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THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF LABOUR MIGRATION IN INDIGENOUS SALT PRODUCTION SYSTEM IN 20TH CENTURY (NORTHEASTERN ETHIOPIA) [Abstract ID: 0705-02]
Salt production and trading was one of the ancient activities in Africa as elsewhere in the World. The Afar lowlands (also called Danakil lowlands) were one of the very few principal sources of continued salt supplies in Africa for which long distance trade routes were serving, among others, to conduct the multi-functional rock salt(food additive, medicinal, capital, and ritual) and related much prized exchange items, such as gold and ivory, and slave trading. Global experiences revealed that revolutions were broke out, extensive and long distance trading networks were established, governments have fought and changed in the quest for salt and to ensure a smooth processes of supply, trading and taxation. This study tries to investigate the much neglected thousands of off-farm seasonal labourers whose main stay is rock salt production in Arho salt mines of Danakil Depression of Ethiopia in the period c.1872-2015. It analyses the shifting roles of the Afar and Tigrayan labourers in salt production sub-sectors in the face of deteriorating livelihood from agriculture. While the labour regime became a latent cause for emergent nationalist resentment in the wake of the 1974 Revolution, the Afars slowly but surely dictated the terms of production and trading in the subsequent periods. The advent of Mekele-Arho modern asphalt road has fundamentally changed the political economic structure of salt labour and transport regime for good.