Charcoal burners in Uganda and salt diggers in Niger

According to the 2018 report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, charcoal covered up to 90% of Africa’s primary energy needs. However, charcoal makers in northern Uganda are fleeing to work in the bush as a new law prohibits the commercial production of charcoal on pain of arrest. This age-old practice in many African societies is opposed by some residents, highlighting the environmental threat and climate change. Ugandans set up vigilantes to guard manufacturers who disregard bans. Demand for charcoal is high, and the industry generates profits for landowners who decide to cut trees and a livelihood for workers. Therefore, a ban may increase retail prices and lead to illegal commercial activities.

Saharan salt diggers operating near the Kalala salt pans in Niger struggle to survive in the face of conflict and uncertain income. The salt trade, once a thriving business, is slowly disappearing. The local population’s income depends on shoppers visiting Bilma near the salt pans, and the local economy offers few alternatives. Salt diggers negotiate with customers, but the offers are often low, and poor region residents must accept them. The mineral is intended for animal consumption, and the Tuareg traders are gradually abandoning their nomadic lifestyle in favour of farming. Even being in the desert is dangerous because of crime and armed conflicts.

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