In the town of Okposi, in a hectare of space surrounded by trees, there is a lake. Its water level is low during the rains and rises in the dry season. Only scaled fishes thrive in it. For 400 years, it has been the source of salt for the indigenes.
Local lore has it that the lake was discovered by two hunters, who when searching for drinking water found that the water could not quench their thirst. Over the years, Okposi women led the production of salt by utilizing solar energy, and the town became a notable trade centre, attracting buyers from the eastern and northern parts of present-day Nigeria. A famous market arose, called Odenigbo Okposi.
Located almost two hours from Abakaliki, in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, the Okposi Salt Lake was a haven during the Biafran War when people in the east ran out of salt. Biafran scientists, on finding that it has the highest salinity out of all Eastern Nigerian lakes, initiated an industry near it, and taught the women modernized production techniques.
Close to Okposi, in the same local government area, is the town of Uburu, which has its own lake. The Uburu Salt Lake is bigger than that in Okposi, but its salt production has historically been seasonal.
The Okposi and Uburu Lakes are the reason why Ebonyi State took as its slogan “salt of the nation.”
Otosirieze Obi-Young is Editor of Folio Nigeria, where he profiles innovators and facilitators in culture: art, business, entertainment, activism, health, food. He is a writer, journalist, curator, media consultant, former academic, and Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Open Country Mag, a new online platform covering African literature. In 2019, he received the inaugural The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among "The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians" by Avance Media. Find him on otosirieze.com or on Twitter & Insta: @otosirieze.