Empowerment Works, Inc (EW), an American non-profit organization, in collaboration with Diamonds for Peace (DFP) implemented this project in Liberia from January to May 2021, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This project is supported by the Extractives Global Programmatic Support (EGPS) at the World Bank.
The project is made up of three components, each with a specific purpose.
- Health: To alleviate the negative impacts brought by COVID-19
- Due Diligence: To develop a due diligence tool
- Research: To understand the situation surrounding diamond exporters
The first and major component is health: to provide a workshop on health and soap making, to alleviate the negative health impacts brought by COVID-19, targeting miners and residents in 17 artisanal mining communities in Bomi and Gbarpolu Counties. Prior to convening the workshop, we conducted a preliminary survey in the communities to better understand the COVID-19 and health/hygiene situations, and then developed the contents of the workshop so as to provide participants with knowledge not only on COVID-19 but also other common ailments and diseases, such as diarrhea, malaria etc. We placed the emphasis on handwashing in the workshop because we found that the majority of community residents did not wash their hands with soap, despite the fact that preventive practices are very important, given that 10 of the 17 communities do not have a medical clinic. After the workshop, many participants’ behaviors have changed to washing hands with soap. Some communities also started to make soap by themselves to improve hygiene and generate income.
2. Due Diligence
The second component is to develop a due diligence tool on the governance and practices of mining by artisanal diamond mining cooperatives in Liberia. We developed the tool (a set of questions), tested it with a pilot mining cooperative, and improved upon it. This tool, in combination with the flyer on due diligence and the video on responsible sourcing, aims to connect mining cooperatives in Liberia to responsible international buyers in the future, through a legitimate chain of custody. The pilot cooperative members embraced the idea of due diligence, understood the importance and benefits to them and took time to answer all the questions fully. Voices of responsible buyers in the video encouraged and motivated them to work on it.
The third component was conducting the survey targeting licensed diamond exporters in Liberia to understand the business situation and challenges they were facing, to introduce them to the idea of responsible sourcing, and to develop a plan to create a traceable supply chain of artisanally mined diamonds in Liberia. Interviewed exporters showed their interest in responsible sourcing and a desire to know more about it. We developed a flyer and a video on responsible sourcing in which exporters showed interest.
The following materials/documents are available online.
Changing lives with Soap: two success stories from Nyuandee Community
Martha Seh is a forty-year-old single mother with eight children, ranging in age from 18 years to 3 months, living in the Nyuandee Community, one of mining communities in Liberia.
Like her parents before her, she is a farmer, earning her money from selling her produce at the local markets (rice, palm oil, pepper, bene-seed, okra, kayfey seed and vegetables).
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit her badly. There are no longer any markets where she can sell her produce and in addition her husband left her to cater alone for her eight children. As she is not allowed out to visit relatives, due to COVID restrictions, they are also unable to help her raise her children or assist with clothing for the new-born baby.
The health project was extremely beneficial to her because not only did it teach her the basic rudiments in hygiene (such as washing her hands with soap before and after using the toilet, ensuring that the open pit toilet was not next to the house and that the area around the house should be kept clean) but also how to protect herself and her children with mosquito nets and basic medicine to be taken for ailments such as diarrhea, working with the health teams. Before this project, no other NGO had ever taught the villagers these basic practices.
Thanks to the Project, Martha has also learned how to make her own soap, which she now sells, enabling her to provide for her family, for which she is very grateful.
Zoe Kanneh is a thirty-year-old single mother with four surviving children, ranging in age from 14 years to 18 months, living in the Nyuandee Community, her father having met her mother there when he moved from Bong County to take up some mining activities.
Describing herself as a businesswoman, Zoe used to sell slippers, clothes and children’s underwear to the local community to help to meet the needs of herself and her children as well as those of her older relatives, including a blind grandmother, ailing uncle and mother with a mental disorder. Due to her mother’s illness both her father and her husband have left, so it is up to her to care for them alone.
Her business activities stopped with the advent of COVID-19 leaving her to return to farming practices to survive (as her mother did before her) and to sell the produce locally (corn and ground peas). Uneducated herself, she wanted her children to go to school so that they could care for her in her old age, but this was stopped also because of COVID.
Thanks to the Project, she has learned about hygiene. No-one in her family or the generations before, had ever been taught about washing their hands with soap, but thanks to the workshop they all now wash their hands. The workshop also led her to build a toilet outside the house, keeping the living area clean, and she worked on ensuring that the food and water she and her family consume is as clean as possible. She also learned how to make her own soap and is selling some of this to help her family survive in these difficult times.
The project team would like to show its sincere appreciation to the Ministry of Mines and Energy in Liberia for providing them with contact information of licensed diamond exporters in Liberia, to Jared Holstein, Kevin Vantyghem, and Neil Holness for their input for the video on responsible sourcing, toHaruko Yokote and Izumi Tomita for creating graphs and charts for the surveys, and to Beth West for proofreading of the documents.
Front photo: Community members in Nyuandee practicing handwashing with soap in September 2021 (c) Diamonds for Peace