Cornelius Okello, PhD. is a Research Scientist from Kenya passionate about environmental issues, specifically climate change and freshwater resources. He is currently the Chairman and Lecturer at the Department of Environmental Sciences, Machakos University. He has a doctorate graduate from University of Cadiz (Spain) and University of Bologna (Italy) in Marine and Coastal Management where he wrote a thesis on the impact of climate change and developmental activities on freshwater resources along the Kenyan coastal town of Lamu. He draws his inspiration from the water resources in water scare Kenya that are further exacerbated by climate change, whose impacts are felt especially severely around the Horn of Africa. He has experience in teaching, research, management projects, environmental impact assessments and audits, and working in multicultural organisations. He has authored several articles in scientific peer-reviewed journals, credited as first author of three of them, with further author credits in three UNEP publications.

The Global Center on Adaptation and ARUA-CD 20/20 Adaptation Professionals Programme provided him with the ideal opportunity to pursue his career objectives of carrying out research on the water sector’s adaptation to climate change, particularly in coastal areas. He is currently carried out a study titled “Natural Infrastructure Enhancement for Climate Change Adaptation Interventions in Kenya’s Tana River Delta Water Sector”. The Tana Delta falls within the Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests biodiversity hotspot. It is found at the end of the Tana River’s nearly 1 000 km trek from the foothills of Mount Kenya to the Indian Ocean, through a large floodplain of wetlands, riverine forests, woodlands, bushlands, fresh and brackish lakes, estuaries, mangroves and grasslands. Water resources management in the Delta is likely to be more difficult than under changing climatic conditions. To build resilience, water resource managers need to adapt to changing conditions; increased flows but also greater variability. There are several hard-and soft-infrastructure technical solutions that are being pursued in many delta cities as part of their climate change adaptation measures.

This project investigates the use of the green‐ blue infrastructure, a method that utilises natural features (vegetation, soils, and natural ecosystem processes) to manage water and provide other environmental and community benefits using plants and vegetation. Green‐blue infrastructure helps reduce coastal risk by strengthening coastal protective barriers (i.e. sand dunes and beaches), storing water (i.e. lakes and water basins), and providing a buffer between the sea and urban settlements (i.e. mangroves, wetlands). It can also help slow or store storm water runoff (i.e. green-blue corridors, bioswales, green rooftops), replenish groundwater tables (i.e. permeable green areas) and reduce the heat-island effect (i.e. parks and other green public areas). Therefore, it not only has direct adaptation and greenhouse gas absorption benefits, but also provides numerous co-benefits.

The specific aim of this project is to explore and recommend the best green-blue infrastructure approaches that can be used to address climate change related issues in the Tana Delta. The project entails a deep-dive into literature on existing adaptation initiatives in the Tana Delta to draw existing gaps, lessons learned. It also entails interviews with stakeholders involved in the adaptation. The project further attempts to provide recommendations for effective climate change adaptation using natural assets to enhance water resilience. It will also contribute to the broader work on water resilience, including outreach amongst experts and public engagement, while building the literature on specific experiences in the Tana Delta, with the potential to upscale the lessons learned to other regions. The project is part of the Bold Idea that aims on changing and coordinating the planning, design, and procurement of resilient water systems, and will contribute specifically in the “Delta Coalition 2.0” action area. The project focuses on two areas of the Bold Idea, i.e. delta management and urban water resilience. The report generated from this project will also be part of the “State of the Deltas” Synthesis Report.

So far, a desk research on the Tana Delta, rate of urbanization, status of water resources and potential impacts of climate change has been conducted. Further, interviews with key stakeholders in selected programmes have been conducted. Through these, suitable adaptation measures applicable in the Delta and deep-dive into existing interventions currently being undertaken have been identified. By the conclusion of the project, recommendations to both existing and planned interventions to ensure water resilience while identify entry points GCA in existing programmes will be presented in the final report.
The project is on a part-time basis scheduled for three months starting from April 2020. However, due to delays caused by COVID-19, the project has been extended for a further 3 months to the end of December 2020. The final report will be submitted before it is used as part of the States of the Deltas Synthesis Report in 2021.