'Life After Diamonds' highlights the destruction and challenges faced in mining communities in the post-war diamondiferous regions in Sierra Leone. Cooperatives in the Kono district are engaging in reclamation of wasted mining sites into agricultural productive land to create food security, encourage wider industry adoption of Corporate Social Responsibility and promote improved legislation.
Shot in March and April 2009, 'Life After Diamonds' was created by Canadians Larissa Stendie and Sheryle Carlson, partnering with production team at the Environmental Foundation for Africa.
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About the Project:
During the Civil War in Sierra Leone, international consumers were understandably horrified to learn that jewelry they had purchased as a symbol of their love may have come at such terrible human and environmental costs, and began to push for tighter restrictions in the trade and paper trail for diamonds. While the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme has helped facilitate this in many countries, in Sierra Leone very little has changed, for while the regulations and legislation are in place, very little enforcement or compliance actually occur. Some speculate that the nebulous nature of licensing, fees, and ownership is deliberate, as everyone from journalists and shopkeepers, to chiefs and mines officials seem to have artisanal diggers whom they marginally support on a subsistence basis.
The lack of environmental legislation enforcement has consequently resulted in an increase in illicit diamond mining companies operating in the Kono District. There has been controversy between mining companies and local residents resulting in new negotiations. Given this, there is potential to improve environmental policy and corporate responsibility. Ultimately, land reclamation should be carried out by the mining company or miners.
Since the war, there have been mass migrations of youth into the city of Freetown, decimating the rural farming populations who were feeding the nation, and causing major destruction to the Western Peninsular Area and health concerns as so many vie for scant resources such as fuel wood and water.
Since 2002 there have been numerous periods of soaring prices on basic food stuffs such as rice, which used to be locally produced but are now being imported. Thus the food security of this incredibly fertile nation has been compromised for low quality at high costs.
Agriculture in the Kono District has been devastated by indiscriminate extraction of diamonds during the civil war. This practice continues today as foreign companies and local miners vie for diamond mining rights. The landscape is altered significantly in this process, and the productive top layers of soil are lost as they are buried under gravel and mining debris. In addition, local streams and rivers become polluted with sediment and ground water levels are altered, compromising local fish and freshwater habitat.
As small scale alluvial and artisanal mining continues in the Kono district, it is becoming less and less productive. The effects of this are threefold: mining must be deeper and on a larger scale to access deposits not yet mined-out, creating more destruction and forcing out artisanal miners; diggers begin to look for other livelihoods, such as agriculture; and because mining companies are the only ones capable of working these deposits, they create heavier impacts but are more clearly responsible for the recovery efforts.
Promoting agriculture on previously mined areas will also limit encroachment into forested regions and shelter endemic species and local biodiversity.
The refilling of pits protects fresh water and ground water sources by reducing erosion and siltation of streams. It also benefits communities as it can minimize health concerns such as stagnant water, drownings, and breeding of mosquitoes in unfilled pits.
Land reclamation is beneficial to communities as it can be useful in asserting solutions for social development issues such as eradicating extreme hunger and poverty by providing more land for food production and alternative livelihoods.
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