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How Nigeria's dirt poor scratch a living

A new TV series charting daily life in Lagos shows its people coping ingeniously with hardship.The three-part documentary, Welcome to Lagos shows how people live and work amid piles of rubbish, in shacks made of scavenged materials on the Olusosun dump. But the message of the BBC2 series is that this hardworking culture of make do and mend, recycling and avoiding waste isn't a leftover the pre-developed past but the future for the whole of the industrialised urban world. The people of the dump, and of Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city are shown as resourceful, hard-working hustlers adapting to their surroundings better than people in the West, who think using a plastic bag more than once is enough to save the planet.

The city's grown from fewer than 300,000 inhabitants 50 years ago, into a megacity of 16 million people. And they’ve had to improvise to feed and sustain themselves. The dump is like a city within a city. People live there, it has its own shops and bars, a mosque and even cinemas. More than 5,000 people work there, filtering 9,000 tons of rubbish every day by hand. Anything that can be reused or recycled from plastic bottles to copper wire is like gold. But still, it's clearly a tough life. By letting viewers get to know the characters of the people who work and live there, they are forced to question how well they would cope in such circumstances. There 's Joseph, a trader and family man who is saving up for his daughter's birthday party and fills his one-room flat with things he's picked up there, from a toastie maker to her teddy bear. "These rich people, they don't like to conserve things ... we live on crumbs from their table," he says. Joseph says his business is like the stock market, the price for goods going up and down with the dollar: "The difference between me and the people at the stock market is only the suit and the tie and the fine shoes."

Will Anderson, the series producer says the way people have solved the problems of extreme population growth is a lesson for all, especially now half the world's population live in cities, including one billion who live in shanty towns. "If a Martian came down to Earth, they would report back that we are a species that lives in cities. And in some degrees the people in Lagos are doing it better than we are in the west," he told The Observer newspaper. Welcome to Lagos is on BBC 2 at 9pm on Thursday 15, 22 and 29 April

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children