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A Visit to the Ancient Lake Katwe Salt Works

Posted by on February 17, 2020

Lake Katwe – Harvesting Salt for over 600 Years

Visit Lake Katwe Salt Works near Queen Elizabeth Park

Lake Katwe Salt Works, where salt mining has been taking place for over 600-years. The Lake is one of the many explosion craters found in and near Queen Elizabeth Park. The crater lakes, including Lake Katwe, were formed through volcanic eruptions that shaped much of this area.  

Lake Katwe Salt Works is the leading producer of Salt in all of Uganda. Lake Katwe is about nine kilometers long. It is a shallow lake; the deepest part of it is six-meters. For over 600-Years there has been salt-mining here. Traders and others have been coming here to buy what is called locally “aha katwe.”

Salt harvesting used to be like mining Gold. It brought a tidy profit to the community and workers.  Today its value has gone down dramatically since Salt is in abundance in Uganda and beyond. Uganda is importing salt from other countries rather than using salt from Lake Katwe.

The first Westerner to come here was Henry Morton Stanley.  Today you can take a guided walk that takes in both the Lake Katwe Salt Mining Works and the Village of Katwe where the salt workers live.

The Visit to Lake Katwe gains you a cultural and historical insight into salt trading of the past and salt mining in the area today.  It is a half-day activity while visiting Queen Elizbeth Park in Uganda.  A time to meet the people who harvest the salt from Lake Katwe, a task that is as tough today as it was in the past.

A visit to Lake Katwe Salt Works will show you how the salt here is harvested. The salt mining portion of the lake is divided into the various plots, called salt pans. There are over 800 registered salt pans. Wood and earth show the Lake Katwe Salt Worksborder of each square-like salt pan.

The guided tour shows you the various ways salt is produced.  In ancient times, Salt produced here was seen and treated like precious metal, and control of the Lake was fought over by various Kingdoms in Western Uganda.

The lake does not support any wildlife since it is simply too salty, and that same salt makes work here for the men and women quite dangerous, and they work without protective gear to speak of.  The process of harvesting salt has not changed during the last 600 years.  A German company erected a Factory that operated for a mere month when the pipes corroded.  The old factory is a part of the guided walk. It begins on a path that has been used for hundreds of years. The same way has been used to carry the salt from the lake tp processing area.

You will come across a network of paths that have been constructed along with grass huts that provide some relief from the blaze of the equatorial sun since Lake Katwe is just on the equator.  During your time here, you experience the toughness of life for the hundreds of workers you will see along your guided walk here, and the fantastic thing is that nothing has changed in the way the salt is harvested over the years. It is the primary source of income for most here.

Salt is harvested here in two ways. The mining of Rock Salt and Salt Winning. Men mine the rock salt in the middle of the Lake. Men and women in the salt-pans do Salt-Willing

The lake is also a source of a black mud called Trona. It is turned into fertilizer and also used in making glass. Salt mining, however, has some adverse effects on people’s health and the environment. 

Visit the Lake Katwe Salt Works while in Queen Elizabeth Park in Uganda.

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