Washington — Berthe Yadjo's husband constantly searched for sites to mine for diamonds. When he found some of the precious gems, he had no choice but to sell them to the first person to offer a price.
The family worried that before he found a buyer someone would steal the diamonds or the government would confiscate the mine. Much of the trade in diamonds was illegal, with diamond profits used to fund conflicts. It has been a huge problem in diamond-rich African countries like the Yadjo's Central African Republic.
"It's ironic that diamonds, the beautiful stone that many cultures use to celebrate love and marriage, have also been used to finance war and violence," said the narrator of the USAID video Diamonds, Development and Property Rights.
Mining has other consequences. After a mine was exhausted, Yadjo's family moved on to other sites. The practice was environmentally destructive.
The Yadjos' lives stabilized after a property rights project for miners was launched in the country in 2007. Called Property Rights and Artisanal Diamond Development (PRADD), the project is jointly supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of State. Its aim is to reduce conflict and strengthen the rights of artisanal -- or small-scale -- diamond miners to prospect and dig for diamonds and sell them through legal channels. PRADD combines community efforts to motivate miners with Global Positioning System devices that can precisely locate mining claims and enable the government to meet the certification standards of the international Kimberley Process agreement.
In 2003, the Kimberley Process launched an international certification scheme to improve the governance and transparency of the diamond trade. The process was designed to ensure that rough diamonds did not fuel conflicts being carried out against legitimate governments. It has fostered improved monitoring in diamond-producing, -trading and -consuming countries and has been a platform for focusing on diamond-related socio-economic development, particularly in small-scale diamond-mining communities, according to the State Department. The Kimberley Process created a mechanism to trace diamonds from their source to the world market. In that same year, the U.S. Congress passed the Clean Diamond Trade Act to stop trade in what are known as conflict diamonds.
Before he died, through PRADD, Yadjo's husband obtained a property-rights certificate verifying a mine as his. Berthe inherited the mine.
She converted it into a fish pond, which generated enough income for her to purchase two additional exhausted mining sites and rehabilitate them. She and her children no longer worry if they will eat.
PRADD focuses on mitigating environmental damage, turning old mines into areas of agricultural productivity . So far, 600 mines have been turned into fish ponds, vegetable gardens and fruit tree orchards, said Tim Fella, USAID land tenure and conflict adviser.
Many miners say that now they make more money farming fish that digging for diamonds.