By Diamonds for Peace Liberia staff
Following the situation analysis, Diamonds for Peace Liberia (DFPL) set criteria upon which four diamond mining communities (DMCs) in Liberia’s western region were shortlisted for a pilot project. DFPL’s coordinator conducted several follow up visits to these DMCs in order to identify the one in which the pilot project could be successfully implemented. At the end of the follow up exercise, Weasua was selected as the pilot project community, a decision based on the stakeholders willingness and preparedness to work in the project.
The basis for selecting the pilot project DMC
The stakeholders in the selected DMC needed to understand and agree with the pilot project’s basic principles which are that the artisanal diamond miners and diggers in the selected DMC be willing to organize themselves and work together as a team (cooperative); be able to understand DFPL’s vision and mission statements; acknowledge that DFPL will not provide the funds needed to run the mining activities and; and accept that DFPL will no buy any diamonds. Other reasons why a DMC would be selected are if the DMC has already implemented self-help projects and if the DMC is producing enough to sustain the cooperative activity. DFPL believes these are the major conditions upon which the project can be successful. Consistent with these conditions, the coordinator conducted the follow up visits and during these visits, emphasized that DFPL will not work with any DMC where miners and diggers are not willing to organize themselves and work together as a team. During the visits, he found that three of the four shortlisted DMCs (Bellekalamu, Mabon-Zingbeku and Gondor Town) did not satisfy these conditions. Therefore, DFPL decided not to work with them in the pilot phase of the project. However, as the project expands in the future, these DMCs could be considered again provided they satisfy the aforementioned conditions.
How the DMCs fell short of the conditions
The three DMCs did not satisfy the conditions for similar reasons.
In Bellekpalamu, the stakeholders showed good signs of their willingness to work with the pilot project at the beginning of DFPL’s intervention with them. The diggers organized themselves into a diggers’ association even before DFPL’s first visit to the DMC and they went even further as a result of DFPL’s intervention by holding an election that established another group of leaders to steer the affairs of the association. The Bellekpalamu digger’s association met on several occasions and discussed issues regarding the common good of the members. In addition, residents in the community initiated the construction of an elementary school which is currently in use. They also started a police depot project to attract the government’s attention to assign some police officers who could help control crime in the area. The miners in Bellekpalamu also organized themselves into a miners’ cooperative.
However, all of these actions were not enough to qualify Bellekpalamu for selection in the pilot project primarily because the miners failed to make convincing progress on their activities; they never met to discuss issues between the coordinator’s first and second visits. The diggers also failed to continue making progress on their activities; they had stoppedholding meetings to keep the group together. During the coordinator’s follow up visits, he found many of the diamond workers, mostly diggers, had left the DMC because they were no longer finding diamonds as often as they used to. DFPL believes in a situation like this it is difficult for the project to succeed.
In Mabon-Zingbeku the stakeholders verbally expressed their willingness to work with the pilot project but did not do much to satisfy the conditions for selection. As a community, they have the desire to help themselves in a certain way; their collaboration to address the issue of a lack of school for their children in the DMC is evidence. However, they also failed to satisfy the conditions for selection because neither the miners nor the diggers made any effort to organize themselves into a miners’ cooperative or a diggers’ association.
In Gondor Town, the stakeholders also made verbal expression of their desire to work in the project but acted contrary to their expressions. They accepted the basic principles for the project,but the diggers did not organize themselves into a diggers’ association; as for the miners, they did create the miners’ cooperative but did not progress any further than that to satisfy the conditions necessary for selection. The miners were never motivated about the cooperative activities; they never held any meetings even though the coordinator visited and encouraged them to do so on several occasions.
DFPL aims to build and maintain the relationships and trust with the general public and the DMCs where it has already established working relationships. Therefore, even though these DMCs were not selected for the pilot project , DFPL felt it was important to meet with them in person and inform them why they were not selected. The coordinator visited the three non selected DMCs and told them of DFPL’s decision and their responses to this news was mixed.
The stakeholders in Bellekpalamu were sad and disappointed but understood their shortfalls. They expressed gratitude to DFPL for taking the time to visit and inform them even though their DMC was not selected for the project.
The stakeholders in Mabon-Zingbeku were not surprised of the news given that they understood the basis on which a DMC could be selected for the project and realized they did not do much to be selected for the project. They thanked DFPL for assessing their community with an intention of working with them in the future.
The stakeholders in Gondor town expressed their regret for losing the opportunity to work in the project. They understood and accepted DFPL’s decision not to select them for the project and promised they will continue making efforts to organize themselves to work together for their common good.
In building and maintaining relationship, it is important to share information as often as it may be deemed necessary. If there is a gap in communication, the parties involved may misunderstand each other and do things that could undermine the purpose of the relationship. Therefore, always communicate information whether positive or negative; it will help the parties to understand the situation and act accordingly.
Front Photo:Coordinator explains to the stakeholders in Mabon-Zingbeku why they were not selected for the project(dfp)