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Vassar College

Publication Date

Fall 2021

Program Name

Tanzania: Wildlife Conservation and Political Ecology


Traditional and rudimentary methods of salt mining have been used to harvest salt from Lake Katwe in Uganda for over 400 years. Even though these methods are effective in extracting salt, they are proven to be hazardous to the miners. Though not often acknowledged, the role of women in salt mining operations is significant as they make up half of the workforce in East Africa. Regardless of the health risks associated with the mining sector, the number of women involved in small-scale salt mining increases by the year. The main objective of this study was to gain a better understanding of the population of women who participate in the salt mining industry at Lake Katwe in Uganda. This was accomplished by focusing on three specific objectives. The first was identifying the common demographics that are associated with women’s participation in the salt mining industry. The second was examining the factors that influence women to join the mining industry. The third was assessing the perceived benefits and disadvantages gained from working as a female salt miner at Lake Katwe.

Female miners from Lake Katwe were interviewed and asked to participate in focus group discussions so that data could be obtained. In total, there were 65 interview participants and 12 focus group discussion participants. In the interviews, questions about age, number of children, education status, marital status were included in order to get a holistic view of the women’s demographic characteristics. The other two sections, about influencing factors as well as benefits and challenges associated with mining, consist of more open-ended questions and explore a variety of womens’ opinions, behaviors, and experiences as miners. Non-probability sampling was used and more specifically, a random convenience sampling technique was implemented to select women for interviews and focus group discussions.

The findings in this study suggest that there are common trends in both their demographic characteristics as well as the factors that influence women to get involved in the mining industry initially. The demographic trends show that the majority of female miners at Lake Katwe are older women without husbands who have been working in the salt mines for most of their adult life. The majority of female miners have had minimal educational experiences; many believe that their low levels of education is the predominant factor that influences them to begin mining because they have limited other income options they qualify for. Lastly, the perceived benefits and challenges of mining were also assessed throughout this study. The female miners reported minimal benefits and a plethora of challenges associated with working in the mining industry. The main challenge female miners face is how to budget the low wages they receive, to cover the cost of necessities and the health issues associated with mining.

This study was a success in terms of gaining a better understanding of the population of women who participate in the salt mining industry at Lake Katwe, Uganda. The main conclusion from this study is that education is a prized commodity in the Katwe community that many families cannot afford. The majority of female miners have not been educated, therefore educating their children is their priority no matter the cost. Based on this, it is recommended that policy makers consider creating educational stipends that lower the cost of tuition for families that could not afford school fees then Uganda could bridge the educational gap and further its development as a country. Another conclusion drawn is that the women are fully aware of the health risks associated with prolonged work in the mining, but they participate in this field regardless of acquired physical ailments because they have no other option. Based on this, it is recommended that the women’s organization at Lake Katwe partners with a health organization or a local hospital that could donate free medical supplies. This would allow women to treat their injuries and wounds obtained while mining.


African Languages and Societies | African Studies | Family, Life Course, and Society | Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Women's Studies | Work, Economy and Organizations


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