Makoko also commonly known as the floating village in Lagos. This village has a diverse history. Makoko was founded when fishers from Togo and the Republic of Benin settled there about a century ago. Just like much of Nigeria, it is highly multicultural; popular languages include Yoruba, French, and Egun, a local dialect. The village, which was initially just a fishing ground, has grown to be the home for generations of fishers. The population of this area estimates around a million people, although supporting data is not available, for there has never been any official census carried out in this slum. The once precious water has now turned into oily black water that is longer proper for human consumption; it emits an overpowering smell and a thick layer of white scum forms around the shack stilts.
Makoko A Settlement On Water.
In Makoko village, knowing how to paddle or swim is an essential tactic for all Makoko residents. Children in this village master how to paddle before they can crawl as a survival skill at a very tender age. Every house owns a canoe anchored across the still water. Makoko residents build homes and structures from wooden planks that rise on stilts driven deep into the water bed out of the water. Most households contain seven to ten members, and most properties are rental. The residents use canoes for transportation to navigate the canals and crisscross between houses. Apart from transportation, canals are used for fishing and as a sales point whereby women sell food, water, and household goods.
For years now, residents in Makoko have no access to necessary infrastructures such as clean drinking water, electricity and waste disposal, and predisposed to severe environmental and health dangers. Fifteen households share communal latrines. Kitchen waste, wastewater, kitchen waste, and polythene bags go straight into the water they’ve lived on top of. The only way to get potable clean water is to buy them from vendors who get it from boreholes. The government does not provide free water to Makoko residents. Moreover, the government doesn’t want Makoko residents living there at all.
“We still leave in fear of losing our homes and land,” said one of the residents.
The Fear Losing A Home.
In July 2012, the government demolished many of the houses and other illegal structures of the low-lying coastal community. Government officials cited health and sanitation issues. Locals, however, suspect that the underlying motive is a desire to sell off the area lucratively to property developers. The media interference following the demolition and the residents’ protest led the state government to announce a regeneration plan. The generation plan provides accommodation for 250,000 people and employment opportunities for a further 150,000. Recently, a team of architects devised a floating school built from plastic barrels that has space for classrooms as well as a play area.
A project was launched in September 2019 by Code for Africa affiliated with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap is geared towards putting Makoko on digital maps in a bid to drive social and financial inclusion. The developers intend to put the area navigable on digital maps so that thereon new development plans may come. To take up the project, youths from the area learned how to operate the drones and populate the maps with images of the community.
“For many years, the state government has ignored Makoko village. This project is the beginning of a talk on inclusion. The project is helping map out Makoko so that governments and other organizations can offer interventions. It also aims to provide access to social services like education, electricity, healthcare,” Ottaviani, one of the project officers said.
For residents of Makoko, the project has not only been a chance to learn about drones, maps, and her community, but it is a lot more about change.
“With this mapping project, I know I am fighting for my life and the lives of other people like me in Makoko.”