Humble sea cucumber or point of contention? In Sierra Leone, fishermen claim Chinese traders are exploiting this overlooked natural resource without bringing any economic benefit to locals. – Reuters
Sierra Leone’s island fishermen lament that Chinese traders have ruthlessly exploited one of the few natural resources they have left: sea cucumbers.
As evening falls over Sierra Leone’s Banana Island archipelago, bats stream from their beachside roosts to circle in their thousands over the jungle village of Dublin. Below them a struggle is playing out over an unexpected commodity – the lowly sea cucumber, a fleshy, sausage-shaped creature that scavenges for food on the seabed.
It is a struggle that is familiar to many in the West African country. Sierra Leone’s resources – diamonds, gold, fish and more recently iron ore – have been extracted and exported in great quantities throughout its history, yet the country remains one of the poorest in the world.
Just how poor is life in Sierra Leone? The average life expectancy here is 48 – compared to China at 75. The country also ranks 177th out of 187 countries on the human development index – China comes in at 101st.
While the Banana Islanders have no use for sea cucumbers, in China they are prized for their medicinal properties and as a natural aphrodisiac.