project activities involved different levels and aspects of capacity strengthening among the direct and indirect participants. These include:

Capacity building for the researchers: In this case, the principal investigators and early-career researchers involved were the main beneficiaries. They gained experience and exposure through the integrated/transdisiciplinary research approach. A core team member and female PhD student reflected on her experience:

“The project has enhanced my research competences in terms of the conceptualisation of research ideas and general conduct of research.  The methodological approach adopted for the project gave me an opportunity to actively engage relevant stakeholders and enlarged my interdisciplinary research network”.

Another team member reported:

“Participating in the project as a PhD student has been of immense benefit to my research work […]. Planning the workshops both in Akure and Lagos presented the opportunity of knowing and meeting key stakeholders including professionals and representatives of these informal areas…conducting participatory research especially one that requires collaboration in future can be done based on knowledge gained from the project. I was also able to improve my presentation skills during the workshops.”

Generally, the core team improved their skills for working with non-academic stakeholders.

Home institution: The project host institution, Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) evidently strengthened its ‘town-gown’ relationships. It enhanced the university’s continual desire to conduct research that impacts society. Through the work in the project, and acknowledged by the Vice-Chancellor, the institution enhanced its relationship with government agencies and non-governmental organisations. It also strengthened partnership with other institutions, in this case the FUTA-UNILAG relationship through the project.

The organisational affiliation of the non-academic stakeholders also benefited. For example, the NGO acknowledged the relevance of the research and sought opportunities for future collaboration on projects. After the stakeholder forum held in May 2021, the NGO’s team contacted the project Principal Investigator (Dr Adegun) to contribute a 5-minute commentary related to the project at a local FM radio station. This commentary was incorporated into the annual World Environment Day activities held in June 2021.