Ghana: "I Have Been a Stowaway"

Updated: Nov 5

A fishing boat on Azizakpe Island, Ghana. Photo Credit: Christine Wheatley

by Christine Wheatley, executive director of NED Africa

NED Africa is producing an ethnographic film that captures stories of return migrants to coastal and island communities impacted by rising sea levels along Ghana's coast which covers a distance of over 300 miles and is home to 5 million residents.

With our film, we are documenting stories of individuals and communities fighting erosion and coastal flooding and experiencing displacement as a result of climate-related stressors--particularly rising sea levels--along Ghana's east and west coasts, including island communities on the Volta River, Ghana's main river system. Our participants also include people who have been deported and other migrants who have returned to Ghana, mostly to the west coast, after such displacement. The film also features NED Africa's work to establish new green industries in Ghana which support internally displaced persons and return migrants and prevent the necessity of undocumented emigration by providing sustainable livelihoods.

We aim to use the film and storytelling to raise awareness of the impacts of climate change on coastal communities and of ways to mitigate it and slow global warming. We also aim to highlight the dangers faced by climate refugees who feel forced--due to homelessness, hunger, and unemployment brought on by displacement--to immigrate to other countries without documentation and the vulnerabilities they face upon return to Ghana in order to educate would-be migrants.

Findings and Stories

Overall, we found that, over the last 30 years, many coastal and island communities have lost vast lands to the sea which has broken down and wash away dozens of their homes. An even greater number of houses have been buried in the sand. As the sea moves closer ashore, it sweeps lots of sand inshore that has drowned coastal and island homes, rendering them inhabitable and forcing residents to relocate inland, yet many do not have the resources to do so. Furthermore, return migrants face challenges with economic reincorporation as they struggle to find work and housing.

We collected our first set of stories on the island of Azizakpe, a 1.75-mile long estuary island which is closest to the “mouth” of the estuary, where the Volta River and Gulf of Guinea meet in eastern Ghana. With a population of 400 residents, Azizakpe is one of more than 50 inhabited islands on the Volta River.

Film Coming Soon and Read More at NED Africa

Jonathan's Story. Artwork by Monica Curca

Climate Refugee Stories: Ghana is supported by National Geographic Society

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