An account by Olumide Idowu, during a visit to Makoko, a slum in Lagos
I nearly cried for the lives of people I came across living in Makoko. I came to the realization that Nigeria has a lot to do when it comes to climate change adaptation.
According to Wikipedia, Makoko (also referred to as the Venice of Africa) is a slum neighborhood located in Lagos, Nigeria. Alongside its two-neighboring communities, Oko-Agbon and Ago-Egun- they lay like three kwashiorkor-suffering triplets, victims of government neglect.
These three communities are connected by a short bridge constructed over a wide canal in which there is stagnant, black and murky water.
In July 2012, Nigerian government officials destroyed dozens of residences after giving residents 72 hours’ notice of eviction. The destruction of this historic community was in order to redevelop what is now seen as prime waterfront.
It took me 6 hours to go round the community and find out that series of problem affecting this community when it comes to adapting to climate change. My journey was successful because I found Tope, a passionate youth in the community, helping to solve the issues of the community, and also sharing his challenges and conditions of the slum with me.
Tope is a very passionate youth that has the zeal of making changes in his community, and seeing the fellow juniors happy all the time, but the issue of climate change is really challenging for him and thus keeps pushing him to focus on different areas which, helps the community in one way or the other. I spent 4 hours with Tope as he address issues of Makoko and how the community is adapting to climate change.
He highlighted challenges and differentiated them in two categories: Urban and Social Community Challenges. Urban (Sanitation & Waste Management, Building technology, Electricity, Water Supply and Management), Social (Education, Health & Security).
With these challenges, He was able to mention that the cause of all these are flooding, insecurity, disease (malaria), waste accumulation, poor drainage system, poor energy connection, land ownership issues, large number of tenants in Makoko, most Makoko residents live there because of existing family ties.
Major flooding occurs 3 – 4 times per year, flooding lasts up to 4 days, rivers overflow due to blockage caused by improper waste disposal, 60% of respondents in Makoko have been living there between 2 and 10 years, close to 73% of respondents had no education above secondary level.
One of the key issues Tope mentioned was flooding. This required more focus. So I asked him more questions on what are the challenges and what do they see after this flood happens. He mentioned sea level rise adaptation, biological approach, social institution approach and engineering approach.
Makoko’s housing on stilts, use of waterways for transportation and public space offers some strong ideas which could resolve many of the problems caused by flooding. However, Makoko residents are still greatly affected by frequent flooding due to their lack of effective coping strategies for many of the impacts of flooding.
Community members noted that sections of the community that have benefitted from improved drainage systems experienced less flooding than areas where the drainage system is poor. The community addresses the flooding impact in the following ways: Staying indoors while a community members clear blocked drainage channels, children stay home until the flood subsides, roads are sand-filled or filled with wood shavings, use of rain boots; taking available unaffected routes.
The impacts are damage of and deterioration of building infrastructure, prevalence of malaria, destruction/damage of household property, poor health condition resulting from unnecessary sickness, including different skin diseases, disruption of economic activities, and scarcity of food.
To solve all these problems, Tope shared some things he has been doing in order for the community to have a better place for them to live. He was able to work as a community based volunteer with different organizations (eg. SlumtoSchool, Recycle PointsNG, Wecyclers, Climate Wednesday and many more) to tackle the issue of Climate Change, by developing an action plan for the community.
Coastal protection from flooding and erosion that result that leads to sea level rise. He also proposed the issue of sewage, in which he wanted to see how he can monitor health of the coastal environment from sewage and solid waste. With the support of recycling organizations, he implemented sound disposal methods, sustainable collection and disposal techniques, waste recycling strategies and Community conscientization of waste disposals.
Response from the community member: “We are happy and satisfied, but we want the government to build us both primary and secondary schools. We also need boreholes to give us drinkable water.”
Once these measures occurs, the conversation about sustainable development and climate change resilience planning for waterfront communities in Makoko, Lagos will then be able to move forward.
Makoko’s case is just one from around Nigeria. I plead to the government of Lagos state to do something urgently before the impact of climate change eats up the lives of Makoko communities.
Olumide Idowu is the Campaign Specialist for Climate Wednesday. He tweets @OlumideIDOWU