Re-agrarianizing livelihoods in post-conflict Sierra Leone? Mineral wealth and rural change in artisanal and small-scale mining communities

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Abstract

In mineral-rich regions of Sierra Leone, the diversification of livelihood portfolios is widespread and local actors have long pursued complex and dynamic strategies that involve the intertwining of farming and mining economies. This article examines recent evidence from two impoverished communities in the diamond- and gold-producing regions of the country, where artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) operations dovetail with agrarian activities. On the one hand, the analysis suggests that income derived from ASM provides valuable investment funds for reviving the agrarian institutions and social networks that are vital to the post-war rural economy. However, on the other hand, diminishing returns from diamond mining operations coupled with the institutional and policy challenges of the mining sector may also be responsible for persuading some individuals to abandon ASM and encouraging them to re-orientate their livelihoods more exclusively around farming. In light of these two diverging developments, this article compares and contrasts the potential of artisanal gold and diamond mining as strategies to uplift livelihoods. In doing so, it is argued that a better understanding of the nexus between informal mining and farming activities is essential for alleviating poverty and promoting sustainable rural livelihoods in the post-war period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1054-1067
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of International Development
Volume23
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011

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livelihood
small scale mining
diamond
mineral
community
gold
rural economy
social network
poverty
uplift
economy
Sierra Leone
post-war period
income
diversification
evidence

Cite this

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title = "Re-agrarianizing livelihoods in post-conflict Sierra Leone? Mineral wealth and rural change in artisanal and small-scale mining communities",
abstract = "In mineral-rich regions of Sierra Leone, the diversification of livelihood portfolios is widespread and local actors have long pursued complex and dynamic strategies that involve the intertwining of farming and mining economies. This article examines recent evidence from two impoverished communities in the diamond- and gold-producing regions of the country, where artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) operations dovetail with agrarian activities. On the one hand, the analysis suggests that income derived from ASM provides valuable investment funds for reviving the agrarian institutions and social networks that are vital to the post-war rural economy. However, on the other hand, diminishing returns from diamond mining operations coupled with the institutional and policy challenges of the mining sector may also be responsible for persuading some individuals to abandon ASM and encouraging them to re-orientate their livelihoods more exclusively around farming. In light of these two diverging developments, this article compares and contrasts the potential of artisanal gold and diamond mining as strategies to uplift livelihoods. In doing so, it is argued that a better understanding of the nexus between informal mining and farming activities is essential for alleviating poverty and promoting sustainable rural livelihoods in the post-war period.",
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