For a Few Specks of Gold



A Karamojong man enters a mine shaft in Rupa, close to the town of Moroto. Gold mining became an alternative source of income for some members of the Karamojong community after their traditional way of life–cattle rustling–started to vanish. Image by Marc Hofer. Uganda, 2011.



Two Karamojong men dig for gold in a mine in Rupa, close to the town of Moroto. Image by Marc Hofer. Uganda, 2011.



A Karamojong man toils in makeshift mine. Image by Marc Hofer. Uganda, 2011.



A Karamojong miner, with his traditional face scars, at a gold mine in Rupa. Image by Marc Hofer. Uganda, 2011.



The simple tools of the miners include plastic buckets and a self-made machete. These are used to separate the fine gold dust from the red earth of Karamoja. Image by Marc Hofer. Uganda, 2011.



A Karamojong girl tries to extract gold from the earth that her partner has mined from one of the many pits scattered on the slopes of Mount Moroto at Rupa. Image by Marc Hofer. Uganda, 2011.



A young Karamojong miner at work underground. The unstable mines sometimes collapse, claiming several lives each year. Safety standards are non-existent, but many families rely on the income generated by the mines. Image by Marc Hofer. Uganda, 2011.



Some of the narrow shafts are 25 feet deep, and climbing in and out of them can be a physical challenge. Image by Marc Hofer. Uganda, 2011.



A Karamojong woman sells her gold to a Kenyan trader who set up shop near the mine in an earth ditch to shield him from the sun. Image by Marc Hofer. Uganda, 2011.



Boys and girls are given the job of washing out the tiny gold particles from the soil. Image by Marc Hofer. Uganda, 2011.



Water is used to separate the gold from the red earth. But in the dry areas of Karamoja, water is a scarce commodity. Image by Marc Hofer. Uganda, 2011.



An old Karamojong man is resting after spending the morning digging at his claim. The hard work takes its toll on many miners, who are often undernourished because of the unstable food situation in the region. Image by Marc Hofer. Uganda, 2011.

On the slopes of Mount Moroto in the remote northeastern corner of Uganda, members of the Karamojong tribe, including children, mine for gold in the parched red earth. These former cattle herders hope to improve their economic lot by selling the small amouts of gold they scratch out of the earth to passing traders from Kenya or Kampala. After a government crackdown on cattle rustling and an attempt to force these nomadic herders to become farmers, many find they can't survive on the meager harvest from the infertile soil. So they dig narrow shafts into the earth, hoping for the big break, or at least enough of a break to feed their families. Working with primitive tools and under harsh conditions, mining for gold is dangerous and exhausting. Several lives are lost each year as a result of collapsed shafts or other safety hazards. Many believe that the desert-like region is rich in minerals, but some fear that the Ugandan government will soon open up the region to international mining operations, leaving the Karamojong with nothing.