The Struggle for Survival in Nigeria’s Floating Slum

Image: Lolade Cameron-Cole

Makoko’s waterways are a hive of activity.

Shacks sit atop rickety stilts while flotillas of trash slowly drift past down below. Crowds of people paddle past through the stagnant waters in boats, and foul smells fill the air while the baking sun beats down. And yet, in this sprawling floating slum, where basic human needs are barely met, the people refuse to succumb to despair despite the hardships they face.

Image: boellstiftung

Boats ply the murky waters of Makoko, which serve both as a thoroughfare and floating market for its residents.

According to a local folk tale, the floating slum Makoko has its origins in a magical love story. An Egun fisherwoman from Benin would visit a local Yoruba carpenter, bringing him her catch of fish, crabs and shrimps. Eventually, the two of them fell in love, and the family they had together became the foundation of what is now Makoko.