Agadez in Niger has long been the starting point for people smugglers moving migrants through the desert to Libya. Under pressure from Europe, the Niger government has been trying to combat people smuggling, but the local economy offers few alternatives. Those who give up smuggling usually end up in gold mining. But it’s hard and dangerous work, and only a few make their fortunes.
Former people smuggler Ibrahim now transports supplies to gold miners in the desert. He and his son Abdousalam carry the bags of pulverized stone back with them in their Toyota pickup. They know the desert and how to endure its extreme conditions, but they wouldn’t consider mining themselves. “As soon as you strike gold, it changes you. You’re not friends anymore and it’s every man for himself.”
Meanwhile the smuggling continues, and Karim Sayad’s camera also follows a truck full of refugees. But he films the beauty of the desert as well, and the resilience of its inhabitants. Like the bean plant nurtured by one of the miners, they manage to survive in this harsh and hostile environment.