Food parcels for 1,100 artisanal miners in Sierra Leone

Through GemFair, we are providing food parcels sourced from local producers to 1,100 artisanal miners in Sierra Leone to help support them and their families during the Covid-19 crisis.

Since 2018, we’ve been working to provide artisanal miners in Sierra Leone with a secure and transparent route to market for ethically sourced diamonds through our GemFair program.

Yet as a result of the global disruption of supply chains, many have been unable to sell their diamonds. Added to that, with people and produce unable to cross district borders, food prices are rising rapidly, and many are finding it increasingly difficult to feed their families.  Below we talk to one of the artisanal miners we work with, Lansana Sawaneh.

Could you tell us about yourself?

Lansana Sawaneh is my name. A Sierra Leonean, Koranko by tribe and a practicing Muslim, I was born and raised in Koinadugu District, in northern Sierra Leone. I did not go to formal school because my father was so poor that he could not afford school fees for my brothers and me.  As my father grew older, things became more difficult for my family.  In 2002, I left Koinadugu in search of better living conditions. Kono, in eastern Sierra Leone, has been my home for the last 15 years.

My primary occupation is mining. I have been mining for the past 15 years. I love mining, and it is what I want to do till I die. I have built houses and acquired plots of land from the money I get from mining.

How has Covid-19 impacted you?

To be honest with you, the Coronavirus situation has affected my life, my work and family negatively. Because of the inter-district lockdown and curfew at 9pm, my movement and sources of income have been limited and my mining has been affected. My family are affected as well. Putting food on the table everyday has been challenging. What makes it more difficult is that I have other relatives living with me: my wife, two kids, and four others.

What impact has receiving the food parcels had for you and your family?

The food parcel is a blessing and I never expected it.  I was very happy receiving the package. The photos says it all. On that very day, I had nothing left at home for my kids and other dependents.  I was thinking of taking loan from a friend of mine, then GemFair staff came in with the food to distribute. It helped me and my family, and I want to thank GemFair for the support. It helps ease the pressure on us, the bread winners.

What are your hopes for the future?

I am hoping that in the next few months coronavirus will be outdated, and everyone goes back to his or her normal life prior to COVID-19. Secondly, I am also hoping that my relationship with GemFair continues for a long time so I can get a fair price for my stones.

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