Kevin McElvaney


Is a wetland and former recreation area close to Accra (Ghana), which is surrounded by rivers that stream through a lagoon straight into the Atlantic Ocean.

Before you enter the burning fields of Agbogbloshie, you will recognise a huge market, on one side you can buy cheap local fruits and vegetables and on the other side you will see loads of manufacturers and scrap dealers, go to these scrap dealers and you will see men sitting on broken TVs smashing their hammers and simp e tools against any kind of car parts, machines and electronic devices. Behind this area huge fires and enormous clouds of smoke dominate the landscape, Here most of the people are kids between the age of 7 and 25, who start their day at sunrise and end their work at sunset, This is the place where I took the following pictures, The 40,000 setters themselves cal this area “Sodom and Gomorrah”.

As a result of illegal exportation and fake labeled donations (development aid), this old lagoon became one of the biggest e-waste dumpsites worldwide. Computers, Monitors, Refrigerators, HiFi-Systems, Video players and other electronic devices are stacked everywhere. You can see small bridges build with monitors, towers made out of keyboards and puddles filled with liquids, that pour out of old refrigerators (refrigerant). All these products are difficult and/ or expensive to dispose (or not able to recycle) and thats a reason, why they end up here.

All in all I left this place with mixed feelings… I feel sorry for what happens there, how they have to live and what terrible stories they have to tell, but somehow it feels wrong to walk around there with a sad face, because there are still kids paying and dancing around and tell you stories about their visions and plans in future. Most boys work together as a group and help each other like a family, many of them try to forget the sad parts in their story and focus on their opportunities, which was wonderful to hear, but I had some facts in the back of my mind. Most of them will die from cancer in their 20’s and grow up without education, instead of working here for a few weeks to earn some money and leave the place as they expect, they often fall into this vicious circle of Agbogbloshie, at the point where they have enough money, they often get sick and have to spend it on medicine, sleeping pills and food. To earn money, they just can start the same work again and again, but in the end they are not able to leave this place and start their dream.

So this work seems wrong, but till today there is no alternative in this region. Burning cables and electronic-waste became a livelihood for many people there and it is expected that the e-waste exports to Ghana will be doubled till 2020, On top, Agbogbloshie exists for more than 10 years now, so many kids grow up here and call this their home now, Agbogbloshie is a social-economic and environmental disaster.