Kakpo Augustine, left, and Victorine Accrombessi, right, dig up soil in the village of Djegbadji near Ouidah, Benin, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. Artisanal salt farmers in this village in Benin dig off the top layer of soil near their hut homes, then filter water through the dirt to draw out salt. They later boil the water to collect the salt and sell it. On average, they sell enough for two salt shakers for about $1. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
In this village in Benin, the salt of the Earth means business. The women of Djegbadji, a village near the town of Ouidah, wake up in the morning to dig away the surface of the marshy soil near the Atlantic Ocean. They put the soil into large pots, then draw water from local wells to pour through the dirt.
Small spigots at the bottom of each pot allow the water to escape after coursing through the soil. The women dip a glass containing palm kernel nuts into the water. If the all the nuts float, they’ve found a rich supply of salt. They’ll continue to pour water into the pot until all the nuts rest at the bottom of the glass.
After that, they’ll go inside shacks made of dried palm fronds and boil the water, releasing the salt. They sell it to marketers and others. For the equivalent of $1, one can buy enough salt to fill two salt shakers.
The salt naturally contains iodine, said Kakpo Augustine, 32, as she spoke with visitors to the village on Friday. She worked with her 4-month-old daughter Kouton Prunelle on her back and said the salt always returns to the soil.
“The salt is like our finger nails — when you cut it, it grows back,” Augustine said.