Migingo: The Iron-Clad Island

One Thousand Men Living on Fish and Packed Like Sardines

26 minutes 2015 7.8/10 based on 5 votes

Migingo is a small island in East Africa that’s part of a cluster of three islands. It rises out of the waters of Lake Victoria. This lake is considered the world’s second largest fresh water lake and it borders Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya.

Migingo is about half the size of a football field, yet it’s home to hundreds of people. This makes it the most densely populated island on Earth. Although the other two islands that form the cluster are larger, they remain pretty much uninhabited. It is widely believed that there are evil spirits on the other islands that were banished there by the first person to set foot on Migingo.

Right now there’s a dispute between Uganda and Kenya regarding the sovereignty of Migingo Island. But while the governments of these two countries are arguing over the tiny piece of land, both Ugandan and Kenyan fishing families live there peacefully.

The tiny island has everything a town needs, including a medical doctor, restaurant, beauty salon, stores, bars, and even a hotel and a church. Most of the structures look improvised. They’re made of sheets of corrugated zinc and wooden beams in true squatter fashion. However, they are rental properties and the Kenyan inhabitants have to pay rent to Ugandan owners.

Life on Migingo revolves around the catch. The results of the catch vary depending on different factors. Other than nature, one of the main dangers for the fishermen is the presence of local pirates. Some say that these gangs are mostly made up of Kenyans and Tanzanians. These men have been known to rob and even kill their victims. This makes the lake a very dangerous place to work.

Peter Scott, the correspondent, tries the local food and entertainment and talks to fishermen, traders, and the island doctor about life on Migingo. It’s a close community, where people seem to look out for each other.

However, they have very little hope of a brighter future and there’s talk about some of the inhabitants migrating to live in other places.

Peter had one big question, though. Why does everyone keep living in such cramped conditions when there are two bigger islands nearby? There’s got to be more of a reason for this than tales of spirits and ghosts. Find out more now.

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Discuss This Documentary

  • Raven Shakti

    What an interesting documentary… I don’t know about the “living on fish and packed like sardines” part… What I see is strong beautiful people with a clever mind that can adapt, no matter what the circumstances. And a free spirit that can’t be destroyed. More power to you friends!

  • Peter Behan

    Expect America to bringing them democracy sometime soon

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