MARCH 2022

Regenerative Food Park: Integrating agriculture, waste-water recycling, flood adaptation, and informality to leverage equitable socio-economic and environmental livelihoods for Akaki indigenous community.

Eleni Stefania is a New York-based Architect and Urban Designer (M Sc in Architecture & Urban Design/Columbia GSAPP’20), focused on the interactions between water bodies and urbanism as well as the regeneration of de-industrialized landscapes through living infrastructure. A people-first approach drives her work, consonant with the deep context of a place, its scale, its materiality, its broader environmental-socio political, and economic agendas, and flexible to adapt to long-term future growth.

Regenerative Food Park envisions stormwater management landscapes and new urbanism typologies that promote new integrated living experiences that synthesize ecological restoration (through water retention and remediation processes for sanitation provision and wellbeing for the indigenous underserved community) while promoting sustainable domestic experiences and socio-economic relationships with connected productive ecologies for improved livelihoods for all the indigenous residents.

Project Statement                                                                                                                                                

The degradation that the Akaki Territory (focus area) is facing, is mainly due to spatial, environmental, and socio-economic issues (spontaneous settlements’ overcrowding due to the migration that spurs Addis Ababa’s rapid growth over the last two decades, low civic water quality due to the sewage pollution of the riverway system and displacement due to the “Beautifying Sheger” Riverside Green Development Project that the Ethiopian Government initiated aiming for rapid touristic and economic growth potential).

The project envisions a new co-op scheme to sustain and implement a new land-occupying framework that restores the water-based ecologies, economies, and cultural practices of the indigenous community in order to promote a mutually beneficial framework of touristic development for both the local ecologies and the people (city government and the indigenous residents) that co-exist in the territory, instead of an augmented displacement strategy and relocation to high-density public housing clusters that the government plan suggests

This new land-occupying framework is a new public space plan (Low ground, Middle ground, and High ground strategy) along the riverbed that integrates agriculture, waste-water recycling, flood adaptation, and informality to leverage equitable socio-economic and environmental livelihoods for the Akaki’s indigenous community.

The backbone of this new public space plan is a series of interconnected hydraulic buffers and topographic manipulations (spines of vacant territories, agricultural terraces, water retention, and processing ponds and safe-ground-bands for new settlements that anchor in their lower part from the riparian water zone and extend to their peak perpendicular to the riverbed towards Addis Ababa’s hinterland) that render visible the process of waste-water treatment while supplying multi-functional public spaces for integrated socio-economic and environmental possibilities.

The hierarchy of these topographic manipulations and hydraulic buffers is associated with their proximity to either the bottom of the peak of the riverbed that hosts all the adaptive landscape infrastructure (initial treatment bio-basins, secondary treatment terraces integrated with community closed-loop agriculture lots, maturation tanks) that accommodates the whole wastewater purification process next to the social gathering open space network, the income-generating landscapes and the new housing arrangements.

In the lower part of these hierarchical topographic manipulations more income-generating functions (seasonal trade and commerce) are hosted along with the water retention ponds, the maturation tanks and the new accessible public open space network (Bio-Park) integrated with the adaptive to inundation settlement arrangement (elevated single-family housing on stilts typology), while closer to the peak more wilderness, recycling,  educational and training functions (waste recycling and eco-construction skills training infrastructure) are hosted next to the water harvesting and purification infrastructure (urban street purification ravine, initial wastewater treatment bio-basins, retention ponds and emergency tanks for excess stormwater storage during the rainy season supplying the community’s permaculture irrigation purposes during the dry season) integrated with the high-ground settlement arrangement (on-the ground single-family housing with ground floor retail or small-scale manufacturing space facing the commercial street and rainwater harvesting collectors facing the backyard of each house) , allowing for the community’s agricultural production functions (crop terraces and orchards) to be located in the expanded zone in-between the lower part and the peak along with the larger public space network (community events spaces and plazas) integrated with the middle ground settlement arrangement ( flexible multi-family housing typology with connections through skybridges for circulation and public space opportunities ).



[Amenity confluence and Job Hubs]

At each intersection between these three hierarchical topographic manipulations (low ground, middle ground, and high ground topographic manipulation) with the major road network, a new amenity confluence and a job hub are located integrating working landscapes and structures (public toilets, kitchens, daycare facilities, classrooms/training spaces) for water retention, permaculture, water-based ecological restoration and linked open space creation. Three amenity confluences and job hub clusters are envisioned: the cultural confluence (low-ground zone), the agricultural confluence (middle-ground zone), the wilderness confluence (high-ground zone).

Cultural confluence: It reshapes the topography (Bio-Park) for flood mitigation, seasonal floriculture production-trade and commerce, wastewater recycling, and socio-economic infrastructure (flood-adaptive floriculture market, leisure and vendor platforms, elevated Jacaranda groves as touristic attractions along with placemaking)

Agricultural confluence: It accommodates diverse grading options for new terrace-formation for agricultural production, alley cropping (native crops and orchards), food processing infrastructure, culinary and farming-innovation education facilities, water conservation, community events space, and place-making through the selection of agave plants as identity markers.

Wilderness confluence: It stabilizes the riverbanks, stores rainwater for potable community use, restores the native vegetation, and links it with the nearby Acacia grove ecosystem while offering new socio-economic opportunities through the proposed waste recycling facility, the eco-construction training infrastructure, and the network of touristic paths, gathering shaded spaces and viewing platforms.

[ Long-term Vision]

By utilizing Akaki Territory as a pilot intervention, more spontaneous urbanization arrangements can be preserved, strengthening the socio-economic and environmental capital for Addis Ababa.

[Project Credits]


  1. Fitsum Anley Gelaye, “Converging Intentions, Diverging Realities: Rights vs, Growth-based Approaches to Safe Sanitation Provision in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia“(M.Sc. Thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2018).
  2. Felix Heisel and Bisrat Kifle, “Lessons of Informality: Architecture and Urban Planning for Emerging Territories-Concepts from Ethiopia” (Applied Research and Design,2016).

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