Lake Katwe- Salt extraction has been a source of prosperity for decades.
A drive through Queen Elizabeth National Park can be impressive to visitors because of the concentration of the extinct volcanic craters, some dry and others with lakes. Apart from wildlife, the Kazinga Channel, and the tree-climbing lions that are a major drawcard for many to the park and that make it Uganda’s most famous safari destination, the lakes also give it beautiful scenery and Lake Katwe is one of them.
Lake Katwe is located inside Queen Elizabeth National Park, Southeast of the Rwenzori Mountains, and is one of the Katwe-Kikorongo craters. The craters were formed by violent volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. These are always a result of superheated gases, but despite the actions, there was no lava flow and no signs of molten lava around. The lake is surrounded by over 800 salt pans that are surrounded by wood and other material to separate each. These are owned by locals who the extraction of the salt. The lake is about a kilometer wide and the deepest part is 6m.
The explosion Crater Lake is filled with salt waters and has for decades been known throughout Uganda and East Africa for the production of rock salt. Locals extract three main salt products: blocks of rock salt, quality crystal clear salt that can be used as table salt, and salty mud that is sold as cattle licks. The lake has no out lest despite several streams that drain into the lake. During the high season, the water is extremely salty, and this when the production of salt is at the peak.
The visit to the lake offers a cultural and historical experience of salt mining and trade in the area. A walk around shows various ways of mining, how the salt is produced and treated to remove the impurities. It also takes you to eth old German factory that was established to add value to the salt extracted and it did not operate for long because the salt corroded the pipes. There has been no improvement in the ways of mining this salt since the old days and it is still sold with no value added to it.
Salt extraction from the lake is an all-gender job and it involves standing in the saline waters that are waist or chest high for hours. The air from the lake and the salt pans are infused with the smell of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide gas. These have a severe impact on those that work in the lake and salt pans because they don’t have/use effective protective gear when mining the salt. To protect themselves, men wear condoms and plastic bags around their genitals and some women put flour in their private parts. These are not effective.
Traveling to Queen Elizabeth National Park? Don’t miss the guided visit to Lake Katwe for an insight into the salt works at the lake.