In pictures: Life in the 'Venice of Africa'

Published 6:32 AM ET, Fri March 29, 2013
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Nicknamed by some as the "Venice of Africa," the floating village of Makoko in Lagos, Nigeria, is home to people who not only live on water, but depend on it for their livelihood. The area is still considered an informal settlement with very limited government presence. CNN's Errol Barnet visited Makoko for the Inside Africa show. Errol Barnett/CNN
A fisherman throws out his net on the lagoon's calm waters. Fisherman immigrating from Benin and Togo initially settled Makoko over a century ago. But as the population of Lagos exploded to its current size of at least 15 million, so too did the population of Makoko. Estimates are that anywhere from 85,000 to 250,000 people live there. Errol Barnett/CNN
Just like any other busting town, there's even a rush hour here. Most children appear comfortable steering canoes as it is the only mode of transportation in an all-water community, but they must be careful. Errol Barnett/CNN
Women and children congregate under the Third Mainland Bridge, which connects Lagos Island with Nigeria's mainland. Barnett describes the image as representing two separate worlds, "Many who travel over this bridge daily tell me they've never been to Makoko and don't know what life is like for people living there." Errol Barnett/CNN
Because the government views Makoko as an illegal settlement, no sewage or clean water infrastructure exists. As a result, trash can be seen everywhere in the murky green water of the lagoon. Sawdust is also used as a way of reclaiming land in areas where garbage is piling up. Errol Barnett/CNN
Tree trunks clog the lagoon's waters at the foot of a series of sawmills in the distance. This wood is floated into the lagoon surrounding Lagos via nearby rivers where workers will slice it into planks. Major floods can bring chaos to this system, as well as to the lives of residents. Errol Barnett/CNN
Proving football knows no bounds in Africa, even in the waterways of Makoko, a chalkboard marks viewing times for upcoming international matches. A single television powered through cables strung over structures makes viewing the matches possible. Errol Barnett/CNN
"The smoke bothers us but we have no other profession," says fish merchant Emilienne. She sweats in the heat with her baby in-arm as she explains that hers is a typical role for women in Makoko. After the men bring back their catch of the day, their wives, mothers or sisters take the responsibility for preparing and selling the fish. Errol Barnett/CNN
Young men in Makoko are typically put to work building canoes, in business ventures supervised by elders. Here, one teen sits on a plank of timber as two others work to saw it into pieces. Errol Barnett/CNN
Baale Ekaso is one of the many chiefs in the sprawling water city. While his parents immigrated to the area, Ekaso, like many others, has never lived anywhere else. "If we leave this community for the city, what is there for us?" he says. "We are humans, we have rights and we implore the government to respect that," he adds. Errol Barnett/CNN
NGOs and other charity organizations provided money to help build this school. It is the only primary school for Makoko's residents and is starting to bend and buckle just five years after it was built. It serves more than 300 students who can be seen here waiting for their canoe home. Errol Barnett/CNN
"We want [our] children to be educated because they are the leaders of tomorrow," says Noah, a passionate teacher at Makoko's only school. He says his major problem is turning away parents who are simply trying to enrol their children here. "They disturb me every day but there is no accommodation for them," says Noah. Errol Barnett/CNN
Kunle Adeyemi is a Nigerian architect bringing international experience back home. His idea was to "build something that is easy for locals to fabricate and the design was inspired by Makoko itself." With help from the United Nations Development Programme he's constructed a floating school for Makoko's children, to be opened soon. Errol Barnett/CNN
Adeyemi describes his floating school as "a new type of architecture and urbanism that we are trying to cultivate," with viability and sustainability at its heart. For example, eight local men were employed to build the school, solar panels will be installed on the rooftop and rainwater will be collected through a network of pipes. Errol Barnett/CNN
Many of the walls of the "floating school" allow gusts of wind to pass through, reducing the risk of movement or tipping. In the distance you can see older and battered structures crippled and weathered by nature. Errol Barnett/CNN
More than 260 empty plastic barrels are arranged in a square as the base for the three-story structure. Adeyemi explains that his building is shaped as a triangle so its center of gravity is lower. This makes it feasible for these barrels to be the sturdy base and prevent the building from tipping. Errol Barnett/CNN
This looks like a barbershop anywhere else in the world until you realize that a murky lagoon sits about a meter below. Electricity for the clippers and light bulb must be connected through crudely arranged cables above the waterways. Errol Barnett/CNN