Dr Sumetee Pahwa Gajjar
Sumetee is a Senior Researcher with the PlanAdapt Coordination Hub, and a Climate Co-Adaptation Lab Fellow. She is based in Cape Town, South Africa.
Sumetee has worked for more than 20 years in research and capacity building domains, with a focus on public administration, urban management and public leadership towards sustainable development. Sumetee has more than a decade’s experience in policy advocacy and research on climate change adaptation and ecosystems-based solutions, towards just outcomes in urban areas.
She collaborates with multiple institutions, across the spectrum of research, practice and civil society, to understand the role of Nature-based Solutions, in reducing social-ecological vulnerability, to climate change impacts in cities of the Global South. She has led and contributed to teaching and knowledge co-production on urban resilience planning, climate justice, and transformative climate adaptation, with a Global South focus, as Lead Practice with the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (2012-2017), and since 2020, as a PlanAdapt Fellow and Co-ordination Hub member.
Through the fellowship of the Climate Co-Adaptation Lab, and while collaborating with individuals for diverse cultural and professional backgrounds, Sumetee has engaged in a range of research and technical assistance projects, for numerous international organisations such as the Adaptation Research Alliance (ARA), International Centre for Climate Change Adaptation and Development (ICCCAD), International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), SouthSouthNorth (SSN) and Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). These collaborations have been underpinned with the imperative to co-produce and communicate practice-led and impact-focused knowledge, in the domain of climate change adaptation research. Building upon her two-decade experience in capacity building, and international collaborations, Sumetee is currently the Co-Principal Investigator & PlanAdapt Lead of the CLARE Capacity Strengthening Hub (since July 2023), in partnership with ACTS, Kenya (African Centre for Technology Studies).
As a member of the FEBA Urban EbA Working Group, since March 2020, Sumetee is part of a diverse community of researchers and practitioners, from various organisations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), International Rainwater Harvesting Alliance (IRHA), Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI), ICLEI, Integrated Design (Inde), India and members of the donor community, such as the Global EbA Fund, towards knowledge production and fund raising. At the same time, there have been targeted and outcome-focused engagements with a range of civil society organisations such as SDI, Kenya; Mahila Housing Trust, India and pro-poor food growers in Cape Town. Ongoing academic and knowledge collaborations exist with the CDKN; South African Institute for International Affairs (SAIIA); Centre for Sustainability Transitions (CST) at Stellenbosch University; Africa Cities Centre (ACC), African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI), Climate Science Analytics Group (CSAG) and Environmental and Social Geographical (ESG) Sciences Department at University of Cape Town; the Indian Institute for Human Settlements; the Indian School of Business; Dresden University, Germany; University of Maryland, USA; The Nature Conservancy; University of Exeter, UK.
In 2014 & 2015, Sumetee developed and taught programmes on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction at IIHS; and lead the production of a working paper on Urban Resilience Planning, based on the training. Prior to doctoral studies, developed and taught programmes to government officials and policymakers, on the topic of integrated development planning and public policy, in the sphere of local government, in South Africa.
Sumetee led the IIHS team for ASSAR (Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions) consortium, part of the CARIAA Research Programme (Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia) from 2014-2016. This involved building an interdisciplinary team, reviewing knowledge outputs and representing ASSAR at various knowledge platforms, national conferences and international events.
Sumetee has delivered lectures on Nature-based Solutions; Ecosystems-based Adaptation; and Sustainable Design. She has lectured at Indian and South African universities and colleges, most recently at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Sumetee has also written technical reports on peak oil, energy access, corporate sustainability and climate change policy with the Sustainability Institute, Stellenbosch, South Africa. She has contributed photo-essays and scientific blogs to The Wire, the India Water Portal, and The Nature of Cities, reflecting on the practical role of nature and ecosystem services in the normative goal of urban resilience.
Sumetee holds a PhD in Public Development and Management from the School of Public Leadership, University of Stellenbosch (US), South Africa (Scholarship from the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies, US). She also holds a Master of Science degree in Project Management (Best Student Award) by University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa and a Bachelor of Architecture (First Class) degree, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, India.
Sumetee led PlanAdapt’s work in the following projects and initiatives:
- PlanAdapt and ACTS host the CLARE Capacity Strengthening Hub
- What Does it Take to Bridge the Gap between Adaptation Research and Action? – A Review of Good Practice in the Global South
- Making the Case for Action-Oriented Research on Climate Adaptation – Evidence Review
- Ecosystem-Based Flood Risk Management – A Lasting Solution to Perennial Flooding
Sumetee contributed to PlanAdapt’s work in the following projects and initiatives:
- Boosting Impact of Climate Research Through Effective Knowledge Brokering
- Socially Just and Adaptive Community Spaces in Poor Urban Settlements in India and Colombia
- Climate Justice for People and Nature through Urban Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) – A focus on the Global South
- Resilient Governance Regimes That Support Urban Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Cities: Learning From Local Challenges