Photojournalism: Agbogbloshie


    Ghana is home to the largest informal recycling industry in Africa. Unskilled workers from Northern Ghana migrate to Ghana’s largest city, Accra, to find work. Most migrants settle illegally in Agbogbloshie, the country's largest slum with over 100,000 residents.

   Awal Mohammed, a young migrant worker in his early 20's, leads a group of boys in burning imported electronic waste. On Average, each boy earns less than 20 USD a month – yet the job poses extreme health risks.

   In June, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly demolished the homes of over 20,000 people in Agbogbloshie in order to access and dredge a waterway that had caused flooding in Accra. Awal Mohammed consequently lost his home and his job, forcing him to migrate back to his hometown. These photos document Mohammed’s struggle to work and protect his family.

Awal Mohammed burns electronic waste to extract precious metals.


Awal Mohammed is in his early 20's and has a wife, Sadaa, and a son named Haruna who lives with Awal's parents in his hometown. Awal migrated from Northern Ghana to Accra in order to find work. He now burns electronic waste—often the only option left for unskilled migrant workers. 


A scrap dealer by profession, Awal is chief of a few dozen boys and men who also burn electronic waste. As the oldest e-waste worker in his mid 20's, he is the self-appointed leader. A scrapyard located in Agbogbloshie, provides the electronic waste. Across the waterway is Old Faduma, a slum of 100,000 people in Accra, Ghana. 


Awal talks to a young girl who sells water to the electronic waste workers. 

Seven high level toxic metals including iron are discovered in the blood and urine of the people living in Agbogbloshie—a study taken under the Ghana Health Studies and, and Hunter College in New York. Survey conducted in 2009-12.


Awal and a young migrant worker sort through electronic waste. On average, each boy earns less than $20 USD a month, even though the job poses extreme health risks.


Awal sorts through bundled copper reclaimed from electronic waste. Awal cools the metal he just finished burning.


Awal cools the metal he just finished burning.


After weighing and bartering, Awal receives enough money from the recycled metal to pay each worker one dollar or less. 


Awal sits in front of the home he built for himself and Sadaa. He encourages a boy to go to school for the day.

According to the last census, around 100,000 migrant workers live in Old Fadama—which is government land.


On a Saturday morning in June 2015, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) demolished the homes of over 20,000 people in Agbogbloshie to dredge the waterways and avoid the floods that affect the city every year during the rainy season. Awal and his friends watch from a distance.


Awal stands atop his freshly demolished home. He built his home by hand three years ago.


Evicted residents gather to protest against the actions taken by the AMA per orders of the Mayor.


Protestors gained momentum as they ran towards Ghanaian riot control while clashing in Agbogbloshie. Over 20,000 people were evicted from the shoulders of the Odaw River and the Korle Lagoon.


The intense heat of the bonfire keeps most protestors and riot control from crossing a bridge. Awal, acclimated to the extreme heat from his work, rallies fellow protestors.


Residents throw rocks at police vehicles. Others crouch to avoid salt bullets fired by the police. Tear gas fills the air during the protest. 


Awal takes a moment to catch his breath and dodge the incoming police.


Justice, 37, sits down for a haircut. Business and rebuilding resume only a few days after the demolition.


Emaciated cows graze in the trash heaps at the edges of the slum.


Awal looks back at his community for the last time.


Awal's wife Sadaa, managed to save some of their possessions from the wreckage of their home. She rides with her possessions to the bus depot, while Awal walks alongside.


Awal and Sadaa ride in a crowded bus for twelve hours.


Awal reunites with his son after one year apart. Haruna is five years old and lives with Awal's parents in Tamale. He attends school next door and he often goes to the hospital for poor health. 


After returning to Awal's family home in Tamale, Ghana, Sadaa's sister looks at family photos while Awal holds onto his son. 


Awal bathes at his parent's home for the first time following the turmoil of the week. His parents were able to make room for him and his wife, Sadaa, to stay with them temporarily. 


A week after migrating to Tamale Awal Mohammed returns to Accra to build a new home and to find work. He looks at his phone to read a message from his wife.