In the remote Busia district, in eastern Uganda, more than 600 farmers try to complement their scarce incomes with gold exploitation. However, on top of the environmental costs caused by open mining, workers struggle to make ends meet due to the untrustworthy middlemen they have to deal with. Eventually, the gold ends up with a distant buyer who can set the prices as they please. That is why Fairtrade Africa and Environmental Women in Action for Development (EWAD), a Ugandan NGO, launched a project in the area in 2012.
The goal was to sensitise miners to environmentally sound practices (such as reducing the use of mercury and terminating child labour practices) as well as to legalise small-scale mining activities. At the end of 2016, EWAD successfully lobbied with the Ugandan government to make Syanyonja Artisan Miners’ Alliance (SAMA) Africa’s first Fairtrade-certified gold producer. Just three years earlier, a few miners had created the organisation, determined to bring gold to the market under Fairtrade standards. The certification now gives some leverage to the miners, however the certification is not an end goal but only the beginning.
Looking for Buyers
That is why the people of EWAD (who have supported SAMA since the beginning) have submitted a project request with Enabel’s Trade for Development Centre. The goal was threefold:
- develop a better administration and management within the SAMA miners’ organisation;
- develop sustainable production techniques (without mercury);
- secure access to the international Fairtrade gold market.
At the end of 2016, the TDC supported SAMA to pursue a better management system within the miners’ organisation through financial and management training. The project also promoted the use of sustainable production techniques such as ‘the gold katcha’, a new machine which can separate gold powder by using water. In other words, this device ensures mercury-free production while avoiding the use of firewood, which is also a plus for the local fight against deforestation. Since EWAD is committed to implementing the international Minamata Convention on Mercury to reduce mercury pollution in Uganda, the NGO hopes that SAMA could be an example for the more than 600 small-scale miners from the region. Mercury-free production implies a huge step forward for the environment and technological innovation. It is also worth mentioning that it is not just SAMA that will benefit from the gold katcha but other ASMOs too, which will lead to a radical transformation of gold extraction techniques in the country.
TDC Marketing coaching
Thanks to its fair trade certification, SAMA now has access to international markets and can directly contact buyers and jewellers in the fair trade circuit. However, to do so efficiently, the organisation must gain more marketing knowledge. Field visits, knowledge sharing, seminars and campaigns must bring together producer groups from Uganda and Kenya and strengthen the relationships within the fair trade circuit. Nevertheless, an online presence is also very important to reach new customers. Through training, and the purchase of adapted equipment (a laptop, internet receiver plus related IT courses), SAMA members can now do digital marketing. And successfully too. Just one year after obtaining certification, SAMA sold its first kilo of fair trade gold to Cred Jewellery in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, between 2016 and 2017, the 400 members’ gold output more than tripled.
The project lasted 12 months, from October 2016 til October 2017, with a total budget of 97 664€. The TDC contributed to the amount of 88,289,37€.
Production growth: + 328,18%
Evolution of selling prices: + 64,84%