Wednesday, January 2, 2013

300 Miners derive their livelihoods from Katwe Salt Lake

In 2011, I posed a question of how we use our time during public holidays and Christmas break that is usually a spending period as evidenced during the 2012 Christmas break where I took off time to study the trends and events in Kasese District for which nearly all food was imported from neighboring districts. While I could not get the best answer, I tried an experiment with my own children as students  asking them how they would spend their Christmas break ( just  like Pavlov who was  criticized for using his own children to study  human conditioning ).
You guess the answers as going to the beach, we need to drink soda, visit grand pa, eat meat, rice  the shopinglist was endless. As a good parent, I took the children for an execution on Friday 28th December, 2012 to Katwe Kabatooro Town Council, where one of the creator lakes that serves the region with rock salt is mined: I remembered, Katwe Kabatooro would serve many purposes: As a learning center with the Salt Lake, fishing in Lake Edward, a community tourist information Center and National Park. Indeed, I achieved my objectives, at the salt lake, we met one guide: Kanjanju George who moved us around the salt lake explaining how  salt was extracted from the lake, processes and stages of getting the rock salt. On the good note, I was interested in the business cycle and the benefits to the community: Armed with books and pens the students were taking notes that informed my understanding of parents involvement in being part of learning. I noted from the information given by the guide Mr. George that Katwe salt lake was about 7km, and had over 250 salt panes, and served both the East   and Central African Markets. That majorly they used traditional methods of mining salt for which it posed a health hazard to the miners (men). About the uses, that rock salt was used for domestic use and animal leaking, also to make cosmetics and soap.  My students who are in S2 and S4, and primary had got what they wanted, George took them to the cave that had been there for over 300 years which the early men used to store salt, shelter babies and now is being used as a tourist point. The students also got a chance of viewing the migratory birds at Lake Munyanyange as George had explained how the birds move from Europe during winter to Africa and were tracked to settle at the salt lake. 
Students at the Cave at Katwe Salt Lake ( 28 Dec. 2012). Good parenting is key to improved academic performance

After the tour of the salt lake, I went further to ask our guide how trade is conducted at the salt lake. Mr. George estimated that about 300 men were involved in extracting salt from the lake, and 200 women as middlemen- that was because women do not get into the salt lake as its highly concentrated.  About the price: a bag of 100kg rock salt  is sold at Ugx. 30,000/ to the middlemen who sell it to the transporters at Ugx. 50,000/. The costs, loading a sack of 100kg, shs. 3000/, LG tax, 2900. That about 5 tracks on average are loaded with atleast 150-200 sacks.  Also the guides earn at least Ugx. 10,000/ per day/tour which takes 3 hours. From the salt lake we moved to the water spring which is believed to be safe and clean for drinking right from the rock that feeds into the salt lake. George noted that on good day he can get three groups.  With that knowledge, we met the Town Clerk, Katwe Kabatooro Town Council who had gone to monitor business at the salt lake. The Town Clerk noted that, it was rare for parents to bring their children for such visit instead they spend time in towns, without minding about the education of the children.
We moved to the landing site where we met the fishermen and middlemen in business, the students had never seen how fisher men go about their business using the traditional boat/canoe. We moved to track the elephants in Queen Elephants National Park, being mindful of the fees, we moved along the Katwe-Kabatooro road, just a few meters from Katwe Technical Institute, we met a hard of Elephants, worth hog, Uganda Cobs, a head of us were Antelopes.  
My concern now is how the students will use the information from the tour to enhance their learning instead of going to the beach it was rather a learning visit. I believe, parents can give direction to their children and spend their time wisely.
As a policy analyst, I got my pick from the guide at Katwe Salt lake of raising lack revenue by improving on the infrastructure at the salt lake. The stores that were built by the then Kasese District Administration are laying idle- what about Kasese District Local Government improving on these stores to the required standard that would earn a dollar to the district. Boosting the local tourism is yet another area that Kasese district could venture into by supporting communities around key tourist features to utilize the booming business thus the expanding on the taxable base.
The answer to my question posed in 2011 will eventually be answered of how we use our time during public holidays and Christmas break. While I read the presentation by Prof. Joseph E. Stiglitz on  Market Failures in the Financial System: Implications for Financial Sector Policies, Especially in Developing Countries  and the responses by Prof.  Mahmood Mamdani: 20th Annual Joseph Mubiru lecture, Response to Joseph Stiglitz, Munyonyo Conference Centre, 16th July, 2012. I have realized that instead of our local governments complaining of declining tax base, we need to spend our time thinking of how to raise revenues since the government was the trigger to economic development.

Wish you a happy new year 2013
Jimmy B. Odyek

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