Migingo - Business on the Rock View Story | Overview

Lake Victoria, Kenia / December 2010

Small-Island, huge conflict. Policemen with charged guns, drunkards, fishermen, businessman, prostitutes – all jumbled together on a rock the size of a football pitch in the vast waters of Lake Victoria. All of them share the same reason for being there – money.

Nile Perch is one of Kenya’s and Uganda’s main export goods. It is hardly consumed in neither country but goes directly to European markets. Once the fish are being landed on the lakeshore, it doesn’t take much more than 24 hours for the filets to arrive in Frankfurt, Rungy or Amsterdam.

Since the number of Nile Perch is going down in the Lake, the competition amongst fishermen got tenser. Some years ago, they found out that they can save time and fuel when they sell their catch to middlemen on this isolated rock – a bot trip from Migingo to Kenya takes at least two hours, to Uganda at least seven hours.

Fishermen on Migingo get paid in cash. Word got around in the region. Compared to local standards, there is a lot of money to make on Migingo. Women arrived on the island, offering all kinds of services. Businessmen arrived, trying to make quick money by selling cheap liquor. There are thirteen bars on Migingo.

Tensions among different nationalities rise up frequently. Both Kenya and Uganda claim the Island. For now, Migingo is officially Kenyan, but Ugandan Police have set up an Outpost and control any movement to and from the Island.

Lake Victoria, Kenia / December 2010

Small-Island, huge conflict. Policemen with charged guns, drunkards, fishermen, businessman, prostitutes – all jumbled together on a rock the size of a football pitch in the vast waters of Lake Victoria. All of them share the same reason for being there – money.

Nile Perch is one of Kenya’s and Uganda’s main export goods. It is hardly consumed in neither country but goes directly to European markets. Once the fish are being landed on the lakeshore, it doesn’t take much more than 24 hours for the filets to arrive in Frankfurt, Rungy or Amsterdam.

Since the number of Nile Perch is going down in the Lake, the competition amongst fishermen got tenser. Some years ago, they found out that they can save time and fuel when they sell their catch to middlemen on this isolated rock – a bot trip from Migingo to Kenya takes at least two hours, to Uganda at least seven hours.

Fishermen on Migingo get paid in cash. Word got around in the region. Compared to local standards, there is a lot of money to make on Migingo. Women arrived on the island, offering all kinds of services. Businessmen arrived, trying to make quick money by selling cheap liquor. There are thirteen bars on Migingo.

Tensions among different nationalities rise up frequently. Both Kenya and Uganda claim the Island. For now, Migingo is officially Kenyan, but Ugandan Police have set up an Outpost and control any movement to and from the Island.

Landing Point on Migingo Beach. Every morning an Armada of small boats arrive from Kenia delivering supplies for the small businesses on Migingo.
Aerial view taken from neighbouring Pyramid Island which is still uninhabited as it is to steep for makeshift dwellings.
Nile Perch being weighed on a boat. The fishermen sell their catch directly from boat to boat to the middlemen wo buy for the big companies and take the catch to the mainland.
Fishermen sell their catch directly from boat to boat to the middlemen wo buy for the big companies and take the catch to the mainland.
Women prepare food for fishermen on the lakeshore.
Boniphace, one of the so-called Beach Unit Managers, argues with fishermen.
Men having a drink in a shop selling everything from food to fishing gear - and alcohol, of course.
Neighbours arguing on Migingo High Street
Many women came to Migingo to work as prostitutes when word got around that there is a lot of money to make on the island. Some of them pursue their business in this 12-room-Hotel made of corrugated iron.
Dusk on Migingo High Street
Women working for one of the bosses prepare food for next day's breakfast
Pool game in one of Migingo's thirteen bars.
Side street at sunrise. Apart from the main street, migingo consists of a wild pattern of huts and alleyways.
Early morning on Migingo.
Ugandans enjoying a game of dice in a bar.
Leonard Obala (center) owns most of the fishing boats on Migingo. Here he is seen giving instructions to his technicians. The house for his boat engines is the only one on the Island made of bricks.
Joseph Nsubuga from Uganda owns up to 80% of the houses on Migingo and made a small fortune renting them. He also owns a number of bars.
Life on Migingo is hard - especially with children. Still, many women have to choice than to bring their babies with them on the island.
Life on Migingo is hard - especially with children. Still, many women have to choice than to bring their babies with them on the island.
At the Hairdresser's.
Landing Point on Migingo Beach which serves as some kind of market place around noon as boats leave for the mainland as soon as 2 pm. The is no shadow, and the heat is unbearable.
Women prepare food for fishermen on the lakeshore.
The money circulating on Migingo attracts all kinds of businesses - including two tailor shops. This one is run by Joash Marienga (front) from Kenia.
Fishermen in one of the Shabeens selling homemade liquor. Many of them don't have a house on Migingo - they spend three days and nights on a boat, come back to the island and spend most of their money on drinks and girls and leave again.
Church service on Migingo. Like every building on the island, the church is made of corrugated iron.
Trader waiting for customers
Many women came to Migingo to work as prostitutes when word got around that there is a lot of money to make on the island. Most fishermen are not strictly shy when it gets to making contact.
Many women came to Migingo to work as prostitutes when word got around that there is a lot of money to make on the island. Some of them pursue their business in this 12-room-Hotel made of corrugated iron, where one of the girls is having her toe nails varnished.
21-year-old Pamela he left her home in Uganda because she could not make a living there. Hating Migingo and working as a prostitute, she wants to leave as soon as possible.
Many women came to Migingo to work as prostitutes when word got around that there is a lot of money to make on the island. Most fishermen are not strictly shy when it gets to making contact.
Woman running a shebeen argues with a customer.
Heavy rain at early morning. Storms and strongman appear over lake victoria pretty much every night, posing a permanent threat for the poorly equipped boats.
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