Mining and Minerals: Diamond Development Initiative International (DDII)-Sponsored Activities in Sierra Leone

"Economic Diversification and Community Development in Artisanal Diamond Mining Communities in Sierra Leone"

The Diamond Development Initiative International (DDII) awarded a grant in support of FESS's efforts to increase agricultural productivity and develop livelihood opportunities on land restored after artisanal diamond mining in Sierra Leone. Livelihood activities associated with cassava and garden vegetable production were developed as components of a broader program of land reclamation and agricultural development being implemented by FESS in the districts of Kono and Kenema with grant support from the Tiffany & Co. Foundation.

The DDII-sponsored project focused specifically on training and capacity building in vegetable crop production, processing, and marketing, particularly for women. The primary goal was to empower women to take new opportunities made possible through land restoration and turn them into viable and sustainable income-producing enterprises. By helping women to create secure livelihoods that contribute to food security, the project contributed to economic growth and stability in artisanal diamond mining communities and helped reduce the risk for conflict.

After over two years of working in artisanal diamond mining communities to transform mined-out land into a productive resource for agriculture, it became clear to FESS that while agriculture offered the potential for viable and sustainable livelihoods, significant challenges persisted for residents of these communities, particularly women, to take full advantage of this potential. Women generally were constrained by low levels of education and a lack of access to training in improved farming techniques and economic activities associated with agricultural production. FESS recognized that a key strategy for community development would be to provide skills training and to help establish diversified activities associated with crop production, storage, processing, and marketing, with a particular emphasis on addressing the needs of women.

It is against this backdrop that FESS requested and received a grant from the Diamond Development Initiative International (DDII) for its project entitled "Economic Diversification and Community Development in Artisanal Diamond Mining Communities in Sierra Leone." The overall goal of the DDII-sponsored project was to build secure, sustainable livelihoods that would increase food security for families and communities, thereby contributing to social and economic stability in the artisanal diamond mining region and thus reducing the risk for conflict.

Critical for empowering women to be more self-reliant economically are increased technical skills and capacities in productive agriculture, crop processing, storage, and marketing. The DDII-sponsored project focused on providing the essential technical skills and capacity-building training through a set of activities that included training and on-site practical applications in crop production, processing, store management, record keeping, small business development, and financial management.

This project, which proved highly successful, constitutes a vital component of a larger effort to implement effective land use strategies that support both mining and agriculture in the context of environmentally sustainable practices. By providing the training and capacity building essential for promoting sustainable agriculture and livelihoods development on restored alluvial diamond mining land, the project has helped to ensure lasting benefits for individuals, households, and communities. Optimizing the productive potential of the land, developing income-generating enterprises for women, and increasing food security has made a significant contribution to stability and poverty reduction, which are keys to reducing the potential for conflict in artisanal diamond mining communities.

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