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Project October 25, 2009

Pipe(line) Dreams: A Journey Along the Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline

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The pipeline across Chad and Cameroon that ExxonMobil built with World Bank help has residents chafing at promises unmet.

Six years after oil began to flow on the controversial, World Bank-supported Chad-Cameroon pipeline, many of its opponents' warnings have come to pass: minimal job creation, growing poverty, increasing civil strife and environmental damage. But the oil companies are reaping enormous benefits and the leaders of Chad and Cameroon are profiting handsomely as well.

So what happened to all the promises of a better life? To explore the gap between dreams and reality, we travel to the region to take a closer look at this saga of oil and development. Camera in hand, we retrace the story of the $4 billion project, following the 1070-kilometer pipeline from its loading terminal at Kribi on the Atlantic coast of Cameroon to the source of its payload, the Doba oil fields of southern Chad.

Traveling through the Cameroonian rainforest and across the savannah towards the lowlands of Chad, we visit with villagers, pipeline workers, local journalists and environmental activists whose rarely heard stories reveal something of the complex relationship between oil and African development.

Along the way, we train and equip Cameroonians and Chadians with mobile phones, building a network of professional and citizen journalists who become active project participants via the project website. Their dispatches help change the typical (Western) viewer / (African) subject relationship into a more meaningful and productive multi-directional conversation.

This grassroots network transforms Pipe(line) Dreams into a living project, empowering the traditionally under-represented subjects of the story and promoting civic engagement long after the filmmakers have gone home.

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