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From the perspective of a satellite the volcanic lake in the El Sod crater on the border between Ethiopia and Kenya looks like a black eye staring out of the parched red landscape.

Yet the satellite does not see the hundreds of people submerged in the black water, mining high quality salt here every day.

The journey around the crater rim takes one and a half hours, the descent into the crater forty-five minutes.

The walk back up to the rim takes around one hour, and that is if you are in good shape.

However, a stroll in the volcanic sand between the black cliffs is not the reason why dozens of the residents of the South Ethiopian village called El Sod (literally “House of Salt”) wind their way down the narrow path to the crater floor every day.

The two-kilometre descent takes them to the black lake with a diameter of several hundred metres and which conceals a deposit, several dozens of metres thick, of culinary gold: salt.

The shallow water is so saturated with salt that within a matter of minutes the miners’ bodies become animated alabaster statues.

The relationship between the miners and the salt water is bittersweet.

Although it harms them and takes their lives, they know that they cannot live without it.

They would like to escape, but they have neither the means nor anywhere to go.

A return to the pastoral lifestyle their fellow tribesmen lead is practically impossible, because they would need too much money to establish their herds and gain the necessary respect.

Neither can they find employment elsewhere, as they only know who to do one thing, and do it well – mine salt.

Even after sixty years of working every day in the boke, Momino still puts salt on his dinner. “I simply like salt” he says with a smile.

The actual mining of the salt is just as traditional – with the miners’ bare hands and without any contribution from technology.

Mining knowledge is handed down from father to son, and so on…

Boys begin work while still children in order to meet their families’ needs and have no time for school.

The daily rhythm of life in the boke has changed so little over the decades that you could set your watch by it.

Where is the family to get the money they need to live?…

Only few of us survive into our seventies or eighties and in the end the salt eats us all


Source: African Lens


One Comment leave one →
  1. 05/07/2012 08:57

    amazing !

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