While fishing communities around Lake Victoria have seen their catches slowly diminish over the years, the deep waters surrounding Migingo abound with catch such as Nile Perch.
Isaac Buhinza, 22, of Uganda learned fishing from his father and never went to school, and said he was drawn to Migingo because “my friends who were here before used to come back home with lots of goodies” from their fishing bounty.
“I do not know which country this (island) belongs to, I just stay here.”
For fisherman like Buhinza, living directly on the tiny island saves them fuel and also gives them direct access to wholesale buyers.
It was in the early 2000s when the island was barely inhabited – then situated within Kenya on all maps – that it began drawing the attention of Ugandan authorities, who sent officials to Migingo to tax fishermen and offer protection against pirates.
Kenyan fishermen in return began complaining they were being shaken down by the Ugandans in their own waters and chased from the island. They called on Kenya’s government, which deployed security forces to Migingo in a move that nearly brought the two nations to blows in 2009.