There are processes of preparing salt from the coastal saline water and its detergents but we hardly know about the making of salt from salty soil. But people of the Sunderbans area have their unique knowledge to make salt from the salty soil. However, it could be claimed that is the only indigenous knowledge of these people over there to prepare salt from the salty soil. It has been learnt that the process to make salt from salty water is an ancient method. But in course of time and with the advent of developed technology for making salt from the saline water and its detergents adding Iodine together, this ancient method of salt making has almost disappeared from the area and people seldom eat the salt made from soil due to the availability of the Iodine mixed salt in the market.
Nonetheless, there are some families living close to the Sunderbans in the Satkhira district still today know the method of salt making from the salty soil. Some of them even today make salt from salty soil using the method. Kobita Rani Mondal, a woman at Chunkuri village of Shymnagar, Satkhira district has been producing salt from the salty soil for the last 25 years. According to her statement, she learnt this method from her mother and grandmother.
The process of making salt from salty soil
Sunderbans is located in coastal area where the high and low tide contribute to deposit saline water on the soil of the area on regular basis. The frequent occurrence of high and low tide in the area has opened space for saline water intrusion into the lands of the area to some extent which resulted in salinity affected of the agro soil of the area. However, Kobita Rani uses the salty soil for producing salt using her indigenous knowledge. Kobita Rani collects salty soil near and in the road of the coastal dams as the soil of the bank and road besides the dam contains enough salinity ingredients she opines. She gathers the collected soil in a place for 8/10 days. Afterward, she mixes saline water with the collected soil and grinds it properly. After that, she digs two holes for salt making: the big one is comparatively on the high and the small one is in the low land. She makes a canal like crack between the distances of the two holes to let water comes from the big hole and gets deposited in the small one. She puts stalks and ashes in the bottom of the big hole as well and fills it with the collected salty soils which are being mixed with water. She pours river water after filling the big hole with soil. However, the stalks and ashes used in the bottom of the big hole are served as natural filter for the salt making process. The water from the big hole located comparatively on the high lands gets deposited into small hole located comparatively in the low lands. However, the present of stalks and ashes prevent the deposition of dirty objects into the small hole. The deposited water into the small hole is later on, used as the main ingredients for salt making from the salty soil. In order to examine if the deposited water is suitable for salt making, a ‘potato test’ is done. In the test, a potato is sliced and the slices are put into the collected water. If the slices of the potato float on the water it means that the water is suitable for salt making. On the other hand, if the slices do not float it means that water is not suitable. After the testing, deposited water from the small hole is taken into pots or utensils for boiling. During the boiling, water dried away through evaporation process and the rest remain deposited in the pots with big shapes. These are processed salts from the salty soil. The color of this salt is not fair white; it is yellowish white. Its shape is comparatively big and mixed with each other. The taste of this salt is totally different from the salt bought from the market. According to Kobita Rani and others, this salt is tastier than the market salt.
Problems and opportunity
Natural disasters, particularly Sidr and Aila which hit the coastal areas in 2007 and 2009 respectively have created problems in salt making of Kobita Rani Mondal. She said, “After the devastated cyclones, we face immense fuel crisis due to numbers of trees were uprooted. For lack of fuel, I can make salt from salty soil once a week but before the cyclones I could make salt almost three and four times a week”. Kabita Rain Mondal can make 20-25 KGs of soil in a day. Generally, she uses the produced soil for her own consumption. She also distributes among relatives and neighbors. Her salts are used in social, cultural and religious events as well. She does not spend a penny for buying salt in the market due to making salt by herself. According to her calculation, she can produce 18 mounds of salt in a year. Generally, she produces huge amount of salt from salty soil during winter and summer.
Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries of climate change and its coastal area will be facing more vulnerability if climate gets changed frequently. However, the people of Bangladesh, particularly those who live in the coastal areas have been making efforts and inventing means to cope with the changed situation for a long time. On the other hand, the price of daily commodities is skyrocketing day by day and this high rate price has gone beyond the reach of the poor people living in remote areas. But Kabita Rani Mondal through her indigenous knowledge, at least has taken initiative to reduce dependency on markets’ goods. Kobita Rani by making salt from the salty soil, which is termed as the most irritating problem of the people in the coastal areas, is trying to cope with the climate change induced situation to uphold her life and livelihood which shows us way to convert the problems into resources. We could easily build our dreams of happiness and enriched future if take initiative recognizing and emphasizing on grassroots peoples’ indigenous knowledge based initiatives alike the ones Kobita Rani Mondal’ has!