This documentary photography was submitted to Edge of Humanity Magazine by 53IMAGES.
From project “Lake Retba” by 53IMAGES.
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Lake Retba is located approximately forty miles Northeast from Dakar, Senegal. Only a narrow band of dunes separate the lake from the Atlantic Ocean. This is where the Paris-Dakar race once used to conclude its high tech demonstration and show. Innocent lives were sometimes left behind this long crossing of the Sahara desert.
The water of Lake Retba – also known as “The Pink Lake” – has a salt concentration between 380 and 400 g/l. The salt is manually extracted by men, dried by women on the shore and sold to local fisheries, or regionally exported, by the entire community that settled down in the villages around the lake.
The community owns the salt, the boats and the tools (simple wooden sticks). The sticks are used to break the salt crust that covers the lake bed. Wooden baskets are used for pulling the salt from the lake bed up, into the boats.
Everyone can come and work there. The men come from the neighboring region or countries of the sub-continent. Borders have been invented only recently.
The workers stay 6-7 hours a day in the salty water. Their skin is covered with Shea butter and provides the only protection against the aggression of the salt. They do not wear any protection gear for sun exposure.
At the end of the day, the extracted salt is given to the community. The men receive a small reward. They give the boats back. The workers may leave Lake Retba anytime they want.
One worker extracts around 1000 kg of salt a day. One basket weights around 40 kg. Women used to work in the water, but they are now forbidden because of the increased number of abortions and other gynecologic troubles.
This economy is ruled by moral obligations only, not by written and signed contracts. An interesting economic model of informal economy in a development context.