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Conflict Causes Chaos for Central African Republic Construction Industry

Men known locally as “sandfishers” dive to collect sand from the riverbed for construction. This decades-old industry provides essential sand to builders, who mix it with cement to fuel Bangui’s construction industry. It is also a lifeline for hundreds in the Central African Republic’s (CAR) capital, Bangui, where poverty is rife and work scarce. “In one day, I can make up to $50 when the price [of sand] is very high,” a sandfisher named Achill told Al Jazeera, although he said his typical daily earnings are closer to $22. But the livelihoods of these men are at risk by a resurgence in violence that is threatening to once again engulf CAR, a resource-rich but poverty-stricken country where armed groups control large swaths of territory. Depending on the type of sand that a customer has ordered – fine grain, large grain or gravel – divers must go to varying lengths to earn their daily bread. Gravel is the most prized material, and the most difficult to reach. Resting at the river’s deepest points, it draws skilled divers into perilous waters. Equipped with nothing but a bucket, they must battle strong currents and the cold to plunge blindly through murky waters and fill the lone utensil.  The community forms part of a growing economic ecosystem in the city that has until recently offered a more hopeful future – the looming spectre of conflict, however, threatens that progress.