Last week I had the chance to talk with Dorothée Gizenga, executive director of the Diamond Development Initiative, about how the Ebola outbreak is impacting the lives and livelihoods of the artisanal diamond diggers the organization aids.
For those unfamiliar, the DDI works to improve the lives of artisanal miners in Africa and South America. Right now, the organization has one pilot program in place, in the Kono District of Sierra Leone.
There, the DDI is working to create the Development Diamond Standards by training diggers on sound social and environmental practices and then helping them apply these practices. The sites where they work then are verified and certified by an independent third party as having produced ethical diamonds, and the DDI connects the miners with buyers in order to establish a chain of custody.
“That’s the project we have in place,” Gizenga said. “We want to make sure the artisanal miners are not marginalized in this big move for ethical sourcing.”
She said so far five sites, all in the Kono district of Sierra Leone, have been certified as ethical. The DDI wants to certify more sites in Kono, and expand the program to Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea, but those plans are on hold due to the Ebola outbreak, as are its current activities in Sierra Leone.
As noted in this thought-provoking piece on the Kono District, the country’s ban on groups of people gathering has pretty much brought the diamond mining sector there to a standstill, impacting not only those who mine diamonds but those who are involved in dealing, trading and transporting the stones.
As of Oct. 17, the World Health Organization reported that there was a total of 9,216 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola in seven countries. Of those, 3,410 are in Sierra Leone. The country is second only to Liberia in terms of the scope of the outbreak.
“When trading does resume there’ll be a glut of diamonds in the market, which is expected to depress prices and lead some to smuggle diamonds out of Sierra Leone.”