Society 02 November 2015 25 6254

Migingo: The Iron-clad Island. The most densely populated island in Africa


Migingo is a small island in East Africa’s Lake Victoria, the world's second largest fresh water lake, bordering Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. There’s a sovereignty dispute over Migingo Island between Uganda and Kenya but while the governments of the two countries may argue over the tiny piece of land, both Ugandan and Kenyan fishing families live here peacefully side-by-side. Migingo life is dictated by the catch and that varies depending on many factors. Beyond nature, one of the main dangers for the fishermen, and their catch, is local pirates. They’ve been known to rob and even kill their ill-fated victims, making the lake a dangerous place to work.

Related: A small fishing community of Tangier Island in Virginia, USA, watch in despair as their home slowly disappears underwater

Even though the island is roughly half the size of a football pitch, it has everything a town needs. There’s a restaurant, a pharmacy with a doctor and even a hotel where RT Doc’s Peter Scott stayed, he sampled the local food and entertainment, meeting fishermen and traders who spoke of life on the island. It’s a close community, literally, where they’ve learned a few things about effective space management.

Peter had one big question; why does everyone keep living in such squalid and cramped conditions when there are two bigger and completely uninhabited islands nearby? Legend has it that the other two islands are haunted but is that really why fishermen won’t settle there?

Related: Uros people of Peru live on manmade islands on Lake Titicaca

At first, Migingo was described to Peter as a hostile and dangerous place, where strangers weren’t welcome, but that myth was soon dispelled when the islanders proved to be hospitable hosts, eager to talk and happy to share their memories of the island and their opinions about its future.

Migingo and its people revealed in a fascinating insight into life in a small community.

Watch this film in Russian



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