Threat of hunger in oil-rich Niger Delta

Threat of hunger in oil-rich Niger Delta

Threat of hunger in oil-rich Niger Delta

A pristine paradise – these are not words you often hear to describe the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria.

But you get to appreciate the area’s natural beauty whilst wading across lily covered creeks and trekking deep into the forest, accompanied by birdsong.

Welcome to the Niger Delta before the oil.

“I’m on the plank now so walk right behind me,” a guide said as we squelched across a muddy swamp trying not to sink in too deep.

After walking for about an hour and a half from the village of Kalaba in Bayelsa state, I caught the first glimpse of an expansive tranquil lake through the trees.

On the shore are shelters made of wooden poles draped in material.

Every two years several families set up a camp at Lake Masi where they fish for just three months.

“After preparing the nylon and woven basket nets we go into the lake and drive the fish into one area,” Woloko Inebisa told me.

“After preparing the nylon and woven basket nets we go into the lake and drive the fish into one area,” Woloko Inebisa told me.

“By fishing every two years we allow the fish to grow large. If we fished every year there would only be very small fish here,” the 78 year old told me as two men in dug out canoes adjusted the nets inside a section of the lake that had been fenced off with cane reeds.

Threat of hunger in oil-rich Niger DeltaSmoke drifted across the camp as women dried the fish over home made grills above smouldering fires.

“I will use this money to pay my children’s school fees, to buy books for them, to buy their school uniforms and to do everything for them,” said mother-of-three Ovie Joe.

When these families return to their villages they will continue to grow crops but will have raised some capital from the fishing season.

“We have water for drinking and plenty of fish. But I’m not just here to feed my stomach – I’ll save up money for when I go back to the village,” Mr Inebisa said.

Just a few kilometres away near Taylor Creek is a very different picture.

An oil spill from June 2012 has left the ground covered in a dark sludge and the trees are all blackened by fire.