The Salinas Grandes, are one of the largest salt deserts of Argentina, shared between the provinces of Salta and Jujuy, that extends for 220 square km at 3.450 mt above the sea level. It can be reached via la Cuesta de Lípan, a mountain road, after about two hours driving from Purmamarca. Despite the hostile environment, these lands have been inhabited by indigenous communities since centuries, long before the Inca empire and the Colonial Age. For a long time, salt played a major role within the Andean society and was considered as a valuable good at the core of regional commercial exchanges.
Today, a few indigenous communities still live and work there, challenged by isolation, the constant winds, the burning sun and the salt itself. Most of the communities, in particular those living in Pozo Colorado and Tres Cruces, work on industrial exploitation yards with very poor working conditions and extremely low profits. Most of the salt processed is sold to big companies that buy to the local cooperatives for about 4 dollars each 50 kilos of salt. Despite being this site a must go location for national and international tourists, there is no tourism-related activity or facility so the local communities are unable to get benefits from the popularity of the site.
BIOPHILIA is working in the Salinas Grandes with the Aboriginal Community of El Cerro Negro, in the La Poma dept. of the province of Salta, to develop a strategy that will allow the community to produce high-quality, sustainable salt derivates to be sold on different markets with major profits for the community. Most of the project focuses on food and cosmetics related products, allowing the salineros (salt workers) to develop a diversified portfolio of sub-products and therefore multiple opportunities for a stronger local economy. As for most of BIOPHILIA’s projects, the goal is to keep the volumes of good produced to a sustainable level, aiming at the quality rather than the quantity.
BIOPHILIA is also considering a new, similar project with the communities of Pozo Colorado, in the province of Jujuy, to create a sustainable and more profitable alternative to the ongoing industrial exploitation. Besides the production of salt derivates for the food and cosmetic industry, BIOPHILIA is also planning to build and start up an exclusive eco-lodge, entirely made of salt bricks, that will be administrated by the community providing a unique experience for tourists and a fresh new option for the community. Sat bricks are particularly resistant to meteorological elements, including rain, they last for decades and are cut directly from the surface of the salt flat. This initiative will also allow to sell regional products from other communities and regions that BIOPHILIA is endorsing, within the Altiplano of Jujuy, so to multiply the benefits.
Salt and derivates