ADRA Ghana

By William Yam K. Brown


William Yam K. Brown is director of ADRA Ghana since 2008.

First Published: May 2, 2024

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency or ADRA, the humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was originally called the Seventh-day Adventist Welfare Service (SAWS) and later the Seventh-day Adventist World Service in 1973. The name changed to ADRA in April 1984.1

Beginnings in Ghana

In 1983, the prevailing conditions in Ghana required the intervention of humanitarian aid and assistance. In that year, there was drought and bushfires that destroyed forests and farmlands resulting in nationwide famine. Unfortunately, during that same period, almost two million Ghanaians were repatriated from Nigeria to Ghana, a situation that exacerbated the food shortage and food insecurity in the country.2

John Grates, the then-SAWS director for the Netherlands Union, and a friend to Pastor Mathew Ango Bediako, who was the president of the West African Union Mission (WAUM), proposed to send some 2,000 cans of biscuits to Ghana as a form of relief. The biscuits had been baked in 1966 but still tasted great at that time. Finally, the biscuits were received and stored at the WAUM headquarters for distribution.

Pastor Bediako, who initiated the supply of the biscuits to Ghana, assigned Pastor P. K. Asare, the then-Lay Activities Department director of WAUM, to supervise their distribution across the country.3

The government’s National Mobilization Programme, headed by Commodore Stephen Obimpeh, worked closely with the Adventist Church in making the biscuits available to the vulnerable and needy in society. While biscuits from the Netherlands were being distributed, additional donations of food items and medicines poured in from other countries such as the U.S., Canada, and France. The members of the Church were mobilized for the distribution of food across the length and breadth of the entire nation.4

Following the success of the distribution and its impact on the Ghanaian people, the Adventist Church in Ghana, through the initiative of Pastor M. A. Bediako, requested the World Headquarters help establish the presence and support of SAWS in the same year, 1983. With the backing of Commodore Obimpe, the food distribution by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ghana was very successful and impactful. To this end, a fuel station was even sited on the current-day Southern Ghana Union Conference compound. SAWS received monetary donations amounting to USD $300,000 that helped to import tires and other vehicle spare parts to support the mammoth food distribution operation.

In 1984, SAWS procured three Nissan Cabstars and two trucks that were used to transport the food to the three key sectors of the country–Northern, Central, and Southern. Items distributed in 1984 included yellow corn, rice, powdered milk, oil, sorghum, margarine, and tinned Geisha fish. It was difficult transporting these items to the beneficiaries, but individual truck owners and Tarzan Transport Company supported the operations of SAWS to carry the food. The leadership worked with town committees and some chiefs to ascertain the number and listed the people in their communities who were in need. About 135,000 families were served every month.5

Some of the biscuits (referred by some as “Adventist Biscuits”) were also used to support university students who had been mobilized by the government to carry locked-up cocoa into the hinterlands. These patriotic Ghanaian youth were given 500 tins of biscuits that were used judiciously. The government appreciated this and requested additional supplies. John Grate and his team gladly obliged and granted more support.

The change of name from SAWS to the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) broadened the scope of coverage and expanded the operations to include development. Food aid came from USAID, France, Canada, and other countries. At a meeting held in Denmark, the name SAWS was changed to ADRA by the then-chairman Dr. Paulson who was the president of the Trans European Division.5


This emergency feeding ended in 1984. Food-for-Work (FFW) and Maternal and Child Health (MCH) followed in 1985. During the FFW period, ADRA embarked on the Guinea Worm Eradication project in the Ajumako area of the Central Region. Out of the FFW, construction of roads, forestation, school buildings, construction of community centers, etc. were completed. The period of 1985 to 1996 became the first development phase of ADRA Ghana’s interventions. During this period, ADRA worked in all the ten regions of the country at the time.6


Though ADRA implemented several donor-funded projects within the first decade of its existence, the watershed funding was the USAID-sponsored PL480 Title II Development Activity Programs I & II (Food Security Project from 1996 through 2007) with funding to the tune of approximately USD51 million. The size of the funding enabled ADRA to make a very significant contribution to the economy of the country; the promotion and cultivation of mangos (2826 acres), citrus (9118 acres), and cashews (8441 acres) across nine out of the ten regions at the time; and the promotion and utilization of soybeans and moringa. ADRA’s work has contributed immensely to the cashew, citrus, mango, and soybean industries in the country. With the use of monetization of wheat, the country benefitted economically especially in foreign currency reserves.7


From a small beginning of MCH, FFW, and Nutritional Education, ADRA’s portfolios increased and included: i) Food Security – agriculture, afforestation; ii) Health (Primary health, WASH, HIV, and AIDS, etc.); iii) Economic Development, Education; and iv) Disaster Response. ADRA has worked in all 16 regions of the country, and the agency is widely known for its contribution to national development.8


Country directors: Glenn Howell (1983-1984); Dick Hall (1984-1985); Rich Allan Moseanko, assisted by Pastor Seth Laryea, (1985-1987); Israel T. Agboka (the first Ghanaian Country director of ADRA (1987-1997); George Baiden (1997-2002); Samuel Asante-Mensah (2002-2008); William Yaw K. Brown (2008- ).

Programs directors: Paul Jorgenssen; Mildred Taylor; Seth Abu Bonsrah; Victoria Daaku, Justice Abbey.

Treasurers: Victoria Aryee; Boadi-Mensah; Emmanuel Esso; C. T. Quarcoo; Alfred Boamah (Acting); Justice Abbey; Constance Larmie.

Early staff and volunteers: Eddie Lartey, James Antwi, E. K. Kwarteng, Boakye Kodua, Kwasi Addai Anokye, M. A. Akpoley, Noah Nkansah, Adjetey Sowah, Sarah Antwi, Samuel Okpoti, J. B. Kwakye, Klewia Acheampong. The agency’s first articulated truck was driven by Paul Anowuo. Those who drove the first four Leyland trucks were Addai Frimpong, Acquaye, Emmanuel Sarpong, and Nana Amansan Akwaboahene. The Nissan Cabstars were driven by Isaiah Tawiah, Moses Awartey, and Kwadwo Yankyera,10

ADRA Ghana’s traditional donors: United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), The Swedish International Development Cooperation (SIDA), European Union (EU), Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), UNHCR, and the GLOBAL FUND.


ADRA Ghana’s Contribution to National Development, 2017, unpublished document.

ADRA Ghana office records, unpublished documents.

Dowuona, Isaac N. N. “The History and Mission of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency–Ghana,” M.Th. thesis, Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon-Accra, Ghana.

Owusu-Mensah, Kofi. Ghana Seventh-day Adventism: A History. Accra: Valley View University Monograph Series, 1, 2005.

West-Central Africa Division, Working Policy, 2004 ed.


  1. West-Central Africa Division: Working Policy, 2004 ed. (Accra: Advent Press, 2004).

  2. Isaac N. N. Dowuona, “The History and Mission of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency–Ghana 1983-2013” (M.Th. thesis, Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon-Accra, Ghana, 2015), 35.

  3. Interview with Pastor M. A. Bediako, 2019. (Pastor Bediako was the president of the West African Union Mission under whose leadership SAWS was invited to Ghana.)

  4. Ibid.

  5. Ibid.

  6. 125 Years of Touching Lives (Accra: The Advent Press, 2013), 22, 54-56.

  7. “ADRA Ghana’s Contribution to National Development,” unpublished document, 2017.

  8. Owusu-Mensah, Kofi. 2005. Ghana Seventh-day Adventist: A History, Accra 1 (Valley View University Monograph Series, 2005), 356.

  9. Unpublished ADRA Ghana office records.

  10. Ibid.


Brown, William Yam K. "ADRA Ghana ." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. May 02, 2024. Accessed June 17, 2024.

Brown, William Yam K. "ADRA Ghana ." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. May 02, 2024. Date of access June 17, 2024,

Brown, William Yam K. (2024, May 02). ADRA Ghana . Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 17, 2024,