Ghanaian Federation & People’s Dialogue: Responses to COVID-19


On behalf of the Ghanian Federation of the Urban Poor and People’s Dialogue on Human Settlements – SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 across Accra.

A community-led management and response to the COVID-19 pandemic (CLeMRoC) is being actioned in collaboration with Accra Municipal Assembly, and other civil society organisations has been launched in Accra. The response team consists of community leaders, environmental health officers of Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA). Led by the Federation in Ghana, they are supported by People’s Dialogue on Human Settlements.

The aim of CLeMRoC is is to enhance sensitization, education and behavior change in people living in informal settlements and to influence the community response of the pandemic. The target communities within Accra include: Old Fadama, Osu Alata, Sabon Zongo, Agbogbloshie, Madina, Sukura, Ashaiman, Nungua, Teshie with ongoing work in several other communities.


Farouk Braimah, Executive Director at People’s Dialogue, reflects on the dire impacts that COVID-19 will have on informal settlements, shedding light on the ongoing pervasive issues of a severe lack of service delivery to the most vulnerable.

“When it comes to hygiene protection, why do we think this time it will work? It is about hygiene, washing hands, eating well, resting – these are the protocols, and there is nothing new about this. They have never worked in slums//informal settlements. How do we find solutions that respond to our unusual circumstances, that work in the informal settlements?”

CLeMRoC has formed an interim Community Coordination Centre (CCC) where all issues against the fight of COVID-19 will be anchored. These include: external relations, messaging via various formats, knowledge management, documentation, dissemination of learning & lessons, and interfacing with officials collaborating on efforts to support communities through participatory planning & advocacy. Also coordinating supplies, resource mobilization and media work.


The priority needs emerge as pre-existing challenges that are further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are limited existing health facilities and resources to manage and care for affected patients. As of 24th March 2020, when CLeMRoC was launched, the following items were of urgent need in relation to health (PPE) such as: masks and gloves, tissues, tippy taps, veronica buckets, soap & hand sanitizers. With the need to improve PPE on all levels, especially personal hygiene protection, hand washing training on developing tippy taps and veronica bucket with taps. Ongoing needs for food assistance to those whose livelihoods are impacted and funds for volunteers who are working on trainings in the community remain fundamental to the Federation’s response.


Community members being sensitized on Tippy Taps.

Please keep following SDI as we highlight the initiatives of SDI affiliates across Africa, Asia & Latin America in the fight against COVID-19 to support the most vulnerable throughout this pandemic.

Uncovering the Pockets: Profiling Accra’s Slums

Photo 1

By Mara Forbes, SDI Secretariat

The Ghana federation is embarking on its largest and most ambitious data collection process to date – citywide profiling of seven municipalities in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA). GAMA is comprised of 11 districts, each of which has multiple sub-metros and many neighborhoods.

Last week the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor (GHAFUP) held a “learning-by-doing” planning exchange to lay a strategy for their first citywide profile. Federation members and technical support staff from Uganda, Sierra Leone, and South Africa joined the Ghana federation to share lessons from their own citywide profiling experiences.

It was immediately clear to all involved that they had underestimated the shear size of Accra’s informally settled communities. During the first day of mapping the federation discovered that many of the communities identified by local authorities were a mixture of formal areas interspersed with pockets of informal slums. These slum pockets are not formally recognized by local authorities.

Community Voice:

At first we were many so then they divided us into groups. One group went to New Town and one went to Kandar and one went to Mamobi. I was in the Mamobi team. When we got there we first took [mapped] the boundary of the whole Mamobi. We couldn’t finish that day so we had to come back. The following day we took [mapped] the pockets of slums. We took [mapped] a lot! Because the place was so big we couldn’t finish all the slums, so they were saying we should pick some service points, such as streetlights, roads, toilets, garbage dumps, schools, churches and mosques. So we took [mapped] all these things and when we got back we saw it was too much. So we needed to choose just some. Since the federation can’t build schools and churches we decided we should pick some key services like toilets, garbage dumps, water points, and drainage. So the following day we took just those points and it was very fast to capture. It was fantastic! Everything was moving on so well. People were eager to learn the GPS and some were doing the recording. We all came back together. Meanwhile there were some slums people couldn’t finish so we had to go back to the field to help capture the whole place and it was marvellous. Some of the community leaders were so tired and they refused to go back to the field. Only one went back, but the rest of us all went to help finish.

– Rhode Allhassan, Federation member from Ashaiman

After seeing and understanding the actual context on the ground the team had to come back to the drawing board to develop a new plan for identifying slum areas within these communities. After much discussion and reflection it was agreed that in order to conduct a citywide profile the teams must first enter a community or neighborhood and map the boundaries of the electoral/administrative area. During the process of walking the boundary and discussing with local leaders the team can then identify and map the boundary and services of the pockets of slums within each community. Once these slum pockets have been identified and mapped the community will return to hold the profiling focus group discussion.

Photo 5Planning their mapping approach

Community Voice:

Learning about the GPS was a good experience because I never thought I could hold it and use it. But I could use it, I learned. Also recording the data – I did that as well. I was able to figure out the coordinates on the GPS. I learned to capture the data on the computer and I felt on top of the world! I realized I now have a level of confidence to impart the knowledge I learned to someone else. I was able to build my confidence to share knowledge with others. Being with the foreign team (delegates from Uganda, Sierra Leone, and South Africa) I learned so much. I learned from Sharon (Uganda federation leader) how I shouldn’t be selfish when you know something. You should be ready to impart what you know to others and be patient. The international team was not bossy, they know many things, but they don’t think they are so big. I’m so eager and want to put in best. I’m ready to learn and face my challenges now.

– Mabel Hawa Abakah, Tumah Vela Savings Group, Nungua

Photo 2Mapping team

Community Voice:

This is going to improve my community based on me. Because the knowledge and understanding I’ve had I now can teach and inform the community so they have the knowledge too. The savings will help our community because it is this savings that gives you the power and strength. It shows the authorities your weight to put in for something to improve the community. Without savings, someone can’t come from outside to help you. I made them to first understand that our development will be 95% based on our savings. Even yesterday, some people called and came to the house to get information on starting savings. They wanted to buy savings books but didn’t have the money, but are willing to come in and start. I was telling Sharon (Uganda federation leader) that God works in mysterious ways. Coming together with this humble family [federation]. I give glory to God to making me part of this unique family. I’m so happy. I can’t emphasise it.

– Mabel Hawa Abakah, Tumah Vela Savings Group, Nungua

In the span of a week the team had planned to profile and map four communities within Ayawaso East – one of eleven sub-metro areas in Accra Metropolitan Area (AMA), which is just one of the seven metropolitan areas the federation is planning to profile and map within the next year. Due to their adaptability, new plan, and enthusiasm to uncover all the pockets of slums in the four communities of Ayawaso East they mapped 26 settlement boundaries and the services available in each settlement. In addition, they mapped the four larger boundaries of Kanda, New Town, Nima, and Mamobi (the four communities of Ayawaso East) – a total of 30 boundary maps.

Photo 3Data entry team

Community Voice:

The data capture was the most important thing I learned. It is the first time I’m doing this. It’s a blessing in disguise for me because I didn’t know something like this would help me. We have been doing profiling and mapping but we hadn’t been doing the capturing, so it was a new thing. I didn’t think we would do this but we did! It’s a lot of work and good. The data capturing will help me because it can help me draw a map on my own. I can teach my brothers and friends who are near do it and when I’m not there. They can help continue the process.

– Terry Otu, New World International Savings Group, Nungua C5

Community Voice:

When I came I was feeling shy and afraid to do certain things. The first day she (Anni, SDI Secretariat) taught me how to use the tablet in capturing and I used it for 2 days. The second day I was perfect! I was on the field recording, but was told to come and do data entry. I thought it was something big and I couldn’t do it. But when I got here my colleagues were here and they welcomed me. I needed an account and was going to use my facebook, but they said I could have an email. They said I can use my date of birth or something to remember to make my own email. I never thought I could have this. They showed me how to create an email address. Terri was entering the services but then Anni said it was my turn. I could type though my speed was slow, but she said I could make it and to take my time. It is now pushing me to learn more. This will not be the end of my learning. I want to plan to buy a computer for myself. I’m very happy.

– Rhode Allhassan, Federation member from Ashaiman

Photo 4 Rhode Alhassan capturing data

In the next few months the data team of the Ghana federation will continue to refine and deepen its learning in order to most effectively and efficiently roll out profiling and mapping to rest of AMA as well as the remaining six Metropolitan Areas of GAMA. No doubt the data and information collected will be a huge feat for the Ghana federation and the SDI network, but more importantly will provide the communities with the tools and information to engage and dialogue with their local authorities around service provision, security of tenure, and possibilities for joint slum upgrading.

Community Voice:

Our work in LSC 2 [Lands Services and Citizenship 2 – National Urban Development Program funded by Cities Alliance] is going to bring a lot of issues and skills into the Ghana federation of the Urban Poor. Since we have been doing profiling and enumerations, it is only the support office that normally captures the data. But now we see that the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor is improving by capturing our own data that we collect in the field. We are hoping that these few people we have trained, that they will train more people to come on board. Because this won’t only be Accra but will be in other regions and we need to bring people on board to have those skills.

We have trained a lot of people, and we are learning how to engage with the sub metros and the city itself. Before the support office gave letters to the city, but now we [community members] distribute the letters and after distributing the letters we go there to follow up. We sit with them and we told them what we want them to do to support us in the community. Our plan is to use the information to engage the municipal assemblies for the development of the communities and services they are lacking. So we use the information in order to advocate to the assemblies.

Another big achievement is towards the AMA. It has now opened its doors towards Old Fadama for the Ghana Federation and People’s Dialogue and SDI to enter. This is a big achievement! For the past 14-15 years they didn’t do that. They don’t even what to hear our name. But now they open their doors and anything they want to do, they call federation and People’s Dialogue and they are asking the communities advice on how they can come in and do development here. They need more advice from our support office and the federation. If we are able to sign the MOU with AMA it will be the biggest achievement. The mayor himself came out several times to do a press conference saying he has demolished Sodom and Gomorrah but Old Fadama is still staying and Old Fadama is going to stay forever. So that is the message he is saying  – we grabbed that message and are going to use that message in order to push him to sign the MOU so we can also be partners with them to see how we can get the security of tenure. When we get the security of tenure, we have achieved the biggest thing. We can then come together to figure out how we can develop this place with nice affordable houses for the people. Now that these people opened their doors, it’s an opportunity to us to also move in.

– Baba Fuseini Al-Hassan, Tungteeiya Savings Group, Old Fadama

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

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]”.


Innovations in Affordable Housing: Amui Dzor Housing Project



By Skye Dobson, SDI Secretariat 

As the world becomes increasingly urban, so too does the challenge for adequate and affordable housing.  No where are affordable housing challenges greater than in the slums of the Global South. Like most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana’s affordable housing sector is characterized by an acute inability to meet rapidly growing demand due to inefficient land markets, a lack of affordable credit, and poor planning. It is believed Ghana needs to build a minimum of 500,000 homes a year to address the housing deficit – not accounting for population growth. In urban centers it has been reported that 5.7 million additional rooms will be required by 2020. While such predictions must be taken with a grain of salt, it is clear that the magnitude of challenge is immense.

Ghanaians are by now familiar with tales of housing schemes gone bad. The Ayigya project, for example, involved the construction of 800 apartments of various sizes on 50 acres of land. The project, which reportedly cost some ¢300 billion, has not been maintained and was recently reported to be home to over 1,000 squatters. The fate of the project is similar to that of many donor and state interventions. In general, government provision of affordable housing has, like elsewhere, proven to be overly expensive, incapable of going to scale, and unresponsive to the needs of the urban poor who presently account for the bulk of the affordable housing demand. Market-led strategies are also problematic. For the urban poor, mortgages for the most basic housing are unaffordable. Interest rates are too high, wages are too low, and collateral that would satisfy a commercial bank can rarely be found in communities of the urban poor. In short, institutional dysfunction precludes the vast majority of the Ghanaian population from access to affordable housing.

Throughout the Global South, Slum Dweller Federations are attempting to address this institutional dysfunction. The Ghanaian Urban Poor Federation (GHAFUP) is no exception.  GHAFUP has approximately 131 savings groups comprised of almost 11,000 members. These groups spread across 7 regions and are networked not only nationally, but engage regularly with federations throughout the global SDI network.

In Ashaiman, a Ghanaian municipality in which almost the entire population lives in slums, the adequate and affordable housing needs are acute. Formerly part of the Tema Municipality, Ashaiman has long been settled by those serving the industrial needs of Tema – Ghana’s prime industrial and harbor city. The community in Ashaiman has been hard hit by the industrial decline of Tema, with unemployment crippling the capacity of residents to invest in housing.

In order to address this state of affairs, GHAFUP mobilizes communities into savings groups. They save daily, mobilizing not only financial resources but collective capacity as members meet weekly, manage their funds, and discuss issues of concern to their communities and strategies for addressing them. GHAFUP members formed the Amui Dzor Housing Cooperative and set about planning a housing development to house 32 families. GHAFUP’s collective efficacy facilitated the formation of a partnership with the UN-Habitat Slum Upgrading Facility. UN-Habitat helped negotiate a long-term mortgage for the cooperative from a commercial bank at an interest rate of 12%. SDI extended loans from the Urban Poor Fund at an interest rate less than 5%. Together this credit enabled the GHAFUP members to commence construction.

Amui Dzor Housing

The project, named the Amui Dzor Housing Project, is a social housing project. The three-story structure consists of 15 commercial units, one and two bedroom apartments, and a 12-seater public toilet (managed by the cooperative), which subsidizes the cost of the housing. Visitors pay a small fee to use the services and the housing cooperative collects this money and uses it to help pay back its loans. Unlike many public sanitation facilities in Ghana, this unit is maintained well thanks to the collective capacity of the cooperative managing it.


The federation has driven the housing project since its inception. They negotiated with the traditional council to secure the land for the project – even taking members of said council to India on and exchange to view the housing projects of the Indian federation. GHAFUP was also central to the process of formulating a relocation strategy for housing those displaced by the construction process in transitional housing. In addition, GHAFUP partnered with architecture firm Tekton Consultants to design the structure, they sourced construction materials, dug trenches, and assisted with grading. Members selected beneficiaries for the project themselves, and negotiated with local authorities for support. The project has created tremendous goodwill between the federation and the Ashaiman Municipal Authority.

During focus group discussions held at the project in February 2012 the federation emphasized the greater understanding the project has generated for federation processes in Ashaiman. They have proven they can manage projects of considerable scale and claim to now be treated with greater respect by local authorities.

At the meeting, federation members reported that repayments are progressing well and money is being funneled back into Ghana’s Urban Poor Fund, which will help to finance other GHAFUP development projects in the country. This is a key element of SDI’s Urban Poor Fund concept. Repayments on loans secured by member federations do not come back to SDI, but rather to a national-level Urban Poor Fund, which continues to revolve money into new capital projects for members. The public toilet project generates an impressive income from users and this money will assist the community to pay back their loans. Women’s business empowerment initiatives are also striving to increase the capacity of members to make loan repayments.

The project’s has been recognized as a model for affordable housing provision. Amui Dzor Housing Project was awarded “Best Social Innovative Housing Project” for the urban poor and low-income people by a panel of housing experts in 2010, while Tekton Consultants was awarded “Best Designed Architectural Concept for a Mixed Use Development in Social Housing for the Urban Poor.” The Ashaiman Municipal Authority and the Traditional Council are eager for the project to be scaled up and plans are underway for a second phase to commence. The importance of having the support of the Traditional Council cannot be overestimated. Over 80% of land in Ghana is owned by traditional chiefs, so taking any affordable housing strategy to scale will require their close collaboration.

The Ghanaian example highlights the effectiveness of the SDI approach to affordable housing. Federations save money as a collective, increasing their capacity to access credit as well as mobilizing the collective capacity and trust required to sustainably manage projects. The savings of the urban poor also decrease the level of subsidy required and increase project ownership. Community involvement serves to reduce costs by mobilizing community labor, utilizing local knowledge in sourcing building materials, and generating the skills required for project maintenance. Partnerships between organized communities of the urban poor and other urban development stakeholders – particularly local authorities – is essential for going to scale and addressing the systemic dysfunction that has for too long excluded the urban poor from decent and affordable housing.


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

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


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.