Lagos, Nigeria is struggling to grow alongside an exploding population. Each year nearly two million people from rural Nigeria and neighboring West Africa move here to find work or escape poverty and conflict. The city is one of the world's fastest growing cities, home to a population of twenty one million, half of which live in informal communities or slums throughout the sprawling urban environment. With a growth rate of ten percent annually building development is relentless.
A few miles from Lagos men from the Ilaje tribe hold their breath and submerge themselves up to three meters, searching for sand that can only be found in specific areas, collected in rusted steel buckets punctured with holes. The men fill boats with hundreds of pounds of sharp sand, a vital ingredient used to make the cement and building blocks that fuel the Lagos building boom. Without machinery or diving equipment, these men, born at the sea in the Southwest of Nigeria, have relied on skills handed down from generations past.
With incredible strength and skill they dive for this precious natural resource, fourteen hour days six days a week, hauling upwards of 50kg bucks of sand into their boats before setting sail with the tides to unload their bounty at the end of each day.
However, the faster they collect, the faster the buildings appear and the faster their skills become redundant. Coastal riverbeds are being stripped of this natural resource; wreaking havoc on rivers, deltas and marine ecosystems.
Will the ecological impact of this industry destroy the ancient craft or will these miners continue to dig, destroying their own natural habitat in the process?