63-year-old Shylet Mutsago, who lives close to the diamond fields of Marange, expressed her anger over how the mining going on in their backyard has failed to improve the lives of the local people especially during this period of drought. Marange, a home to more than 80,000 people, is in the Eastern part of Zimbabwe and is very rich in diamonds.
She lamented on how she watches from a distance as companies still dig in the ground in search of the alluvial diamonds, and in the process they release clouds of red dust into the sky.
Our hopes of benefiting from the diamonds are gone.
And with this severe drought we are now placing our lives in the hands of God. We are living close to these diamond mines, yet we are starving.”
Mutsago also added,
As crops fail due to a lack of rain, some villagers can no longer afford even one proper meal a day, and are surviving on wild fruits like baobab.
In the midst of severe drought and starvation, the people in Marange had hoped the diamond industry would help out by investing in reviving the irrigation schemes in the area. The National law also requires mining companies to help develop the local communities.
Though the area is susceptible to dry spells, the situation in Marange has been worsened by the current El Niño weather phenomenon, which has brought drought to large areas of Zimbabwe, causing famine and starvation to people around the area.
The government has declared a state of disaster in most rural parts of the country, saying that 2.44 million people – around a quarter of the population – need food aid.
Most of the irrigation schemes in and around Marange were constructed decades ago and they are no longer efficient due to lack of maintenance as small-scale farmers cannot pay to maintain or replace aging equipment.
Continuing, Mutsago said,
Just a few diamond stones could have helped change our lives, but no one seems to care.
A lot of other locals shared Mutsago’s frustration about the condition they found themselves as a result of the drought.
Mudiwa, who also heads a local advocacy group, the Marange Development Trust, said:
But imagine – we are surrounded by diamonds!
The government must order these mining companies to feed the starving people in Marange.
Marange is known as one of the world’s richest in alluvial diamond deposits.
Though the resources are depleting according to experts, it was estimated to have produced around 17 million carats in 2013. This is 13 percent of the world rough diamond supply, according to the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation.
Marange also produced 12 million carats in both 2012 and 2014, while production statistics for 2015 are not yet available as at the time of filing this report.