In a rugged field with mined-out pits; and heaps of earth that stood like giant anthills, a group of Norwegian youth politicians met with miners and were shocked by the terrible working conditions of the miners at the Old Penduma mining field in Kono in eastern Sierra Leone.
The Norwegian group was on field visits to Kono and Makeni, which were organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Nordic office in Norway.
The aim of the visits were for the Norwegian group, which comprised members of the youth parties of the different political parties in Norway, was to get acquainted with UNDP and the UN’s practical development work in the country.
At the Old Penduma mine field, a diamond mining license holder, who legitimises the mining process, held his diamond license like a sacred ornament, protected in a transparent folder.
“It is like a food for work programme, I feed the miners twice a day and when a diamond is found, we share the proceeds,” explained the license holder to the Norwegian dele.
The mud from the mines which had dried on the skins of the miners by the harsh harmatan wind makes them looked sad and horrific, as if they were skeleton undertakers.
One of the miners who said he is 25 but can pass off for a 40 year old man, supposedly worn-out by the mining business explained that they work 10 hours everyday and can not afford to cater for their families, because it takes about a month or two to come across a ‘valuable stone’ [diamond] which can earn them at least some huge sum.
While most of the men are engaged in mining which is not economically viable to sustain their families, the women are nonetheless seen to be the bread winners.
In a meeting with the Mayor of the Kono city, Mary Musa explained that “women are the bread winners of families in this city,” and regretted being a mayor of such a wealthy, but poor community.
Seeing conditions at the diamond mines, UNDP Nordic office communication officer, Marte Torskenaes commented, “Mining is such a hard work.”
Unlike Kono which is a diamondiferous community and yet so poverty stricken, on the contrary Masapiri village in Makeni has made major strides in agriculture and agro-processing.
Masapiri village major activities are agriculture and agro processing and this have been putting food on their tables, and paying the bills.
The Nation Wide Resource Organisation (NWRO) Director, Raymond Kanu N’silk who is an implementing partners of the Masapiri youth project, explained that the project is a pilot project supported by UNDP.
He explained that under UNDP’s youth empowerment project, job creation and livelihood promotion, Masapiri youth is one of the groups that benefited from the project.
“They were supported with tools and planting material cassava, and now they have not only engaged on farming, but agro-processing as well,” he said.
Giving her impression, about Sierra Leone before arriving, one of the Norwegian politicians Karine Hektone, of the Socialist Youth League of Norway- a youth party of the government’s socialist left party- said, “I’m actually rather positively surprised.”
She accentuated, “before we came here we only read text and see numbers and UN Human Development Index (HDI) [which] shows that Sierra Leone is on the bottom.” But when we came, she said, “there are so much live and brilliant people.”
She suggested, “I think there is a need for political actions and funding to build up Sierra Leone society again.”