– Turkana Album 2 –

Ruins of the failed NORAD fishing industry

The ruins of a failed commercial fishing scheme that was instigated by the Norwegian Agency for Development (NORAD) in Turkana in the 1970s. Having spent several million US dollars developing Turkana’s infrastructure and constructing a large fish processing facility, NORAD withdrew from the region, beleaguered by a series of catastrophic failures. The architectural remains of their failed scheme still litter Lake Turkana’s western shoreline, stretching from Kerio in the south to Todonyang in the north.

The fishing livelihood has been a key component of the Turkana pastoral economy for generations and existed long before the NORAD scheme was implemented. Moreover, following the project’s collapse, fishing communities have continued to thrive around the lake as part of a smaller-scale, more flexible fishing industry that has managed to dynamically negotiate environmental and economic uncertainty with great success. The NORAD scheme’s inability to weather various fluctuations in the environment, economy and society that contextualised it were, at least to an extent, born out of a modernist preoccupation with structural permanence and systemic inflexibility. The success of Turkana’s fishing population in the years since the scheme’s initial collapse has been the result of a very different set of characteristics, their economic system has thrived through adaptability, mobility and technological ingenuity.

These photographs were exhibited in October 2015 as part of the “Remains, Waste and Metonymy: A critical intervention into art and scholarship” day at the British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi, and subsequently in the month-long follow-up exhibition (of the same name) at the Nairobi National Museum (between January and February 2016).