Posts for Accra | Old Fadama

Turning Waste into Profit: Ghana Visits Cape Town's Recycling Programme

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Ghana & SA Waste Management Exchange

By Chantal Hildebrand, SDI Secretariat 

As part of their initiatives to improve the sanitation situation in the slums of Accra, Ghana, a delegation of four members of the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor (GHAFUP) – Haruna Abu, Janet Abu, Imoro Toyibu and Naa Ayeley – participated in a learning exchange to Cape Town, South Africa to learn more about the waste management initiative underway in the settlements of Cape Town. Painting a picture of the waste and sanitation situation in the slums of Accra, Ghana, Janet Adu, a member of GHAFUP, described the discarded plastic bags and other trash littering the narrow pathways of Ghana’s slum communities, adding to the already poor sanitation situation. To begin addressing this issue, GHAFUP and People’s Dialogue Ghana began brainstorming about waste management programmes that will clean up the slums while simultaneously generating income for the Federation.

The Blue Sky Solid Waste Management Company is the business side of the waste-management facilities. The initiative operates out of the offices of Sizakuyenza, a small community based NGO that originated from the FEDUP health network’s cleaning programme. Starting as a small initiative, with volunteer slum dwellers sorting waste for a small income, the initiative has grown into a completely self-sustaining programme with about 400 volunteer community trash collectors, or waste pickers, from various informal settlements across Cape Town who sort through waste to collect recyclables.

The sorted waste is then collected through the initiative’s mobile buy-back programme in which two pickup trucks manned Blue Sky drivers pick up the collected waste from various settlements around Cape Town, paying the pickers cash upon pickup for their recyclables. After another sorting at the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management facilities, the waste is sold to buyers and recycling companies.  Using the profits made from these business transactions, the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management programme pays the pickers for their trash collection, salaries for the workers that run the company while also revolving the remaining profits back into the programme to sustain it and maintain its facilities. 

Over the two-day exchange, the Ghana delegates focused their attention on the business side of the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management programme: observing the market opportunities in waste collection and recycling, meeting with local pickers in the Bengali community, learning waste sorting techniques and how to build relationships with recycling companies. The days were split into two sections: 1) interactions with the buyers and learning the market and 2) interacting with the pickers and how this activity has helped slum communities around Cape Town.

Day 1:

Day one of the visit fell on the day Blue Sky Solid Waste Management meets with buyers to sell the recyclable material that the pickers collected throughout the week, giving the Ghanaians an opportunity to learn the values of various recyclable goods. As explained by Mr. John Mckerry, team leader at Blue Sky, certain companies are looking for certain types of waste, which is why it is so important to look at the market opportunities in your city before beginning a recycling program. This way the federation can be well informed on what types of materials companies are looking for in order to generate the most income. 

Ghana & SA Waste Management Exchange

Following a lively discussion inside, Mr. Mckerry and Mr. Gershwin Kohler, the project consultant for the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management programme took the group on a quick tour of the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management facilities. They described the structure of staff and participants in the programme and identified the various types of waste collected and how it is sorted and its value (per kilo).

After the tour, the Ghana delegates joined Mr. Mckerry, Mr. Kohler and two of the of the Sky Blue waste collectors. Together the group visited waste companies such as S.A.B.S., where the Blue Sky staff negotiated and sold the collected and sorted waste. Through these interactions, the delegates were able to witness the market opportunities for recyclable goods in South Africa and compare these prices to the Ghana values.

Ghana & SA Waste Management Exchange

Mr. Gershwin Kohler discusses the value of glass recyclables. 

Day 2:

Waking bright and early on a Saturday morning, the delegation met with the Bengali community where community pickers had begun the work of collecting and sorting waste. As explained by Mr. Kohler the day before, “their job is to collect garbage and they focus on what they want to collect.” Some participate in the programme once in a while to generate some extra income for themselves and their families; for others this is a full time job, picking and sorting daily in order to make as much profit as possible. Furthermore, there are some people who choose to only collect one or two types of waste (e.g. plastic bottles and newspaper), while others collect and sort whatever types of waste they know Blue Sky might be interested in. When the sun has reached its highest point the pickers’ day of work is complete, though there are some dedicated individuals who will continue through the afternoon.

Upon collection by the mobile buy-back truck, the pickers’ collections are weighed separately to determine payment  - paid by the kilo for paper, crushed glass, cardboard, plastics, etc. or paid by each whole plastic or glass bottle collected. Pickers are informed of the different rates for each type of waste collected and the importance of sorting waste before collection. Each individual’s collection is recorded to maintain accurate data collection and minimize conflict between people. Pickers are then paid for their collection, no matter how little or big the amount collected.  

Ghana & SA Waste Management Exchange

Mr. John McKerry describes the process of collecting, sorting and selling recyclables. 

Providing a job opportunity within the slums of Cape Town, the waste management programme motivates people to participate as pickers to sustain their livelihoods; however, this programme has also helped clean up the slums, creating a cleaner and healthier community environment. Simply put by Mr. Kohler, “[slum communities] become reverse supplier of raw materials.”

Throughout the exchange, the Ghana delegates brainstormed the aspects of the Blue Sky programme that would be applicable to their planned project in Ghana. This is not the first waste management programme for GHAFUP. Having started a waste project in Old Fadama, the largest slum in Accra, the Ghana federation has already begun to address the slum’s sanitation and waste issues. Thinking on a larger scale, GHAFUP began planning how to scale up the project in Old Fadama and create an income generating aspect of the programme in order to sustain the project and add to the general funds of the federation.

Using the lessons learned from the Blue Skye Solid Waste Management programme in Cape Town, the Ghana delegates took ideas from the process used in Cape Town to adapt to their situation in Accra. As stated by the team in their exchange report, “the system of waste management [in Cape Town] is different from Ghana because they buy the waste from the household/pickers.” 

The Cape Town programme’s mission is to mobilise slum communities around recycling and waste collection, demonstrating the benefits of clean communities and how participating in this programme can help generate income for individuals/families.

According to the delegation, GHAFUP is planning to manage and run the solid waste management programme as a service for slum communities in Accra, where federation members act as pickers, from the picking and waste collection to building relationships and selling to recycling companies in the Accra area so as to generate income and sustain the project.  The funds from this project can also help finance some of the federation’s other activities if possible.

Following Mr. Kohler’s advice to “start in your on house”, the Ghana delegates plan to begin the project amongst themselves. Collecting, sorting and recycling materials in their own households, GHAFUP will begin mobilising and educating other slum dwellers around recycling and waste management. While doing this, GHAFUP members will begin researching the recycling industry in Ghana; identifying the waste that has a market – keeping in mind that the market values will fluctuate – and beginning to build relationships with potential buyers. However, the main outcome highlighted by the Ghana team was that the exchange “encouraged [GHAFUP] to act as a community on waste management,” which is the main lesson the Ghana delegates plan to share with their fellow slum dwellers in Ghana.


Beyond Participation: SDI Showcases Partnership Models at AfriCities Conference

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

AfriCities 2012

SDI delegates take part in a reflection on the Land, Services and Citizenship Project hosted by Cities Alliance at Africities


By George Masimba, Dialogue on Shelter, Zimbabwe 

The recent Afri-Cities conference was held in Dakar, Senegal and took place under the theme - ‘Building Africa from its territories: which challenges for local governments’. About 5 000 delegates from African cities and beyond converged in the coastal  city of Dakar to deliberate issues confronting modern African cities. The concept of territory in the theme referred to, among other things, exploring the role of Africa’s institutions and resources as major components for catalyzing the growth of the continent. In particular, the focus was centered on the local government sphere as a critical institutional space for mediating development processes. This year, Slum Dwellers International (SDI) was able to send a delegation consisting of five countries (South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) accompanied by Mayors from cities where affiliates have established strong links. Through their presentations, the five country affiliates highlighted how they had escalated their engagement with their respective to the brokering of meaningful agreements and equal partnerships.

The session titled ‘Strategies for people’s participation and citizenship’ saw Ghana, Uganda and Zimbabwe sharing experiences from their countries on the topic. The Zimbabwean delegation presented the Harare Slum Upgrading Project that is being jointly implemented with the City of Harare as an example of how a partnership had evolved out of a precedent-setting slum improvement project. The presenters narrated how the relationship had evolved first through land allocations that supported community participation to more equal relationships grounded and firmed up with memorandums of agreements. In Harare, it was noted that the slum upgrading project had not only improved slum conditions but more significantly had provided a site to test alternative solutions to the challenges that slum dwellers face in slums. Construction of ecological sanitation units (ecosan toilets) under the project, for instance, was one such alternative that the partners were able to pilot in the Dzivarasekwa Extension settlement where previously families had to rely on pit-latrines.

Besides testing practical solutions, the Harare Slum Upgrading Project has also enabled the City of Harare and the alliance of Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and Dialogue on Shelter to develop a slum upgrading strategy for the city, undertake a review of the building regulations and explore the establishment of a city-wide pro-poor slum upgrading finance facility. The upgrading strategy now acts as a protocol detailing a set of procedures for dealing with slums. Additionally, the city-wide slum upgrading fund initiative was an important step in innovating joint funding mechanisms that combine city and communities resources. These activities were reported as significant milestones in addressing the systemic causes underlying the emergence of slums in the city.

AfriCities 2012

Mayor of Harare officially launching a book at the Cities Alliance booth at the Africities Conference in Dakar, Senegal


In Ghana, the presenters from the alliance of Ghana Federation and People’s Dialogue related their interaction with local government indicating how this had birthed very strong partnerships. The Ghana experience centered on the Land, Services and Citizenship (LSC) program, a 3-year project targeting mobilization of savings groups, community infrastructure, profiling, mapping and organization of city-wide forums. Under the first phase of LSC 18 slum settlements have been mapped and profiled in two cities and a memorandum of understanding signed with Ashaiman Municipal Assembly. A Project Implementation Team (PIT) has been set to jointly oversee the implementation of project activities. Municipal Assembly staff provides technical assistance to anchor the profiling and mapping activities while local councilors support Federation groups around community mobilization efforts. It is through such projects that interactions with city governments have been changed from undertaking once-off projects were communities simply participate to carrying out partnership projects with enduring results that alter relations and increase the scope for going to scale. 

The SDI delegation from Uganda was supported by the Mayor of Mbale, the Presidential Advisor on Poverty Alleviation and the Commissioner of Urban Development from the local government ministry. In Uganda, central government, local governments and urban poor communities have been brought together around the ‘Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU) project. Like its Ghanaian counterpart, TSUPU is also supported by Cities Alliance and aims to: establish urban forums at various tiers of government, develop city development strategies, undertake mapping and enumeration of slums and set up community upgrading funds. 

The Ugandan presentation centered on the TSUPU project, which is being undertaken in the cities of Mbale, Jinja, Arua, Mbarara and Kabale. In three of these cities, (Mbale, Jinja and Arua) MOUs have been signed with urban forums having been set up. These forums are community-wide development platforms that rally together all urban stakeholders. During the session, the Mayor of Mbale commended the Ugandan Alliance’s achievements and committed continued support to the Federation.

The next session in which SDI participated centred around the Know Your City Project (KYC), also supported by Cities Alliance. The panelists for this session were from the Zambian SDI Alliance, Lusaka City Council’s Director of Planning, the Mayor of Kitwe, the Mayor of Ndola, the Mayor of Harare and the representatives from Burkina Faso. The Zambian presentation commenced with the Lusaka City Council outlining the background and context of slums in Lusaka. It was indicated that the Improvement Areas Act is a piece of legislation that provides the necessary legal ingredients for upgrading, setting out the procedures for undertaking upgrading. Therefore, armed with such legislation, communities and local authorities joined hands in Zambia’s two major cities under the Know Your City Campaign to collect and document information that would feed into slum upgrading. 

An MOU had been signed between Lusaka City Council, Zambia Homeless People’s Federation and People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia earlier in 2012, which has helped to define the roles and vision of the partnership. The Zambian Federation reported that with support from Lusaka City Council they had been able to conduct profiling, enumerations and mapping in slum areas such as George Compound. A National Housing Forum was convened to discuss the findings from these information gathering exercises and government declared three slums improvement areas. It is through joint execution of these project activities that these partnerships have engendered trust and confidence amongst the partners. Through this co-operation, urban communities from these slums have been given a chance to offer solutions to their challenges and design sustainable strategies together with local government.

These SDI sessions were capped with a presentation from Rose Molokoane during a political session on Africa’s Integration where she presented alongside the former presidents of Benin and Cape Verde. Rose stressed that SDI has shifted gears from participation to partnerships with local governments. She also emphasized that urban poor communities have a great deal of information which cities can use to transform slum settlements. Whilst African leaders have established the African Union, slum dwellers had also rallied together around their own African Union of the Urban Poor through the SDI network.


Information is Power: Ashaiman Residents Drive Profiling in Greater Accra, Ghana

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Ashaiman, Accra

By Barbara Torresi, People's Dialogue Ghana


Wednesday 16 May 2012 was a glorious day for the citizens of Ashaiman, a town in Greater Accra, since after months of careful preparations the spatial component of a multi-pronged Cities Alliance programme called Land, Services, and Citizenship (LSC) was finally kicked off. The Ghana Urban Poor Federation's (GHAFUP) mandate with regard to this SDI-backed initiative consists of profiling all the slums in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Region (GAMA), an exercise that will provide communities with in-depth knowledge of their own constituencies and a strong tool with which to negotiate settlement and poverty reduction interventions with both government and private stakeholders.

One of the reasons that made Accra and its satellite municipalities appealing to international donors is the existence of a strong local federation which, through concerted efforts to organise its constituencies into a cohesive force, has been successfully lobbying against the twin scourges of forced evictions and deteriorating living conditions for over a decade. Currently the country's shining beacon for the pursuants of bottom-up development is the mammoth settlement of Old Fadama - aka Sodom and Gomorrah for its now fast withering detractors - which in the space of a few years has managed to transform its reputation from that of a biblical hotbed of crime into a flagship example of grassroots power.


Ashaiman, Accra

Profiling Ashaiman

But while all the attention was focused on this mud-and-tin spatial incongruity a stone's throw from Accra's CBD, away from the spotlight and unbeknown to most, another expansive slum community had been following Old Fadama's proactive approach to self-betterment by engaging a historically hostile government into upgrading discussions. In this case, however, negotiations were facilitated by the fact that the slum in question is a municipality in its own right, recently born as an autonomous administrative division out of what some describe, with a typically Ghanaian penchant for biblical references, as the rotten rib of the formerly prosperous port of Tema. Originally conceived as a commuter neighbourhood for the workers of Ghana's premier dockyard, and following rising unemployment levels in the 2000s, Ashaiman slowly morphed into the epitome of tropical urban blight, a dusty shackland where as many as 90% of households meet UN-Habitat's criteria for the definition of a slum. In numbers, this translates into approximately 300,000 of the municipality's estimated 340,000 inhabitants living without water and sanitation or occupying overcrowded, ramshackle structures with little ability to withstand the vagaries of West African weather.

Yet, Ashaiman is a lively, buzzing, and tight-knit collection of communities with a thriving informal economy, a harmonious environment that has favoured the establishment of a local arm of GHAFUP rivalling, for strength and cohesiveness, its counterpart in Old Fadama. Thanks to the ingenuity and, to an extent, the more favourable tenure situation of the city's constituent communities, the Ashaiman Federation has been able to roll out an impressive array of upgrading projects, ranging from a 47-unit, mixed-use housing development to a citywide upgrading programme whose ambitious goal is to install private toilets in 100 households. All these initiatives, which were facilitated by low-interest loans from SDI and incentivised by a budding partnership with the local municipality, rely heavily on the existence of strong savings collectives and the willingness of the residents of Ashaiman to contribute to their own socio-economic upliftment.

To return to our story, on a sunny Wednesday morning a fifteen-strong, gender equal delegation consisting of settlement profilers, opinion leaders, and assembly members, congregated for the first of a series of focus groups designed to uncover facts and figures related to the eight most severely deprived communities in the municipality of Ashaiman. The focus groups, which were facilitated by Mensah Owusu, a programme manager from the local support NGO (People's Dialogue), and Charles Zuttah Chartey, a GHAFUP leader, were structured as day-long workshops designed to provide participants with the opportunity to thoroughly unpack issues as diverse as the number of stand pipes in each settlement and the literacy level of the population. According to Halid Alhassan, one of the leading members of the Ashaiman Federation, the exercise was very well received by the residents, which perceived it as a great opportunity to involve the local government into the management of their living environment.

The second phase of this profiling exercise consists in the validation of the physical data from the focus groups. To this end, dedicated mapping teams are currently walking the streets of Ashaiman to localise, with the aid of GPS technology, infrastructures like public toilets and stormwater channels as well as essential services like schools, creches, and clinics. The reasoning behind this exercise is that the spatial representation of a settlement's infrastructure is a valuable add-on to narrative profiling since it can help stakeholders determine where new facilities are needed the most.

While the Ashaiman profilers are busy with this pilot study, the other programme beneficiaries, namely the cities of Tema, Accra, and Ledzokuku-Krowor (LEKMA), are following in their leading sister's footsteps by exploring their own community-held knowledge through roundtables and focus groups, which will be followed by infrastructure and service mapping once all the socio-economic data has been gathered. Completion of the LSC programme is expected for the first quarter of 2013, after which it will be extended to the remaining GAMA municipalities of Ga South, Ga East, Ga West, and Adenta.


Informal traders in Ashaiman

Information is Power

But why is this initiative so important? Firstly, it generates awareness within a community and raises the profile of the urban poor. A prime example of how self-administered census-type surveys can change people's perception of a slum is provided by the parable of Old Fadama, which ascended from the pits of being branded “a menace in Accra” and a “catastrophe waiting to happen,” to the heights of mediatic praise after the community took the lead in the implementation of a desilting project designed to mitigate the impact of its booming population on the surrounding eco-system. What enabled such a productive partnership between government and landless dwellers was a string of SDI-backed enumerations that, since 2004, have been projecting into the public domain the image of a cohesive community that is part and parcel of the urban habitat.

One of the biggest challenges faced by slum dwellers all over the world is in fact the stigma attached to living in an environment that is routinely depicted as an impenetrable jungle of ignorance, sloth, and self-inflicted deprivation. As Grace, a long term resident of Old Fadama, explains: “people blame us for where we live [and] think that we are criminals or beggars [just] waiting for a handout”. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth, since according to the latest enumeration a staggering 96% of Old Fadama's residents are gainfully employed as traders in the nearby Agbogbloshie market or as small business owners in the settlement itself. The power of profiling and enumerations lies thus in their ability to open up “the slum universe” to the world, to humanise the mysterious “other” and ultimately to portray slum dwellers as valuable players in the city's economy.

Secondly, profiling highlights a community’s most urgent needs in a format that can be used to leverage funds for upgrading; moreover, when the exercise is conducted at a regional scale it allows settlements to be classified according to their deprivation level. Therefore, it is hoped that the efforts being undertaken in GAMA will allow interventions to be prioritised and directed at those most in need. In Halid's concluding words: “we are very satisfied with the way our communities are driving the process and we hope that the information [we are acquiring] will give us the power to engage the assembly [into a constructive dialogue] to solve the problems that affect our residents [the most]”.


In Focus: Exclusion & Informality

Friday, 06 April 2012


Living above the sea, Manila, Philippines 

By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat 

We talk a lot about exclusion and inclusion. The urban poor are excluded from the city. Therefore, we are trying to build inclusive cities - cities where the urban poor are at the center of their own development process, and that of the city as a whole. In South Africa, the Informal Settlement Network is spearheading a "Right to the City" campaign, bringing a new approach to improving the ties betweeen socio-spatial justice and citizenship on the one hand, and improved living conditions on the other. They are doing this by advancing the people-centred, community-driven approach known so well across the SDI network, and by taking that to scale through concrete, continued engagements with city government. 

We talk about these things a lot. We write a lot about them. I have read and written about urban poverty, informality and exculsion for years. But that is not what made me decide to study urban planning or to relocate from my home in New York City back to Cape Town. And that is not what keeps me coming back to my desk every day, to read and write more about these issues. In fact, I had never really thought about these issues until I saw them. Perhaps this is why learning exchanges, where a group of slum dwellers and city officials leaves their hometown to meet their counterparts on the other side of the province, country or planet, are some of the most significant of SDI's social technologies. It is not until we humans see and speak to each other that we begin to make real these abstract theories and ideas. It is only then that we begin to feel the gravity of the situation, and of working towards a solution. 

We talk a lot about slums, about urban poverty and exclusion, about living in a one-room shack with your entire extended family without clean water or electricity or a toilet. We talk about these things. But do we ever see them? 

Sierra Leone

Childhood, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone

Collecting water, and paying a price, Free Town, Sierra Leone

Accra, Ghana.

Finding a place to call home, Old Fadama, Accra, Ghana

Accra, Ghana

"If they demolish my house, I have no where to go." | Old Fadama, Accra, Ghana

Nairobi, Kenya

Walking home with water, Nairobi, Kenya


The pavement dwellers of Byculla, with modern high-rises in the background, Mumbai, India


Playground, Dharavi, Mumbai, India 

Cape Town, South Africa

Afternoon in Burundi, Cape Town, South Africa 


A room to call home, Old Fadama, Accra, Ghana

Mumbai, India

Along the canal, Dharavi, Mumbai, India 

Negotiating the Right to Stay: A Community-Led Process in Old Fadama

Monday, 23 January 2012

By: Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat 

The air in Accra is humid and full of dust. After spending days inside heavily air-conditioned conference centers and nearby hotels, you start to forget the realities of city life.  Luckily, I got a reminder.

I spent my last day in Accra in the centrally located settlement of Old Fadama. Old Fadama is an informal settlement occupying 31.3 hectares of land along the Odaw River and Korle Lagoon in central Accra. Established in 1981, its population of roughly 80,000 inhabitants is made up of traders and migrants from across Ghana as well as other neighboring West African countries.

The community has resisted threats of eviction for nearly a decade through use of tools such as enumerations, mapping and lengthy negotiations with the Accra Municipal Authority (AMA).  Most recently, the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor (GHAFUP) and the Old Fadama Development Association (OFADA) have been in negotiation with the AMA around the clearing of structures from land around the Korle Lagoon in preparation for a large-scale de-silting project, funded by the Netherlands Government. Korle Lagoon has experienced decades of pollution serving as the main runoff for the entire city of Accra and its shores as dumping ground for much the city’s solid waste.

Initially, the AMA requested that 100 feet of land be cleared to make way for the project. GHAFUP and OFADA members estimated that clearance of 100 feet would mean demolition of nearly 3,000 structures and eviction for roughly 7,000 inhabitants. They quickly entered into negotiations, proposing that the amount of land be reduced to 50 feet. Immediately, the community went to work enumerating the 50-foot area. Reducing the amount of cleared land to 50 feet meant a reduction to 1,192 residential and commercial structures and 3,000 people. Still not ideal, but certainly a marked difference.

Armed with their enumeration data, GHAFUP and OFADA met with city authorities at the AMA and succeded in negotiating for their proposed 50-foot area instead of original 100 feet, reducing the number of people affected significantly. 

The next step was a community led demolition and realignment of structures on right of access identified and negotiated jointly between the residents and the City Authorities. Members of GHAFUP and OFADA led this process, first meeting with community members to explain the demolition and relocation process.

A federation member in Old Fadama

Getting the wider community on board has been key to the success of the process. I spoke with a woman whose structure is waiting to be demolished. She has been a member of GHAFUP since 2008. However, she says she doesn't know where she will go when her structure is demolished – that she will simply have to find a piece of vacant land and erect her structure there. Sadly, this means she will likely have to live on the edges of Old Fadama, where the dirt paths are riddled with rubbish and the harmattan hits harder against the shack walls.    

Despite these inevitable hardships characteristic of any relocation, resettlement of displaced peoples to other locations within Old Fadama is a success story in and of itself. Most tales of relocation involve displacement to many kilometers outside of the city, far from social ties, employment, and opportunity. Thanks to the successful negotiations of GHAFUP, OFADA and People’s Dialogue Ghana, this is not the case in Old Fadama.

In our discussions with GHAFUP and OFADA, it became clear that a waste management plan will be crucial to the success of the imminent de-silting project in order to prevent continued pollution of the lagoon. This is a key time for GHAFUP, OFADA and People’s Dialogue to put their negotiation skills to use. Waste remains a major issue in greater Accra, and the creation of a community-led waste management program for Old Fadama could serve as a key tool for income generation, community upgrading and negotiation with local authorities around the community’s capacity to engage in the upgrading process.

Farouk Braimah, director of the Ghanaian support NGO People’s Dialogue, stresses, “This whole exercise promises huge benefits and leverages. We anticipate capitalizing on this exercise to strengthen our hitherto weak relationship with the city authorities of Accra and to feed into [other projects] in Accra and Ashaiman.”

Bearing witness to the reality and determination of this community, alongside some of its key leaders, was certainly an experience no conference could compete with.

For more photographs of Old Fadama, check out SDI's albums on Flickr and Facebook

A Decade of Struggles and Lessons in Old Fadama

Tuesday, 08 November 2011


By: Farouk Braimah, Executive Director, Peoples Dialogue on Human Settlements, Accra Ghana (

In 2002, the residents of Old Fadama settlement in Accra, Ghana were served an eviction notice. After losing a court battle, community members were introduced to SDI methodolgies and conducted a community survey in a last-ditch effort to stave off eviction. The community has prevented evictions for nearly a decade, and in a recent talk in New York City, the Ghanaian vice president made a committment that there would be no forced evictions there. Below is a timeline, compiled by executive director of the Ghanaian support NGO, Peoples Dialogue on Human Settlements, accounting the story of the Ghanaian federation in their fight against forced evictions. For more on the community's struggle in Old Fadama, check out this video. 


The Centre for Public Interest Law ( CEPIL) in the year 2000 conducted a human rights fact finding mission on Old Fadama to investigate the potential violation of human rights linked to the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project (KLERP)


CEPIL fact finding report on KLERP out and under study for next steps.


On 28 May 2002, the residents of Old Fadama were served with an eviction notice by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA). This followed the completion of series of studies and the formulation of the project know as the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project, designed to restore this vital marine and river system to a cleaner and more natural ecological state. At a public meeting that was part of the environmental and social impact assessment study (ESIA), one of the consultants conducting the study had “…urged the government to declare Old Fadama a national disaster site and resettle the people.” He said the place was the most deprived in the whole country and “…if immediate steps are not taken to resettle the people in that area, the KLERP would be a waste of resources.” The recommendations in the ESIA report were to be particularly influential in official thinking on KLERP.

In response to the eviction notice, letters of protest were written by a number of organisations (including COHRE) to the government of Ghana and the AMA. The COHRE letter outlined the international legal obligations that would be violated if the forced eviction of the Old Fadama community were to take place, and identified the following transgressions.

  1. All feasible alternatives to the planned eviction had not been considered;
  2. The  may 2002 notice had provided too little advance warning
  3. Residents had not been consulted throughout the process; and
  4. Alternative housing or adequate resettlement sites had not been provided.

In addition, the residents, with the assistance of the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) based in Accra, responded with an appeal to the High Court for an injunction to prevent the AMA from carrying out the eviction. However, on 24 July 2002, the Accra High Court rejected the community’s application and authorized the AMA to evict. There was initial intention to appeal, but for internal organizational reasons in the community, this was not followed through. Since then, there have been repeated assertions by the government that the eviction will definitely go ahead, but deadline have come and gone. The last deadline was set in January 2004, when a Minister of Tourism official was “ emphatic” in stating that “…by September this year, Old Fadama would be empty”


After the High Court ruling in 2002, the residents of Old Fadama in 2003, adopted a softer approach to dealing with their challenges of forced eviction with government by engaging in a dialogue through People’s Dialogue & Shack & Slum Dwellers International approach of using;

  1. Savings & Loans
  2. Mediation
  3. Exchanges
  4. Partnerships
  5. And community led enumerations


In 2004, the Old Fadama community started partnering and dialoguing with government through the Ministry of Water Resources, Works & Housing, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations to find a better way of solving their challenges.

Old Fadama, was cited as a case study on the World Urban Forum II held in Barcelona, Spain on 16th September 2004, referring to forced evictions as a bad strategy in tackling squatters and slum communities.

Fighting Forced Evictions

The then Mayor of Accra Honorable Blankson committed to working with the community in the Old Fadama in Accra in finding alternative solutions.

The special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari highlighted the fact that there enough recognition of the human right to housing by governments and local authorities, and that women’s right to housing and inheritance were not been addressed due to the culture of silence “ Why are people planning on our behalf without our involvement?” says a slum dweller from Kenya underscoring the need to consult with community in finding solutions to the issues of slums. Slum dwellers are saying, “governments need to know that they do not have to solve all the problems” The community can and is willing to work with governments to address the issue of forced evictions”

- SDI visited Ghana and supported the Old Fadama community to conduct a settlement profiling to aid the city authorities and government in its bit to resettle the residents. 

- UN Habitat designed a new facility to upgrade slums and Ghana was shortlisted as potential beneficiary 

    AGFE to Ghana


Government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development invited the UN Habitat’s Advisory Group on Forced Evictions (AGFE) to conduct a fact finding mission on the Old Fadama community and to assist government. 

UN (AGFE) sent a team from Nairobi to Ghana to meet Government and brainstorm on ways to address the challenges of Old Fadama and Ghana’s slums. 

As an AGFE member, Farouk Braimah joined the team to conduct the fact finding mission. 

Ghana was selected as SUF (Slum Upgrading Facility) global pilot country together with three other countries thus; Tanzania, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

2005 to date, Ghana is still receiving funding and technical assistance from SUF to upgrade selected slums- Ashaiman, Amui Dzor and Takoradi as pilot.

Residents of the Old Fadama Community through the Old Fadama Development Association (OFADA) and Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor (GHAFUP) with support from People’s Dialogue on Human Settlement and SDI carried out some drainage, roads and sanitation protection works.

Old Fadama Undergoes Facelift

(Daily Graphic, Monday July 11 2005)

Squatters at the Country’s biggest slum, (Old Fadama) in Accra, have begun moves to give the slum a new face. As the reports stated;

“They have created 15 access roads through the area, together with the purchase of drainage materials at a cost of about 33 million cedis. People’s Dialogue on Human Settlement, a non-governmental organisation provided about 95% of the funds, while the rest was internally generate. In addition, the settlers will, beginning from next week, clear other settlers living along the Korle Lagoon project area and set up a task forced to protect it, as well as prevent people from dumping refunds indiscriminately to pollute the lagoon.”

The Accra Metropolitan Assembly reacted to the action of the residents with the yardstick that, they were illegal and hence had no business to develop the area. 

This was carried on the Daily Graphic, July. 2005


AMA Condemns action of Squatters at Old Fadama

(Daily Graphic July 2005) 

The Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) has condemns the action of squatters at Old Fadama in Accra to demarcate roads and plan other development activities for the including a cemetery. It said the squatters had no business in carrying out what they were doing, since their presence at them was illegal and they would be evicted. 

Mr. Philip Lamptey, the then chairman of the Environmental Management sub-committee of the AMA said in the report “A probable first option would be to ask the utility companies to stop supplying the area with utility services such as water and electricity. He said there was no need for the squatters to set-up a task force to prevent the indiscriminate dumping of refuse along the Korle Lagoon Project area, since they were not needed in the place.”

Mr. Noel Arcton- Tettey, the then PRO of AMA was also reported to have said that; NGOs were suppose to complement the role of government instead of creating problems for it. And that the action by People’s Dialogue was contrary to what was expected of it.

The Executive Director of People’s Dialogue On Human Settlement, Mr. Braimah Rabiu Farouk responded to the comments made by the AMA, stating emphatically clear that, the NGO will not do anything to undermine the work of the government, let alone create problems for it.

We will not sabotage Government- NGO
(Daily Graphic, Monday July 18, 2005) 

In this report, Mr. Braimah said the NGO would rather give government all the necessary support to improve the lives of the citizenry so as to ensure a better standard of living for all Ghanaians. Mr. Braimah explained that the move embarked upon by the squatters at Old Fadama was “not to entrench their stay at the place” but to prevent disasters from occurring and that the NGO had educated residents on the negative impact their continued stay could have on the KLERP. He posed the following questions and I quote:

“Do we have to wait for a disaster to occur at the slum for the government to set up a Sodom and Gomorrah disaster fund before we act?”

“He question whether it was for squatters to set up a task force to protect the Korle Lagoon Project on which so much money has been spend.”

The government took a second look at its current policy on squatters and slum communities (FORCED EVICTIONS) and then came out with s paradigm shift, from forced evictions to relocations.

Government haven convinced itself that, relocation was the best strategy, started processes to acquire a parcel of land at Adjin Kotoku in the Amasaman District of Accra to commence the Old Fadama Relocation Project as part of a township concept, government also initiated strategies to raise funds for the successful planning, design and implementation of the Adjin Kotoku Township Project


Government secures some funds for Old Fadama resettlement project.

Government finds 10m Euro for Sodom and Gomorrah resettlement
(The Statesman, Friday, July 21 2006)

FINALLY, residents of Old Fadama in Accra considered as one of the world’s notable slums, have every practical reason to expect a justifiable evacuation after Government has managed to find 10 million Euros to find alternative decent accommodation for them.

The Statesman also reported that; it can confirm that, the Ministry of Water Resource, Works and Housing has secured the funding commitment from KBC Bank of Belgium as necessary extension works to complete the environmental and sanitation aspect of the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project.

The Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, and the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations started interacting and holding regular development meetings with residents of the Old Fadama community to dialogue and plan on the successful implementation of the relocation project.

The Old Fadama Community welcomed the relocation project and started preparing towards it.

The government of Ghana through the Ministry of Tourism and Diapora Relations and PD attended World Urban Forum III in Vancouver on 23 June 2006- This time round to present government policy shift on squatters and slum communities from forced evictions to relocations.


In 2007 the residents of the Old Fadama community, called on the government to speed-up the implementation process of the relocation to pave way for the Korle Lagoon Restoration Project to progress.

Speed up relocation process- residents of Old Fadama cry out
Public Agenda, Monday 29, January 2007)

Squatters of Old Fadama (popularly called Sodom and Gomorrah) would like the government to speed the process of relocating them. The squatters have told this paper that they are not sure what would follow the recent catastrophic fire incident that ravaged the slum, hence if government could do anything to relocate them, they would be grateful.

P.D and the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor conducted a base line study on Old Fadama in collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Local Government and Rural Development and Tourism and Diaspora Relations to use for the planned relocation project.

UN Habitat visited Old Fadama and pledges to support government to tackle the problem.


Meetings and preparations for the relocation project intensifies and preparatory work also continued at Adjin Kotoku.

General election clashes and violence started


Clashes in Old Fadama heighten

AMA issues an eviction notice to residents of Old Fadama

Quit by Dec; AMA cracks whip on Sodom & Gomorrah 

(Daily Graphic, July 17,2009)

“Sodom and Gomorrah, a slum within the central business district of Accra, will be no more by next December as the Accra Metropolitan Assembly say it has concluded plans to relocate residents of the place to a new site Adzen Kotoku…”

Carnage at Old Fadama

4 Killed in clash at Agbogbloshie Market 

(Daily Graphic, Wednesday, August, 26 2009)

Four men believed to be Andanis and Abudus were butchered to death at Agbogbloshie in Accra yesterday after a renewed clash between supporters of…”

Government issues another eviction threat.

Time up for Sodom and Gomorrah, Regional Minister declares 

 (Daily Graphic, Friday, September, 4 2009)

“Sodom and Gomorrah, a sprawling slum within the central business district of Accra, has been labeled a risk to national security and so should be pulled down now.”

The report indicates government has therefore taken the firm stand to evict the more than 40,000 squatters at Old Fadama without any form of compensation as earlier envisaged.

The Old Fadama Development Association (OFADA) responded with a press release to condemn the violent clash at the community and promises Government and the general public they will quickly address the issues of violence and adhere to good environmental and sanitation practices through a central task force, setting up a mediation center and watch dog committee to…

OFADA request government to return to the table to dialogue on the relocation to Adjin Kotoku as planned.

It is significant to note that, up until now, PD and the Federation has been the only recognized and dedicated voice  and force working and coordinating other interest groups for the struggles. Some organizations ,particularly, the media became very supported our the communities struggles. Amnesty International also approached PD and sought collaboration to join in the struggles ,a request we welcomed and facilitated heir entry and participation in the struggles. I must state the involvement of  groups such as amnesty Ghana and Centre for Public Interest Law and others has been very instrumental in further strengthening the negotiation power of the community. 


AMA  continued to renew threats at the least provocation and in most cases without any provocation. Peoples Dialogue and the Ghana federation continued to build their federation in the community and another significant community led enumeration conducted.

As usual the Ghana federation responded by facilitation meetings and dialogue with the Mayor Of Accra. This resulted in the Mayor of Accra requesting the Federation to conduct an enumeration to assist in the final pre and post eviction impact of the planned evictions. Besides, the City quoted 40,000 residents but the federation insisted they were more than that and the negative impact of eviction could be more devastating. The mayor then arranged a short visit between the Director of PD –Farouk and His Excellency the Vice president of Ghana-John Mahama, after which the federation was allowed to conduct another enumeration in 2009 September. The results were out in January 2010, which put the figure at 79,000.  This revelation was very useful in putting a strong case for the community and all others involved in the struggles. Not long after this, PD submitted copies of the report to the Presidency, the Mayor and other players like the UN Habitat.

All of this culminated in the Government of the day, convening a High level meeting purposely to find solutions to the problems. The federation again attended this meeting and the outcome was the establishment of a 5 -man Task force to develop a SLUM POLICY FOR GHANA.

Farouk Braimah, the Director of PD, was nominated to serve on that body and remains a member. Government demonstrated that it was actually looking for solutions and was ready to partner groups and individuals who could assist in developing a response to the problem. This intention of Government and the journey in the major position shift was started the very day the Government requested the federation to conduct the enumeration. This collaborative and anti eviction posture of Government was  given a further boast when the Government set up the High powered meeting and commissioned a 5 man Task force to find solutions to Ghana’s slums, including Old Fadama.

Settlements Under Siege: Securing Rights to the City

Friday, 02 September 2011

Eviction site, Kisenyi, Kampala

By Ariana K. MacPherson and Charlton Ziervogel, SDI Secretariat

The machine of urbanization rolls on. Each year thousands upon thousands of individuals make the move away from rural areas to seek a better life in the city. But what waits in the city is no easy street to riches, but rather a fight for limited space on land that is scarce and valuable. The rural poor make their way to the city only to become the urban poor, and instead of the open arms of opportunity, they slip through the cracks, forced to eke out an existence in the realm of the informal. They are branded illegal, part of a temporary problem that needs to be eradicated.  The truth of the matter is that many slum dwellers have been living in the city, working in the city, raising families in the city, for just as long as their “formal” urban counterparts.  

Bordering the main road in Kisenyi, Uganda, is an open swath of land, riddled with debris. It is the site of a recent eviction. Hundreds of families were forced out of their homes, their shacks razed to the ground. The remnants of life, chained in by barbed wire. This is the daily threat, and harsh reality, of informal living. Centrally located settlements like Kisenyi sit on some of the city’s most valuable land, “The gold of Kampala, the real gold of Kampala,” says one member of the Ugandan SDI Alliance. He is right. Urban land is scarce, and only becoming scarcer.  

This same scene plays itself out in Accra, Cape Town, Harare, Kampala and Nairobi. Slums in these five cities make up some of the largest in the world. Old Fadama in Accra, the N2 settlements in Cape Town, Mbare in Harare, Kisenyi in Kampala and Mukuru in Nairobi are home to many of Africa’s poorest people, living in overcrowded, insecure conditions without access to toilets or clean drinking water and under increasing threat of eviction from ever ready bulldozers hungry for land. At its core, the issue is one of exclusion. The urban poor have been excluded from their right to the city for decades, and as cities grow, the right to urban land becomes increasingly contested between those with access to power and money, and those without.  

By asserting their place at the city’s core, residents of informal settlements are made part of the face and a voice of the city, and are given space to engage with local government. Many of these communities have been residing in cities for decades, and yet they remain largely excluded from the city’s formal systems and services. It is time that the officials and politicians recognize this fact. The urban poor are not nameless, placeless masses to be uprooted and moved to the periphery. Their communities, families, livelihoods and social networks are in the city. Eviction, displacement, and relocation to the urban periphery only result in further fragmentation of society, reinforcing the divisions of race and class that have existed for centuries.  
What is at stake is more than just providing homes to the homeless, it is about placing people at the center of the urbanization process, ensuring that the city is not just for those with power and wealth. It is about allowing for recognition of those who have actively contributed to the city’s economy, calling it home for years, yet continue to be denied full citizenship. 
In recent years, SDI Alliances have begun the necessary move towards incremental, in situ slum upgrading in centrally located informal settlements across the Global South, linking pragmatic survival strategies with rights-based struggles for inclusive cities.  Federations of the urban poor across Africa, Asia and Latin America have begun to find ways to make meaningful contributions to the creation of inclusive cities, effectively securing their livelihoods and homes in the face of power, money and greed.  
To catalyze these efforts, SDI has selected five focus cities in Africa – Accra, Cape Town, Harare, Kampala and Nairobi – to be home to long-term, precedent-setting pilot projects that provide people-driven, incremental upgrading for housing and basic services such as water, sanitation, drainage, road access, and waste collection. The hope is that this process will give urban poor federations the necessary backing to build partnerships with government officials and leverage government resources in order to bring these projects to scale, counteracting the constant threat of removal and providing steps towards security of tenure to the urban poor.    
There is no doubt that the global population is in the throngs of a revolutionary shift towards the urban; the question that remains to be answered is what gives certain people more of a right than others to call the urban sphere their home. If the urban poor are placed at the center of this global process of urbanization instead of land values, capital investments and how to turn the biggest profit, a start can be made to redress one of the biggest failures of the modern era: the use of urban space as an exclusionary tool instead of an opportunity to create vibrant, integrated communities.  
Read more about SDI's Settlements Under Siege upgrading strategy and stay up to date on the latest milestones and challenges in cities across Africa. 


Faces of Old Fadama

Monday, 18 July 2011

The 80,000 residents of the Accra informal settlement known as Old Fadama have faced numerous eviction threats over the past decade. But these are the people that live, work, and build the growing Ghanaian metropolis. A new publication of Ghanaian journalism students and the Federation explains how people such as female head porters and entrepreneurs survive and organize. Click here to download.


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