BABIL, Iraq — Ali al-Jubouri, a farmer from the Babil countryside, patiently waits every year for the rainwater to evaporate from local natural salt lakes. He and his family then collect the salt left behind to sell to merchants. Ali is among a group of poor farmers forced by now-arid lands to find makeshift opportunities to earn income and provide for their families. Many residents have left for the cities, while those who remain have resorted to harvesting salt, which brings in little money.
Um Ali, Jubouri's wife, along with five other female family members including her daughters, wade into the stagnant water at dawn to begin collecting salt. By noon, they manage to fill nearly seven bags, which they will sell for $1 a piece. When the work is done, Jubouri drives his old truck to the site to pick up the day's collection.