"Out of Balance"

"The World Bank Group enabled the devastation of villages and helped a mining company justify the deaths of endangered chimps with a dubious offset."

"Several times a day, Hassanatou Bah scans for threats along the river’s edge near her village in northwest Guinea. The once-mundane chore of fetching water has become a territorial tug of war with an increasingly frightening foe: chimpanzees. Some days, she’s seen them hurl rocks from trees. Other times, they throw clusters of leaves containing nests of biting weaver ants.

Chimps had long encroached on Kagnèka, her farming community of about 350, but there was a time when residents could beat on gongs to scare them away. That changed about six years ago when a mining expansion drained streams and razed trees, driving the displaced primates into a desperate struggle with the village over food and water. Kagnèka’s crops became an open buffet. And the chimps began guarding the river so aggressively that Bah no longer felt safe bringing her two small children, or washing her clothes on the bank, or even going alone.

One afternoon in February, an enormous nest loomed above — a mound of bent branches where a chimpanzee would have recently slept. Bah used a gourd to scoop water into a bucket to balance on her head, then rushed home with neighbors, past trees stripped bare of bananas.

What Bah and her neighbors didn’t know is that they — and the chimps who now terrorize them — are the accepted collateral damage in a deal brokered by the globally respected World Bank Group, whose priorities include reducing poverty, protecting the environment and preventing the spread of deadly diseases."

Lisa Song reports for ProPublica with Jaime Yaya Barry and photography by Kathleen Flynn June 15, 2023.


"Roots of an Outbreak" Series Landing Page (ProPublica)

Source: ProPublica, 06/16/2023