FATICK, Senegal (Reuters) – Marie Diouf has built a business gathering salt from marshland she bought in Senegal, succeeding in a trade where most marsh owners are men and earning her the nickname “Salt Queen”.
Diouf, 35, began her venture a decade ago, investing her savings to buy her own salt flats in Fatick, one of the West African nation’s biggest salt mining regions.
But there’s a twist to the product she sells because she adds iodine, which helps brain development in young children. Most locally produced salt lacks the chemical. Canadian-based NGO Nutrition International trained Diouf on the process.
“At the start people thought: ‘This woman will not succeed doing this’,” said Diouf, a blue scarf wrapped around her head to protect her from the sun as she worked. “But I was brave enough to tell myself I was going to succeed.”
Diouf, dubbed the “Salt Queen” by locals, said women do not usually own shares in the salt flats. Now she employs men and women on her marshland.
Diouf aimed to produce a 1,000 tonnes of salt this season, which ends when the rains start, usually around June in the south of the country.
(Reporting by Yvonne Bell and Christophe Van Der Perre; Writing by Juliette Jabkhiro; Editing by Tim Cocks and Edmund Blair)