Global Network

Accra, Ghana


Accra is a thriving city that never shuts down. It was founded in the fifteenth century by Ga settlers and became a magnet for the economically active, including local and foreign industry owners, manufacturers, and workers. Accra became the seat of the British Colonial administration in 1877. Its status and location as a good natural port and fishing center and as the nucleus for local trading industries made it the primary destination for Ghana's internal migration. This rapid expansion has transformed this once-sleepy coastal fishing village into one of Africa's largest cities.

The current Metropolitan Area encompasses the three municipalities of Accra, Tema, and the outlying semi-urban Ga district, all of which are closely integrated with the core. Accra is today the political, commercial, and cultural center of Ghana.


The population of Accra in selected years
1891 16,267
1921  43,000
1948  136,000
1960  388,396
1970  636,067
1984  964,879
1994  1,399,074 (approximate)
2000  (put in UN figures)

The population of the Accra District alone represents about 75% of the total population of the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA). The density for GAMA was estimated at 10.03 persons per hectare and for Accra itself at 69.3 persons per hectare.

Environment and Health
The high population density has resulted in congestion, overcrowding, substandard housing, inadequate education and health facilities, poor sanitation, and a generally degraded environment. In poor communities and cities like Accra, the worst problems tend to be associated with a lack of adequate water, sanitation, and garbage services. The 1991 Annual Report on health for GAMA emphasized the twin role of poor environmental conditions and the lack of health knowledge in causing hygiene-related diseases.

Solid waste collection is a problem around the home where, according to a recent survey, at least 42% of people practice open storage. The 300,000 tons of solid waste collected per year in Accra alone represent only 60% of waste generated.

Urban poverty is a fact in Accra, where about 48% of the metropolitan population have income levels below the World Bank's absolute poverty threshold of $307 per capita per annum. A 1992 report on housing needs in the metropolitan area revealed that 95% of the population earn below the International Labor Organization's stipulated poverty line of $4.00 per day (35,000 cedis per month). Accra's poor tend to be concentrated in high-density residential areas and represent 43% of the total population. Their survival and development has been in jeopardy for many decades. The situation may not improve, as the government predicts that by the year 2000, the manufacturing sector in Accra will only provide one quarter of the population with employment.



Urban Market Gardens
Urban vegetable growing is found in Accra on land suited for building, lying undeveloped or idle, located along walls of homes and factories, or situated near bodies of water, water channels, gutters and drains. Such agricultural endeavors do not obstruct more appropriate land development, but rather use small, inaccessible, and vacant areas. Crops are selected that take into consideration the site and resources of the urban location. Crops include those of European origin—carrots, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, green pepper, and cucumber—as well as local ones such as Ama, Ademe, Busangaleafs and Gboma. The Market gardeners utilize organic and inorganic material from Accra's waste stream to support their activity.

Urban Market Gardens is a formal association, involving several key actors and interest groups, formed to represent gardeners' interests in dealings with government agencies and major customers. Government interests are represented by the Greater Accra Metropolitan Association, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Health.

The goals of this innovation are determined solely by the vegetable growers who self-manage the activity. Their primary aim is poverty alleviation and employment generation. A secondary goal is environmental improvements in or near low-income communities. An important by-product of this activity is environmental improvement throughout the city; it is this by-product that motivates governmental and private support of the Market Gardeners. Finally, market gardening provides fresh vegetables, primarily to high-income residents.

Urbanists around the world are re-evaluating the importance of urban agriculture in light of the growing informal sector and relentless rural-to-urban migration. Accra's Market Gardens are an example of a true grassroots initiative that has been made sustainable because the community of workers organized and initiated informal dealings with government and private agencies.

Junior Ecological Organization (JECO) Environmental Education Program
The Junior Ecological Organization (JECO) is a youth-oriented non-profit organization whose main aim and vision is the promotion of environmental regeneration and sustainability, education, and poverty alleviation. JECO's approach is to stimulate the interest of youth in environmental issues. Children form a large proportion of the population and so are directly affected by environmental issues, especially sanitation. If they were taught their role and the proper way to handle waste, significant progress in solving the problem would be achieved. Recycling and reusing, which have always been practiced informally due mainly to poverty (such as reusing old bottles and scavenging), must be introduced as classroom activities that could then be implemented at home and in communities.

JECO's initial projects include the School Environmental Education Program, started initially with the formation of environmental clubs for children in schools and communities. These clubs use hands-on activities such as drama, radio programs, newsletters, and litterbug campaigns at local functions and programs, to promote recycling and source-reduction.

As a follow up to these activities, the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI) at Rutgers University is embarking on a collaboration with JECO to develop an environmental education curriculum on solid waste management for ten-year old students in Ghana. The goal of the project is to use this integrated and interdisciplinary curriculum as a pilot in selected elementary schools in Accra. Teachers in these schools are given all the materials and are trained in solid and liquid waste management and on how to develop stimulating methods of instruction. The teachers have been involved with environmental clubs set up by JECO and have realized that the existing curriculum does not sufficiently address solid waste management. The teachers have reported an increased interest by the ten-year olds, but have also expressed a need for more time and commitment for the activities, which they feel should be scheduled as extracurricular activities.

A grant proposal is being prepared to solicit more support. More collaboration is anticipated from other schools in the city and it is hoped that with the successful implementation of a pilot in selected private schools, it could be expanded to the public school system, which in Ghana has a much lower level of instruction than private schools. The pilot and adaptation is restricted here to ten-year olds, but it is hoped that this can be expanded in the future to other grade levels in the primary school system.



Awareness of the nexus between urban poverty and the environment has become a primary concern in Accra. Many of the worst features of urban poverty are environmental, such as inadequate access to safe water, poor waste management practices, contaminated food, and insect infestation. Another of Accra's critical problems is the management of waste water and drainage throughout the city; industrial, commercial, and residential waste water often discharge into open drains and flood channels. Responsibility for maintaining waste water disposal and drainage lies with a number of local and metropolitan authorities. Due to inadequate financial resources, weak management capability, and the lack of well-trained and motivated personnel, however, the resultant health and environmental hazards are severe.

The number of people in Accra is also a problem, as the urban center does not possess the employment base, the infrastructure, or the social services to support sustained mass migration. The high population density has already resulted in congestion, overcrowding, substandard housing, inadequate education and health facilities, poor sanitation, and a generally degraded environment.


The Mega-Cities Project is a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) tax status.
Founder and President: Janice Perlman, PhD. Information:
Copyright 2000-2007 The Mega-Cities Project. All rights reserved.