Alternative livelihoods to illegal artisanal mining

While artisanal mining is an important economic activity in Africa, it attracts illegal miners whose activities can have a negative impact on the environment and present health hazard to the miners themselves. Kelvin Charles Chanda is fighting this issue head on in his home country of Zambia by providing illegal artisanal miners with alternative livelihoods.

Kelvin received an Australia Awards – Africa Fellowship to study Community Aspects of Resource Development at the University of Queensland in 2012. Since completing his studies, he has worked in collaboration with his employer, the National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC), and other organisations to coin alternative livelihoods for illegal artisanal miners as a way of deterring them from inimical practices.

“The course I studied in Australia enhanced my skills and knowledge in community resource development. This has, in turn, allowed me to improve my institution’s corporate social responsibility strategies, as well as contribute professionally to community-based, integrated environmental management and development programs,” says Kelvin.

These efforts gave birth to a Community Conservation Committee (CCC), which is currently spearheading the mobilisation of resources for the construction of an NHCC Lodge, jointly owned by the community and the NHCC. The proposed lodge will be run by the community with the assistance of experts from the NHCC in a public-private partnership. The purpose of the lodge, still at the proposal stage, is to create a sense of ownership among the local community, while generating much-needed economic resources.

“Some local communities depend directly on stone quarrying or mining and black soil mining. This activity makes use of locally available trees, thus threatening heritage sites, such as Mwela Rock Art National Monument and the Mwankole Rock Art Sites, through the destruction of the surrounding natural rock outcrop,” explains Kelvin.

Kelvin has further encouraged communities to engage in curio businesses where they can make souvenirs from wood, plastic, clay and other material, which they can sell for profit. In order to support this venture, Kevin engaged the Art Revival Foundation in the training of community members on the production of art pieces (such as painting and wood artwork) that can be sold to tourists. Furthermore, the NHCC has offered free-of-charge space for artists to display and sell their products. So far, only about 10 persons are committed to this initiative, while the majority of community members are still involved in stone quarrying, which is perceived to be a quick source of household income.

Raising indigenous tree species seedlings is another alternative livelihood promoted by Kelvin. The initiative aims to demonstrate to the local community that it is possible to profit from growing indigenous trees. Once seedlings are ready, the government buys them from individuals and small groups through the Forest Department. In fact, the Government of the Republic of Zambia is encouraging the establishment of community nurseries, which are meant to rehabilitate depleted areas in the respective communities. About 100 seedlings have been raised and distributed to the communities benefitting from Kelvin’s work.

Kelvin’s enthusiasm and drive to effect change are commendable and will no doubt continue to underpin his contributions to increasing opportunities for Zambians.

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