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LIRA 2030 - Cleaning from the bottom up: Inclusive stakeholder participation for integrated waste management in Accra and Lagos


The three-year project (2019 – 2022) is part of the Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030 in Africa (LIRA 2030) Pathways towards Sustainable African Urban Development being implemented in Ghana and Nigeria. The project seeks to contribute to bridging the gap between waste management policies and programmes enacted at city level on the one hand, and citizen performances of waste management at community level on the other. Specifically, the project asks: What would integrated waste management systems entail in the project communities and the wider city, and how can these be realised with the participation of stakeholders at multiple levels?

The project would adopt multi-stakeholder and transdisciplinary approaches in understanding how to improve waste management through effective stakeholder participation by addressing the three key overarching intermediate questions on knowledge around waste management:

a. How are state-community relations around waste management currently structured, and why? (Systems knowledge)

b. Is there an effective model for sustainable waste management at household and community level that can secure the buy-in of key city actors? (Target knowledge)

c. How can the desired model be actualised? (Transformation knowledge)



Accra and Lagos are important commercial capitals – Ghana emerged as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies in 2018 and Nigeria’s economy is the largest in Africa. Growth on this scale has huge implications for waste generation. Lagos produces more than 10,000 tonnes of waste daily. In Accra, the corresponding figure is 3,000 tonnes, and reports of the city having a “trash problem” in spite of its burgeoning economic status are already emerging. Municipal authorities have either responded with unwieldy schemes or tacitly ceded control to other actors: the “Cleaner Lagos Initiative” recently introduced by the city government ushered in wholesale privatisation of the city’s waste management system, in the process displacing informal entrepreneurs who have historically been the mainstay of the sector; while in Accra, private sector actors have stepped in to fill the gap created by a lack of coordinated government action. The waste problem is exacerbated in so-called informal settlements with precarious legal status: such communities are often systematically deprived of municipal services on the grounds that they are illegal, and any attempt at improving physical infrastructure in those areas is seen by city officials as legitimising the status quo. The prevailing state of relations between the city and such communities is one of confrontation and antagonism: the latter are often the target of evictions and demolitions, many of which are themselves extrajudicial. In 2017, one such episode in Lagos displaced nearly 5,000 people and left hundreds of thousands living in fear of eviction. In Accra, nearly half of the population live in informal settlements, and with increasing urbanisation, such settlements are bound to proliferate – especially with city planning approaches that do not incorporate the realities of the urban poor.


The project is using innovative, transdisciplinary and transformative stakeholder engagement processes in exploring co-design and co-production that are core to achieving the project's objectives. To facilitate the cross-fertilisation of perspectives necessitated by the approach, a multiplicity of stakeholders across the public-private spectrum including from the national, local government to community levels are being engaged.

This project would lead to the creation of a demonstrable model in which governments and other formal actors learn from “real-life” initiatives that are ongoing in project communities, and in turn use those lessons to inform government practice and policy around solid waste management in the respective project cities. The two cities selected for the challenge are Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria. In Accra, the project communities include Dome in the Ga East Municipal Assembly and Pokuasi in the Ga West Municipal Assembly; while in Lagos, they are Ojora, Orisumbare and Daramola (all neighbouring communities under Apapa-Iganmu Local Council Development Area).


Expected Impacts on policy/practice/research

The expected outcome of the project is mainstream recognition and participation of actors that have traditionally been overlooked in the governance of waste management systems in Accra and Lagos: informal entrepreneurs, communities and local governments. The project's themes of inclusive governance, responsive planning and integrated problem-solving are central to the Sustainable Urbanization Strategy developed by the UN in response to the provisions of SDG 11 and the New Urban Agenda.

Project Team

  1. Temilade Sesan (Sociologist – Principal Investigator (PI), University of Ibadan)
  2. Dzidzo Yirenya-Tawiah (Environmental Scientist – Co-PI, University of Ghana)
  3. Olufunke Alaba (Economist, University of Ibadan/University of Cape Town)
  4. Agharese Ojelede (Environmental consultant/advocate, Nigeria)
  5. Tomiwa Phillips (PhD candidate, University of Ibadan)
  6. Tsekpetse-Akuamoah Kweku (PhD candidate, University of Ghana)


Project Outputs so far

The Ga-East Municipal Assembly in collaboration with the Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies (IESS) under the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, University of Ghana, Green Africa Youth Organization and the Bola Taxi and Aboboya Association have initiated activities to formalize the activities of the informal waste workers in the Municipality. This comes at the time where the urgent need to formalize the informal waste sector has been identified as paramount to sustainable waste management in the Municipality.




International Science Council (ISC) & Network of African Science Academies (NASAC)