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Title: Youth livelihoods in transition : poverty, 'fast money' and diamonds in Kono District, Sierra Leone
Author: Conteh, Emmanuel
ISNI:       0000 0004 2716 8540
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2011
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Sierra Leone, one of the world's poorest countries, is still recovering from a protracted civil war in which diamonds were implicated as the main source of financing for rebel activity. The view that diamonds still present a significant threat in the post-conflict period are based on fears that the high numbers of youth gangs (principally comprised of ex-combatants and school dropouts) in mining camps could threaten the delicate peace that was so difficult to establish. But despite growing concerns over the sector's growth, minimal research has been carried out to identify what drives youths to participate in the sector. Moreover, the country's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) and allied policies fail to articulate what ultimately motivates youths to move to the mines or the extent to which these individuals depend on the sector for their livelihoods. A broadened understanding of these drivers is an important first step towards designing effective policies for poverty reduction, as well as minimising the probability of future civil violence. It is against this background that this thesis examines prevailing livelihood diversification patterns among youths m diamondiferous regions of Sierra Leone, and critically analyses the policy implications of their movements. The thesis draws upon research carried out in Kono District, which has the highest concentration of artisanal miners in Sierra Leone. Relevant primary documents, as well as feedback from interviews with key informants, focus group discussions with youth, and life histories of selected miners informed the analysis. The thesis concludes that there is no single factor driving youth movement into Sierra Leone's diamond mining camps: that migration is largely determined by individual circumstances. The country's youth diggers, therefore, should no longer be viewed as a iii homogenous entity similar in the way in which they are categorised in the literature and by policy makers. A distinct pattern, however, emerged from the analysis, which can be used to categorise particular individuals in the camps visited: 1) those looking to 'get rich quick', most of whom are ex-combatants; and 2) those driven by hardship, the majority of whom are farmers originating from the North of the country ('Northerners'), who, unlike most ex- combatants interviewed, have migrated to diamond-rich communities such as Kono to escape poverty. Despite carrying out the bulk of the laborious mining activity in Kono, most of the youth diggers (both ex-combatants and Northerners) consulted remain poverty-stricken. The lack of required skills for gainful employment, high illiteracy rates, solid networks and a sense of 'shame' have trapped many youth diggers in these camps. This is problematic from a policy standpoint because no single aspect of the country's PRSP attempts to address the very different issues and circumstances facing ex-combatants and Northerners. Further, the major initiatives implemented by Government and donors to improve the welfare of the country's diamond diggers and dependent communities have done little to address the specific problems facing youth diggers. The findings suggest there is a need for increased collaboration between key stakeholders, including the Government of Sierra Leone, large-scale mining companies, non- governmental organisations and local leaders. Specifically, there is need to broaden understanding of the dynamics on the ground and to enhance the capacity of these diggers to pursue alternative livelihoods. To achieve this, a broad policy mix is needed - specifically, a blueprint that emphasises the implementation of more sustainable alternative livelihoods, farm and non-farm, that would appeal to a range of youths (Northerners and ex-combatants).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available