Marcus Bleasdale on Oil Exploitation in Central Africa

Fishermen in Kribi who have given up fishing now “Fish Sand” for building. Fish stocks dropped to almost nothing after the pipeline was laid. There has been virtually no compensation for the thousands of fishermen whose livelihood depends on fish stocks. More than half of the fishermen have abandoned their pirogues. Those who stay can no longer afford to school their children or feed them regularly. The pipeline carries 225,000 barrels of oil a day and benefits to the US consortium over will be $8bn. Human Rights abuses and health problems all caused by the pipeline are common place. Marcus Bleasdale/Alexia Foundation

Today’s photo is from Marcus Bleasdale’s 2005 professional project, “The Rape of a Nation: Oil Exploitation in Central Africa“.

When Marcus proposed the project, oil exploitation was already wreaking havoc on the central African nations of Cameroon, Chad, the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Angola. The World Bank was planning to fund a pipeline through Central African rainforests, which would cause more destruction to the lives and livelihoods of those who live there. With this funding, oil companies would build a 600-mile pipeline from the Doba oil fields in Chad to coastal Cameroon, slashing through the fragile rainforest that is home to the Baka and Bakola peoples, communities of traditional hunter-gatherers.

Marcus’ project documented the impact of this pipeline, showing diseases that resulted from drinking waters from wells near the pipeline and fish stocks almost completely depleted. Fisherman, like those in the image, shifted from harvesting fish, to harvesting sand. The pipeline promised riches and aid to those it impacted, but it is evident from Marcus’ work that the pipeline brought no benefits to those whose lives it disrupted.

The Democratic Republic of Congo sits atop one of the world’s most vast deposits of diamonds and gold; yet it is also home to the world’s most deadly war. In Rape of a Nation, photojournalist Marcus Bleasdale explores the connection. See the project at

Marcus today continues to document the impact of mineral exploitation on local populaces. He did the above video with MediaStorm on gold and diamond exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In October, Marcus’ work on conflict minerals, particularly those used in electronics and cameras, will be published in National Geographic Magazine.

The Alexia Foundation supports our grantees to produce stories and images that drive change. See previous photos of the day here.

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