Nine Sierra Leoneans from the Kono District were honoured on December 9 in a ceremony marking their completion of a six-month vocational training course. The Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), an international non-governmental organization operating in Sierra Leone, organized the training program for miners from diverse communities through out Kono District.
Through the theoretical and practical teaching, the trainees have acquired the skills necessary to operate their own businesses. Sheku Kondeh (Carpentry), Osman Kamara (Metalwork), Saffea Komba (Carpentry), Sallieu Jalloh (Carpentry), Aminata Alie (Tailoring), Tamba Joseph (Metalwork), Hawa Sesay (Tailoring), Kumba Joe (Hairdressing), and Kumba Komba (Hairdressing) were trained at the Institute of Advanced Management and Technology, also known as IAMTECH University in Koidu City, Kono District. They were selected from the following artisanal mining communities in the Kono District by DDI officials and local authorities: Mambudu, Kundorma, Chanjardu, Seidu, Farandu, Joe Town, Joporwahun, Small Sefadu and Koidu.
The graduation was a colourful event attended by college officials, government officials, media and friends and relatives of the trainees.At the ceremony, the Coordinator of IAMTECH Koidu Campus, Mrs. Elizabeth Tongu, thanked DDI and Brilliant Earth, an American jewelry company that provided funding for the training, for an initiative that many other organizations and individuals have not thought about. She said DDI had actually gone the extra mile by creating an opportunity for people to acquire skills that will benefit them and their communities.
Chief Mustapha Lappia, a Tribal Authority in the Nimiyama Chiefdom praised DDI for having rendered several forms of assistance to his village including providing food for Ebola-affected families, training local miners in the Maendeleo Diamond Standards (to ensure health and safety, protection of human rights and the environment), providing them with safety equipment and helping them to operate legally.
A practical trainer in the metalwork department, Ibrahim Kargbo, admonished the trainees to start using their skills as soon as they receive their tools and equipment from DDI in the coming weeks. A trainee in the carpentry department, Sheku Kondeh thanked DDI and Brilliant Earth for taking them out of darkness to light. He thanked DDI for providing decent wells for their communities and teaching them how to mine safely and responsibly.
DDI Program Manager Joseph Mboka thanked the trainees, local authorities and beneficiary communities for appreciating the good work DDI had been doing in Sierra Leone. He said DDI was working hard to ensure that artisanal mining becomes self-regulatory and largely law-abiding in the coming years. He added that DDI and the National Minerals Agency were working hand in hand to professionalize the artisanal mining sector in Sierra Leone.
DDI also believes that artisanal miners require a second source of livelihood because diamond is an exhaustible asset. When the diamond deposits are completely mined, the miners and other community residents who have acquired other skills will be able to support themselves and their dependants. To this end, DDI will fund entrepreneurial training for the new graduates in the coming weeks and provide them with tools and other equipment to practice their new professions.
The mission of DDI is to effect systemic change within the artisanal and small-scale mining sector by convening all interested parties in processes and projects that help turn precious stones and minerals into a source of sustainable community development. DDI has been working with 14 artisanal mining communities in the Kono District, eastern Sierra Leone. DDI has also been championing the participatory approach to the utilization of the Diamond Area Community Development Fund and has enlisted four local non-governmental organizations for this project. DDI has engaged paramount chiefs, sub-chiefs and supporters of artisanal mines on the Maendeleo Diamond Standards and the Kimberley Process in its quest to ensure that artisanal mining is professionalized with the full support and compliance of local authorities and financiers.
Mr. Mboka thanked Brilliant Earth for providing the requisite funding for this project. Brilliant Earth, a company that designs and sells jewelry from ethically sourced minerals, is a dedicated supporter of DDI, committed to improving the living and working conditions of artisanal miners. Mr. Mboka also thanked the German International Cooperation (GIZ), for steadfastly funding DDI to achieve its goals in Sierra Leone.