Life In Bodo

This page is meant to give people who might never visit a rural African village in the Niger Delta an idea of what life is like there.  All of these photos are from Bodo, Rivers State, Nigeria, the site of Bebor’s original school.  This is the community that many of the school’s pupils, teachers and parents live in.  

Bodo was hit by two massive oil spills in 2008-2009.  The older photos on this page, primarily taken from 2000 – 2006 give you an idea what life in Bodo was like before these oil spills decimated the local fish population that so many people in Bodo depended upon for all of part of their livelihoods.  The later photos (mostly from 2009 or 2012) illustrate the post-oil spill environmental devastation of this once vibrant fishing community.

Bodo is the largest population settlement in Ogoni and one of the largest in Rivers State. Its population is overwhelmingly comprised of subsistence farmers and fishermen.

Fishermen returning to the Bodo waterfront in April 2000. Notice how green the mangrove trees are in the upper right corner of the picture.

Our earliest history: Scott Pegg and Patrick Naagbanton at the Bodo waterfront in April 2000 during Scott’s first visit to Nigeria.

The Bodo waterfront in January 2001. Notice the lush green mangrove trees in the top or back of the photo.

Traditional fishing canoes along the Bodo waterfront, June 2002. Scenes like this no longer exist after the community was devastated by two massive oil spills in 2008-2009.

Students from our school in Bodo posing for a picture in a local fishing boat in 2003.  You can again see the lush green mangrove trees in the background of this photo.

Students from our school in Bodo posing for a picture in a local fishing boat in 2003. You can again see the lush green mangrove trees in the background of this photo.

Reverend Moses, the school director in Bodo with Dr. Chuck Dietzen, the founder and president of Timmy Global Health at the Bodo waterfront in June 2004. Notice how green and lush the mangrove trees are behind them.

A Bodo fisherman repairs one of his fishing nets in June 2002.

A particularly beautiful part of Bodo’s environment in 2002 before the oil spills.

The other main occupation in Bodo besides fishing is farming. Much of the farming work is done by hand and by women. These two women are working in a corn field in Bodo in 2002.

This photo shows two women and their children cleaning cassava, one of the main staple crops in Bodo.

This is how you can iron clothes in a village where the vast majority of people lack access to electricity.

A baby “native goat” in Bodo. Goat meat is a prized local delicacy and many families in Bodo raise goats.

The “native goat” shown in this June 2012 photo apparently ran away a lot so his owners have improvised an interesting way to restrain him.

Palm wine comes from the raffia palm tree.

A traditional mud-brick house with a thatched roof. Many of our school’s students live in houses like this.

Two of our students with their mother at their home in Bodo in June 2004.

A typical village scene in Bodo. This photo is from June 2002.

The post office in Bodo. Our school director, Reverend Moses, also runs the small bookshop just to the left of the post office.

A traditional artisan working from his home in Bodo.

The Ogoni are renown for their carved masks and traditional dancers are an important part of many ceremonies in Bodo. Shown here are members of the Kanutete cultural dance group in 2002.

In June 2002, Scott and Tijen Pegg were made honorary chiefs in Bodo. They are shown here during the chieftaincy ceremony with King Felix Sunday Bebor Berebon, the community’s paramount ruler to their right and members of the Bodo Council of Chiefs behind them.

Members of the Timmy Global Health delegation meeting with members of the Bodo Council of Chiefs in June 2004.

Scott Pegg and members of the Bodo Council of Chiefs in August 2005.

Scott Pegg and members of the Bodo Council of Chiefs in August 2005.

Chief Professor Scott Pegg Road was dedicated in Bodo in 2005.

Chief Professor Scott Pegg Road was dedicated in Bodo in 2005.

Chief Professor Scott Pegg Road with four native goats on it in 2005.

Chief Professor Scott Pegg Road with four native goats on it in 2005.

With one exception, all of the subsequent photos are either from 2009 or 2012 and they show the massive environmental devastation that Bodo has suffered from since two major oil spills from the Trans-Niger pipeline hit the community in 2008-2009.  Some of these photos also show yet another spill from the Trans-Niger pipeline that started in June 2012 at Koloma-Zormaadom in Bodo while Scott Pegg was there visiting the schools.

This picture from August 2005 shows the damaging effects of a relatively small oil spill in 2003 that just affected the mangroves on the side of the river shown in the bottom of the picture but did not affect the mangroves on the other side of the river.  The bottom part of this photo used to look exactly like the top part before this oil spill.

This picture from August 2005 shows the damaging effects of a relatively small oil spill in 2003 that just affected the mangroves on the side of the river shown in the bottom of the picture but did not affect the mangroves on the other side of the river. The bottom part of this photo used to look exactly like the top part before this oil spill.

Oil spill residue along the Bodo waterfront, July 2009.

A section of the mangrove forest that clearly indicates just how extensive the 2008-2009 oil spills were. Many shellfish lived in the mangroves and many swimming fish laid their eggs there. While some of the swimming fish were able to swim away from the spills, huge numbers of fish and shellfish in Bodo Creek were killed because of the pollution from these oil spills.

“Dead or dying mangroves coated with oil no longer provide a healthy habitat for fish or other aquatic life, causing catastrophic collapse of aquatic food chains and marine biodiversity. As fishing is a major livelihood activity in Ogoniland (and in Niger Delta in general), destruction of mangroves will lead to collapse of fisheries” – UNEP Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland report, p. 165.

“Surrounded as it is by extensive creeks, fishing should be an integral part of the community’s livelihood. While fishing was indeed once a prime activity, it was evident from local community feedback and field observations that it has essentially ceased in areas polluted by oil, especially where physical impacts are evident” – UNEP Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland report, p. 178.

One initial way that fishermen responded to the oil spill-induced collapse of their fisheries was by cutting down the dead or dying mangrove trees to sell them for firewood.

A fisherman carrying harvested mangrove wood at the Bodo waterfront in July 2009.

The Bodo waterfront used to bustle with fishermen returning with their catches and market traders buying fish from them. In July 2009, no such activity existed and the only thing being sold was firewood culled from dead or dying mangroves.

Scott Pegg’s photo of Janet, a Bodo fisherwoman cutting a mangrove tree in Bodo Creek in July 2009 became the cover photo for the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 8, No. 1, March 2010 for a special issue on gender and politics.

Scott Pegg trekking through dead mangrove tree roots, mud and previous oil spill residue to get to the site of the Koloma-Zormaadom oil spill in Bodo in June 2012.

What looks like mud burbling out from the water in front of and to the right of the fishing paddle is oil spilling from the Trans-Niger pipeline in Bodo in June 2012.

“Water” samples taken by Scott Pegg and local Bodo residents from the site of the Koloma-Zormaadom oil spill in Bodo in June 2012.

This is what oil on water looks like in Bodo. According to the United Nations Environment Program’s Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland report, “An oily sheen is ever-present on the water surface of the creeks around Ogoniland” (p. 175).

Oil pollution has had a devastating effect on the fish and shellfish population in and around Bodo Creek.

This photo and the one immediately below it, both from 2012, show the post-oil spill remnants of the once lush, green and vibrant mangroves that lined Bodo Creek and the surrounding waterways.

“The impact of oil on mangrove vegetation in Ogoniland has been disastrous…. Impacts vary from extreme stress to total destruction. In the most impacted areas, only the roots of the mangroves remains, with no stems or leaves. The roots are completely coated in oil, sometimes with a 1 cm or more thick layer of bituminous substance” – UNEP Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland report, p. 158.