teller: The salt from Bali’s beaches is one of the rarest in the world. It is also one of the most natural. However, collecting it requires great patience and strength.
Ningah Bora, 45, is one of the last salt pickers in the coastal village of Kosamba. He spends his days carrying baskets full of seawater and pouring it over the volcanic sand to filter out the salt.
However, the salt pickers earned so little that most of them quit to work better paying jobs in nearby hotels and tourist spots.
Ningah Pura, the salt collector: Nobody wants to work that way anymore. Young people ask: “Why should we collect salt? It’s too hot for that!”.
teller: We went to Kusamba in Bali to see what the salt farming tradition looks like. Tourists visit Cosamba and its vicinity for its famous volcanic sands. For the Nengahi family, they have been the main source of income for at least four generations.
Nengah starts her day at six in the morning. First, for about an hour, he flattened the sand. It’s not an easy task even for Ninjahi, who has been doing it since she was fifteen.
She and her husband make up to 40 round trips a day collecting water from the ocean. Seawater baskets can weigh 30 kg.
Ninjah: We have to deal with high waves. The waves are sometimes incredibly high.
teller: Even on a calm day like today, it’s hard to keep your balance because of the high waves, so Nengah tries to collect water from the smaller waves.
30 years later, Nengah travels for hours back and forth, even when the temperature reaches 32°C.
The manual labor has led some farmers to replace buckets with machines that can pump out that amount of water in just a few minutes.
However, Ninjaha is not installed yet.
Ninjah: The seawater infusion process is what makes cosamba salt so delicious and famous.
teller: This fine volcanic sand distinguishes Cosamba salt from other types of salt, such as those found in salt pans or rock deposits. It quickly absorbs water, like a natural sieve, leaving sunburned salt flakes on the surface.
Nengah takes care to spread the water evenly, because the salt will not crystallize if there is too much water in one spot.
On a sunny day like today, the water dries up by mid-afternoon, and Nengah picks up the salt right away.
Most of the tools she and her husband use are made from local resources. For example, this wooden rake.
However, this is an industry that depends on capricious weather. Farmers can go weeks without income during the rainy season between October and April.
Ninjah: When it rains, I can’t work. It is difficult for us then because we do not have money to buy food.
teller: Erosion is slowly eating away at this beach.
Ninjah: One day the high waves reached the north side and all the coconut trunks washed them away.
teller: The coastline of Cosamba Beach has shrunk by 32.74m in just seven years. That’s about five meters per year. Only one other beach has shrunk faster in this area of Bali.
Farmers had to take preventive measures.
Ninjah: This barrier is supposed to keep the waves out.
It works like a flood dam.
teller: The risks and uncertainty led Nengahy’s husband to take a second job in construction. The couple do not want their children to work collecting salt.
Ninjah: It would be a shame if my kids did the job. I want to be the only one who has to do the hard work.
teller: Ningah says she enjoys the job. She works hard to preserve the business she inherited from her ancestors.
Ninjah: This job makes me happy. I don’t do anything else because it’s the only job I like.
teller: Ningah sips salt in his hut. Seawater is used to wash all the salt from the sand and the salt is passed through a filtration system three times until it is clean.
Concentrated salt water is poured into these basins. They are called Palung and from them the salt takes its name. The traditional ones are made from the trunks of coconut trees.
Nengah also uses these synthetic panels to make the water dry faster. It is the only part of the process that has been updated.
More and more farmers are using it because it is cheaper and does not leak. However, farmers like I Wayan Rena believe it is important to use the traditional Palunga.
Wayan Rinna salt collector: We have to go back to using the trough, because thanks to this salt is ecological.
It is a natural drying equipment.
teller: Balong can live up to 30 years.
This type of solar evaporation is one of the oldest and most traditional salt harvesting techniques. In about a day or two, the water will evaporate, leaving behind pyramid-shaped crystals.
Natural sea salt is claimed to have more nutritional value than average table salt, which is often highly refined. Farmers describe their flavor as mild and not overly salty.
It’s the only salt she ate when she was growing up.
Ninjah: I have never used any other salt before.
teller: Although Indonesia has one of the longest coastlines in the world, bad weather and coastal changes have affected salt production. Kosamba farmers usually produce between 300 and 600 kilograms of salt per month.
However, Indonesia imports about 2 million tons of cheaper salt annually, which means that farmers have competition. Farmers sell a kilogram of dried salt for about $2.
That’s more than three times the price of mass-produced salt sold in most grocery stores, making it a luxury item for most people.
As a result, farmers are left with unsold stocks.
Wayan runs a network of local salt harvesters and helps artisans like Nengah sell it.
Ninjah: I use the money from selling salt to buy groceries.
teller: So the salt collectors targeted tourists willing to pay more than just the salt.
And Wayan: Tourists here are looking for traditional values. They buy not only salt, but also that it is obtained in the traditional way.
teller: The decline in tourist traffic during the pandemic was a big problem for them.
Without the promise of steady wages, this generation of farmers may be the last to continue the salt trade.
And Wayan: I try to motivate young people to do this job. I hope it works because I want to preserve the legacy of our ancestors.
teller: The Cosamba Salt Pickers received a Geographical Indication Certificate from the Indonesian government in early 2022. It understands that a particular product comes from a particular place and has a unique reputation for this.
Growers hope that the certification’s international standing will increase export sales.
And Wayan: I look to the future with optimism.
Ninjah: The government does not want people to stop collecting salt from Kosamba. He wants us to live. If anyone is interested, I will pass on my knowledge. If not, she will stay with me.
crowd. Pyotr Nalazek
“Infuriatingly humble musicaholic. Problem solver. Reader. Hardcore writer. Alcohol evangelist.”
Longer life and more efficient batteries. Scientists have solved an important problem
Jupiter’s moon is very close up. IU looks really cool
Secret meeting of the elites. They will decide the future of artificial intelligence