13 September 2023

Flood adaptation in Glefe

Flood adaptation in Glefe: Exploring adaptation strategies, challenges, and possibilities for future development

Authors: Rebecca Marslew Grønlund & Johanna Pfaffenzeller

MSc report, Dept. of Geosciences, University of Copenhagen, Sep. 2023

In this thesis we investigate which flood adaptation strategies are adopted in the neighbourhood of Glefe in Accra, Ghana, a low-income and informal neighbourhood which regularly experiences floods. We examined this on two different levels, the household level and the neighbourhood level. The main methods for data collection were semi-structured interviews and observations. We discussed our findings along a theoretical framework which is mainly drawing from a typification of adaptation measures by Fedele et al. (2019) and an adaptation of the traditional flood disaster cycle. At the household level in Glefe, coping strategies and incremental adaptation measures are commonly implemented. However, these measures can only offer temporary relief with some even leading to maladaptation. Furthermore, incremental adaptation measures can be expensive and have to be done repeatedly which entails a degree of social differentiation based on financial capacity in Glefe. A lack of activity is mainly found on the neighbourhood level. Flood adaptation can be impeded by the reciprocal placement of blame by  the municipality and the residents while no side acknowledges their own responsibility, a dynamic that we refer to as the blame game. Even though we show possibilities for more engagement by residents on neighbourhood level, our main message is however that the municipality needs to step up and increase their efforts to make a substantial change in Glefe.
We believe that transformative adaptation measures need to be implemented for substantial and sustainable change. We propose five necessary steps. Firstly, we call for more activity and the acknowledgement of responsibility from the municipality. This has to be accompanied by an increased level of collaboration between residents to enable resource pooling which can be used for transformative adaptation on neighbourhood level. Furthermore, we believe that the current drainage system has to be improved to enable water drainage out of the neighbourhood. This needs to be accompanied by adequate waste management by the residents as well as the municipality to prevent the clogging of drains. Additionally, Glefe needs a functioning early warning system, prediction models, and an evacuation plan.