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An inside look at the traditional salt mining in EthiopiaWednesday, April 19, 2017 > 10:00:47
Traditional salt mining in Ethiopia is a centuries-old practise passed from father to son. Thousands of miners gather at dawn to chop salt from the ground with their hand-axes. A gruelling trade indeed for what used to be called “white gold” in the country. However, this industry is to change soon under the flag of modernization and tourism.
Traditional salt mining in Ethiopia
Miners start their day at dawn to escape the blistering sun as the average temperature is established at 34.4 Celsius. They toil daily to dig up lamps of salt with their tools and load it on to camels or donkeys.
Trekking with caravans of camels, miners march to the market, to sell these precious tiles of salt, once used as a trading currency in the country. They follow the same road for days to reach their destination. However, this ritual is to change with government plans to open roads for investors in order to boost the economy and tourism in the area.
In fact, the Ethiopian government is aiming to establish new roads, which could change the traditional salt mining industry. This move, arose concern among the labourers, traders involved in this trade. They believe their source of life could be lost, if the government is to carry such plans.
“If it continues like this, it will stop our work,” said one of the miners Musa Idris. The salt mining is the sole mean of survival for many like Idris.
The modernization of the country, could be quite devastating for miners like Idris. However, new projects could help build up the country’s economy. The salt presence in the Danakil region had not escaped the sight of investors and major mining companies.
The manual extraction of salt is an excruciating trade that needs more toil and time. The miners usually go on a three-day journey leading a caravan of camels to trading post in Berhale. The blocks of salt are later transported by trucks.
New roads could offer a new alternative for the miners to transport salt and have better tools. According to the deputy of salt miners’ association, Ahmed Ali Ahmed “the road brought a lot of change because we can easily transport salt to Mekele”.
“We hope there will be something like cars,” he added.