Published April 8, 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.