As the conflict-minerals sector reforms, we must ensure that miners work in better conditions and/or find other sources of livelihood in eastern Congo.
As eastern Congo's mining communities transition from the conflict-minerals trade to legitimate business, people need targeted assistance to help them find meaningful sources of nonmining-related livelihoods and cope with the ongoing challenges of living in an area long plagued by conflict.
What does 'livelihoods' mean?
Livelihood: the means by which households obtain and maintain access to the resources necessary to ensure their immediate and long-term survival. These essential resources can be separated into six categories: physical, natural, human, financial, social, and political.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, is supporting a multimillion-dollar livelihoods project, managed by CARE, for communities affected by mining and sexual violence. The goal of the Community Recovery and Livelihoods Project, or CRLP, is targeting 80,000 people affected by sexual violence and the conflict-minerals trade in eastern Congo.The Enough Project has called repeatedly for a something like the CRLP, and we applaud USAID for this initiative. Much more work is needed in this area is needed, however.
Companies and donors should invest in a mining community livelihoods initiative now, in order to help enable a vibrant conflict-free eastern Congo. Specifically, they shoud:
- Donors should support microfinance projects for former miners, ex-combatants, and their communities. Small loans of $100 to $500 toward agriculture, produce, and other small businesses would go a long way in alleviating poverty in mining communities. Group projects should be part and parcel of a solution.
- Donors and companies should support artisanal mining projects with tools and capacity building, such that working conditions can improve.
- This program must also be carried out in a transparent and grassroots-oriented manner, so that grassroots communities indeed receive direct, tangible benefits from the projects.