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Diamonds, Development, and Property Rights


It is ironic that diamonds, the beautiful
stones that many cultures use to celebrate love and marriage, have also been used to
finance war and violence. African countries are among the worlds greatest source of diamonds,
they are also where millions of people have been killed and uprooted in battles to control
them. In the late 1990s, the world learned that
criminal warlords like Charles Taylor used what came to be known as blood diamonds, to
finance the death and destruction they inflicted on unarmed civilians in Sierra Leone and other
African Countries. Conflict diamonds have been a huge problem,
over 70 Million people live in African countries that have been torn apart by struggles over
diamonds and other minerals. The wars and rebellions shattered already weak economies,
spread disease and created millions of refugees. Responding to this growing crisis, the United
Nations, governments of diamond producing and trading countries, including the United
States, joined forces with the industry and civil society to create a system to reduce
the market for conflict diamonds. In 2002 these organizations created the Kimberley
Process Certification Scheme to combat trade in conflict diamonds on a worldwide basis. The US Congress passed the Clean Diamond Trade
Act to support and fund the effort. In order to restrict conflict diamonds from
entering the marketplace, the Kimberley Process creates a system for tracing diamonds from
their source to the world diamond market. It’s an ambitious goal, made even more difficult
by the nature of artisanal diamond mining. Throughout the rain forests of Central Africa,
surrounding some of the great river basins and the streams that flow into them, there
are significant deposits of alluvial diamonds scattered in the sub-soil. Over time, rivers
and streams erode rock formations containing diamonds and the stones show up in the sediment
downstream from the source rocks. Artisanal miners in remote areas dig up the
diamonds using just basic tools and backbreaking labor. The small scale and remote locations
make alluvial diamonds very hard to trace. For these reasons, they are perfectly suited
to being used by warlords and criminals and are therefore of deep concern for the Kimberley
Process. The miners, living at the edge of survival
are easy to exploit, not only by warlords and criminals; but on a daily basis by dishonest
buyers who cheat them on price. If you look at the chain of diamond sales,
it begins with miners,then collectors and up to the buying house… the ones who lose
the most are at the bottom, the artisanal miners. At the top of the chain, you have people with
fancy villas and cars who travel the world, while those at the bottom, live in misery.
That’s why we want to rebalance this situation. One problem facing many countries that want
to comply with the Kimberley Process, is determining who owns the mine where the stones were found.
Land ownership at the grass roots level where artisanal miners work, is confusing- stemming
from the existence of parallel systems, one customary and the other statutory. How to
reconcile customary and statutory systems is a challenge. In the Central African Republic, the United
States Agency for International Development sponsored a pilot project, launched in 2007
called PRADD (the Property Rights and Artisanal Diamond Development Project). It is designed to identify and test methods
to strengthen property rights and production accounting, in order to improve compliance
with the Kimberley Process. The project also seeks to raise incomes and
living standards for miners and mining communities. As the owner of a small diamond mining claim,
Madeleine Wékombo is called the Chef de Chantier. She lives in the heart of the Pilot Zone and
worked with the PRADD team on the project. I’m very happy for the PRADD training. Before
this project, we didn’t know that much about diamonds. We didn’t know the real value
of our diamonds and usually we sold them at a very undervalued
price. Since 1960, we were like blind people. But after this training in 2007,We began to
see things more clearly. The PRADD project is a pilot intended to validate
procedures for protecting the rights of the individual artisanal miner, the community
in which that person lives, as well as increasing the revenue to the central government and
by extension the entire population of the Central African Republic
The property rights of artisanal miners are rooted in customary rules and traditions. But these rights are not written or recorded
anywhere. The absence of formal property rights and
the failure to maintain production records, make it difficult to trace the diamonds they
find. PRADD developed a systematic process to identify
miners and help them affirm their customary property rights claims, providing them a measure
of protection they never had before. At the same time, it helps the Government
to comply with the Kimberley process, by identifying the exact source of the diamonds. Here, I show you the tomb of my father, Yaba
David who worked very hard for the community Clans and tribes continue to play an important
role in determining customary property rights. This is the tomb of Fidele Youane who was
also a Chief… Who reigned from 1964 to 1971. These customary rights are invisible to the
state and difficult to document. But they are very real to people living in villages
all over Central Africa. Here is the tomb of my grandfather who is
the son of Chief Yaba These rights are rooted in tribal history
and culture and managed by traditional leaders in the local communities. He was a well-known personality who died in
2002. Kent Elbow, a land tenure specialist worked
with Zéphirin Mogba and the rest of the PRADD team to design and test the methodology for
translating customary rights to statutory rights. Basically the approach of our project is to
try to link these parallel systems the statutory and the customary by bringing the customary
non-formal rules and regulations and rights into the statutory system. In order to define the customary rights of
miners in the Pilot Zone, the team developed an 8-step process that combined community
development techniques to identify, organize and motivate the miners with GPS devices to
precisely locate the mines. The work began with a participatory rural
appraisal, a creative process where men and women from the community gathered to map their
environment. Looking at their environment in this new way can be a powerful experience.
It helped change their perspective on their own resources and how best to use them. The rural appraisal process gave the PRADD
team an overview of the community. Step # 2 – conducting a census of the miners, was a
focused effort to generate the facts on mine ownership. The next step was the Socio-Economic Survey.
It included a more formal survey with a detailed questionnaire that was given to every single
miner. The miners described not only the location of their mine, but also how and when they
acquired ownership of it. In every step of the process, the information
about the mines and mine ownership became more accurate. In this next step, the PRADD
team located each mine site using GPS devices. It was time-consuming, but it generated critical
information. With the precision of the GPS coordinates,
they often discovered new facts about ownership and location that didn’t come out in previous
steps. These GPS points connect the mine site locations
to an amazing amount of metadata that is available from GIS sources, including data on vegetation,
water and other resources that can be useful in land use planning. They located the mining sites with geographical
coordinates, using the GPS devices. So wherever you are – in the US, Germany, or Ndjamena
– you can see on a map, each of these mining
sites: with their coordinates, owner’s name and surface area, down to the square meter.
The GPS devices allow us to establish precise locations for them. The team regarded the miner’s claims as
provisional until it was determined that there were no conflicts. To handle the few conflicts
that did come up, the team developed a successful community-driven mediation process to resolve
them. Ngaisse has his mine on the Ngoube river.
Once the miner’s claims were identified and precisely located, and after they determined
that the claims were clear of any conflict- the claims were then publicly validated in
front of the community. Everybody knows Naigaisseis a Chef de Chantier.
So, if this is true. Let’s everyone applaud. Pasqueline Mbolipola inherited her mine from
her husband, so everyone knows that Pasqueline is a Chef de Chantier. Is that right? So if
we agree this is her mine on the Nguilingala river, then let’s applaud. Everyone was pleased with the results of the
validation process, the miners, the Central African government and US AID. To celebrate
their accomplishment, the US Ambassador, Frederick Cook, joined national, regional and local
Central African officials in Bossoui, to distribute certificates. The artisans were proud of their accomplishment.
For the first time, they had a written document that affirmed their claims. According to current laws in the Central African
Republic, the first step toward legalization is the acquisition of a license called a patente,
which gives the miner permission to mine a specific site. It comes with a logbook, called
a cahier de production, to help them track the diamonds they find. The government is considering new laws and
practices to expand recognition of customary property rights. Our wish is that we can expand the project
to other mining sites that aren’t already covered by this project. So that all the artisans
understand the importance of using the production notebooks,
the importance of the mining code, and that they will work legally. For their own well-being.
And for the well being of the country. How customary property rights become integrated
into a government’s legal or statutory system will vary from country to country, but the
success of PRADD’s pilot program in affirming customary rights proves that it has enormous
value for all the stakeholders- the miners, the government and the Kimberley Process. After going through the property rights process
and getting their certificate, the miners spoke with greater confidence about their
rights, knowing they had a document that verified their property and its exact location.
They are now in a stronger position to negotiate a win-win solution if an industrial mining
company or a government organization ever challenged their rights. Equally important, the process, and what the
miners learned going through it, changed their attitude about the tangible rewards of operating
legally. You can already see a change in mentality
among the miners. Those who were resistant at first; have become less resistant. I think
after one or two more years of following this policy, we will be able to bring everyone
into the legal framework for exploiting diamonds. Very simply, artisanal miners work in fragile
zones: around marshes and rivers. The holes inevitably cause environmental degradation,
leading to the loss of streams. They damage the whole
ecosystem around the streams. Industrial and artisanal diamond mining do
enormous damage to the environment- mining destroys farmland and forests and diverts
rivers and streams, depositing silt and reducing fish stocks. We have to make all artisanal miners completely
aware of the dangers to the environment, to ensure the rehabilitation of damaged areas
and develop new techniques to limit the degradation
of their mining activities. Training artisans to use these techniques
is essential to reduce future damage. They work on the river until here… When
the land is damaged, some people say, “Why bother repair it? We’re just looking for
diamonds.” Educating miners about environmental rehabilitation
goes hand-in-hand with training focused on alternative livelihoods and agricultural productivity.
It helps them to diversify their income and become more self sufficient in terms of food
resources. In the near term however, training them in
diamond valuation is very helpful. When the artisans go to sell their products
to the collectors or the buying offices, they don’t really know exactly what their diamonds
are worth. The collectors and the buying agents, who
know very well what they are worth, very often cheat them. The most direct, effective way to increase
the income of diamond miners is to train them in diamond valuation. Learning how to value
diamonds put the artisans on a stronger footing in their negotiations with buyers. Recognizing
this, PRADD provided artisans in the pilot zone with a basic course in diamond valuation. PRADD trained artisans on site to valuate
diamonds. Now, in the pilot zone there are diamond valuation experts among the artisanal
miners, which helps prevent the miners from being swindled when selling their product. We learned many things, but diamond valuation
training was the most important aspect of the program. In the future, I will sell my
diamonds at real value. Affirming the property rights of miners was
the major goal of the PRADD project; building collaborative partnerships to promote economic
development and diversify income sources was also a key objective. The diamond industry is of course very much
linked to the global financial crisis. There’s no longer the
market that existed before and that changes very much the context in which we are working.
We really need to pay more attention to helping our
artisanal miners to engage in other activities to diversify them. The global financial crisis and its impact
on the local diamond market taught miners the dangers of becoming too dependent on one
product. The exercises and the discussions the miners
had, going through the process, provoked them to think and act differently about land use
planning, economic development and natural resource management. We are talking about products we can sell,
and whether we can sell them easily or not. Ngotto, one of the villages in the Pilot Zone,
PRADD team member Francois Ngbakoto facilitated a lively discussion about readily available
alternatives to mining, market opportunities for different food crops and how to improve
productivity in growing basics like potatoes, rice, corn and manioc. …rice, sesame seeds, sugar cane… potatoes,
honey and onions The PRADD Project was always presented as
a pilot project and it is our hope that the Central African government will assess this
project and select those elements which are most beneficial, and that they will spread
these protections for the miners and for the environment across the entire country. In looking at the whole property rights registration
process, it is clear that the effort has far more value than just the documents the miners
receive. The process itself promotes ownership and responsibility; it becomes a point of
departure for community economic development, environmental rehabilitation and improved
natural resource management. These activities are critical in order to improve the lives
of miners and mining communities.

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