'The war whose bullets you don’t see’: Diamond digging, resilience and Ebola in Sierra Leone

Roy Maconachie, Gavin Hilson

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This paper reflects critically on the transformational impacts the recent Ebola epidemic has had in diamond-rich areas of rural Sierra Leone. It focuses specifically on the country's ‘diggers’, a sizable group of labourers who occupy the bottom of the country's artisanal diamond mine production pyramid. Based upon research conducted in the diamond-producing localities of Kenema and Kono, the paper argues how, in sharp contrast to the gloomy picture painted in the literature about their existences and struggles, diggers exhibited considerable resilience during the Ebola crisis. Their diversified livelihood portfolios proved to be effective survival strategies and buffers against the shocks and stresses brought about by lengthy periods of quarantine, and during times when mobility was restricted by the government in a bid to prevent the spreading of the disease. Drawing inspiration from the resilience literature, the paper captures the essence of these survival strategies, which should be viewed as latest reshuffling and expansion of diggers' rural livelihood portfolios. Policymakers and donors have yet to embrace fully these changes in a country where the Ebola recovery period promises to be lengthy and at a time when fresh, locally-informed rural development solutions are in short supply.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-122
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Early online date27 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • Artisanal mining sector
  • Diamond digging
  • Ebola
  • Livelihoods
  • Resilience
  • Sierra Leone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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