Improving the lives of communities dependent on gold mining
Between 2013 and 2016, we partnered with Terre des Hommes Suisse to support artisanal and small-scale mining communities living in the Amazonian region of Madre de Dios to improve their gold extraction practices and diversify their sources of income, adopting more sustainable alternatives to gold prospecting. Two prototypes were conceived collectively and produced locally to address mercury losses in amalgamation and to reduce the risk of water, air and soil pollution, reaching 600 individuals in three different mining communities. Some 66 families abandoned gold prospecting and came together to establish the Agrobosque cooperative, which now numbers over 270 members.
Intensive panning in southern Peru has dramatic consequences, including the destruction of the rainforest, the pollution of soils and rivers with mercury and cyanide, the loss of traditional agricultural activities and the disintegration of the social fabric of the communities concerned. Despite the complexity of the legal framework surrounding informal miners’ groups, and notwithstanding the number and intensity of social conflicts in the area, the programme achieved substantial results in a relatively short time:
- Some 66 families abandoned gold prospecting and came together to establish the Agrobosque cooperative, which now numbers over 270 members. Through its leadership, Agrobosque promoted the creation of 35 vegetable gardens, 10 school gardens, 16 fish farms and 33 fruit gardens, diversifying both the diet and sources of income of the members’ families and their communities.
- Agrobosque’s members, together with 45 other families, received training in essential techniques for cocoa cultivation and development, seed selection and reproduction: 900 kilos of Chuncho cocoa were produced on 40 hectares of land in 2015, and the harvest of the 150 hectares of land cultivated in 2016 is expected to reach 10 tons.
- The process of organic and Fairtrade certification is currently under way for this highly sought-after native Criollo cocoa, recognized as one of the highest-quality varieties in the world.
- To improve mining practices, Terre des Hommes Suisse worked closely with the Edana anthropo-technological research laboratory at the Haute Ecole Arc Ingénierie University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland. Edana’s fieldworkers engaged directly with miners to identify problems and design the technical solutions needed to improve their extraction practices. Two improved prototypes were conceived collectively and produced locally to address mercury losses in amalgamation and to reduce the risk of water, air and soil pollution: the “retorta Anamei” for distilling mercury, and the “boa” polyvalent mini-excavator. Over 600 individuals in three different mining communities benefitted directly from these improved techniques, whose adoption has been recognized and praised by institutional actors.