making bricks
A man makes clay bricks on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda. I walked down a hillside where I saw this brick factory, and then spoke to a few workers there. This man turned out to be a teacher with a university degree, very cultured and with deep interests in politics and culture. He told me that he had not found work and was happy to at least have that job making bricks. He earned 15 Ugandan shillings for each brick, so he was lucky to earn about 9,000 shellins a day, less than $ 3 USD, after 600 bricks

10 Professions of the past

In this article I am going to show 10 pictures of different people performing a series of “professions of the past”.

With these photos I shows how people struggle to make a living in East Africa. Pictures were all taken between September and December of 2016 in 7 different countries. Some of the people in these pictures are Christian, others are Muslim; women and men; children and adults: all of them have to perform professions nonexistent or in their way to extinction in the developed Western countries. Their income usually goes from 2 to 3 $ USD per day, no matter if they have a wage or if they are self-employed. These low income do not allow them to save or make plans for the future, so they can only focus on the daily struggle for survival. Being able to eat is often more than enough. Unemployment is unreasonably high in East African countries, so any source of income is considered a fortune.

They don’t complain for having such a bad job, they are happy to have one. Their problem is that they have almost no chance to thrive in life. To see these people working so hard for so little benefit is something that changes the perception one may have about Africans. It is common to hear stereotypes saying that Africans are lazy or do not want to work. The people represented in these pictures work much harder than any Westerner I know of: both women and men, of any age, are an admirable example of sacrifice and perseverance.

1. Brick Master

making bricks
A teacher makes clay bricks on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda. I walked down a hillside where I saw this brick factory and then spoke to a few workers there. Despite his current job as a brick maker, he has a university degree and is very cultured with a deep interest in politics and culture. He told me that he had not found work as a teacher but was happy to at least have a job making bricks. Each brick earns him 15 Ugandan shillings, so he is lucky to earn about 9,000 shillings a day, less than $3 USD, after making 600 bricks.

 

2. Cobbler

Fixing shoes
Fixing shoes is something that rarely happens in developed countries. Indeed, in many rich countries you can not even find a shoemaker nowadays. In East Africa things are different. This man was checking the condition of this shoe, while the reflection of the customer is seen in the glass behind him. The interior of the shoe was completely destroyed, full of holes. He started to disassemble it few seconds later.

 

3. Grass cutter

cutting the grass

Nature always makes its way, tangling things up, but this is even more so in Africa. Along the roads of the country side, gangs of young men, machete in hand, cut plants growing near the road.

 

4. The Mender

fixing clothes
In Africa, when something breaks, it gets fixed. This woman is mending cloths with her old Singer sewing machine, made in China, in the streets of Hoima, Uganda. Quite often, people only have one or two pairs of pants to wear, so each garment is a treasure.

 

5. Donkey Hauler

selling firewood
This boy was in the middle of an arid zone in western Tanzania trying to load firewood back onto his donkey. It was 7am and there was no one to help him with his task. Three other donkeys were already loaded and waiting to set out for town, which was several kilometers away. Each bundle of firewood he was transporting would at most sell for 1,500 Tanzanian shillings, less than $1 USD. I was able to help him load the firewood back onto the donkey, and off to town he went.

 

6. Salt Catcher

collecting salt
Woman collecting salt from a pond made on the shore of a salt lake, just outside of Katwe, Uganda. These ponds are made to produce crystals of salt on the surface after the evaporation of water. At some point the salt falls to the bottom of the pond and is collected by women like this. With her feet in the extremely saline water, under the blazing midday sun and a horrible smell, this woman worked freelance to earn a pittance selling the salt by the kilo.

 

7. Tea Picker

collecting tea
Woman near Kericho, Kenya. She wrapped one finger of each hand in plaster so she would not hurt herself when cutting the leaves, and she wore a kind of reinforced skirt to protect herself from the hard branches of the bush as she bent over it. I cut a handful of tea leaves to give her as a present, and she started laughing. She would have to pick up something like 25 kilos of leaves during the whole day, under the sun or rain, to earn less than $3 USD.

 

8. Onion Harvesters

beating for seeds
In the foreground there are a lot of the flowers that onions produce. These men beat the flowers with those long sticks, which they raise above their head and drop them strongly, again and again, against the ground. Little by little, the small black onion seeds are separated from the flowers to be planted again. In the Lake Eyasi region of Tanzania, onion farming is the main industry other than tourism.

 

9. Laundry Lady

washing sheets
In three months I did not see a single washing machine in all of East Africa. People wash their clothes by hand, and I also had to wash my clothes several times. Other people make a living by hand washing the clothes of others. This Rwandan woman was hand washing the sheets of a boarding house located in a church of a rural area next to Lake Kivu.

 

10. Banana Seller

selling bananas
Selling bananas is one of the most common occupations for women in East Africa. They are selling them everywhere, carrying the bananas in large baskets balanced on top oftheir head. The best is that they do not need to grab the basket to move gracefully with all that weight on top. The price of each banana is around $0.10 or $0.15 USD.

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