DAWANAU MARKET, NIGERIA
I WENT TO NIGERIA IN 2010 looking for something good in Africa that was not set up by a foreign NGO. What I found was a huge grain market just outside Kano in Muslim Northern Nigeria. I was there at the end of the four-month rainy season when enormous trucks were coming in from as far away as Mali and Ghana and leaving with sacks of sorghum, peanuts, millet and maize. The Hausa people who dominate the area are known to be good farmers and traders and as far as I could see the market was well-run. It had a chairman and elected officers and five separate market associations. The workers had a union and were happy to have a job even it it paid only a few dollars a day. I was told theft wasn't a big problem in the market and prostitutes had been kicked out of the trucking area when Shariah came to Kano in 2000. As for corruption, it was surely there, but of course I couldn't see it. Terrible poverty was there, with women and children gleaning dropped grains of rice, but I didn't see anyone mistreated.
I LOVED THE LOOK of white cassava dust as it settled on black faces—the reverse of those iconic images of white workers in coal mines. But although breathing in flour isn't as bad as breathing in coal, it can't be good for the lungs.