In this file photo taken Wednesday, 1 November 2006, illegal miners dig for diamonds in Marange, Zimbabwe. Photo: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi / AP Photo

By Andrew Mambondiyani; editing by Megan Rowling
8 February 2016

MUTARE, Zimbabwe (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Shylet Mutsago, a 63-year-old who lives near the diamond fields of Marange, cannot hide her anger over how mining in this gem-rich part of eastern Zimbabwe has failed to improve the lives of local people.

From a distance she watches as companies turn the ground over in search of the alluvial diamonds, releasing clouds of red dust into the sky.

"Our hopes of benefiting from the diamonds are gone," she said. "And with this severe drought we are now placing our lives in the hands of God. We are living close to these diamond mines, yet we are starving."

As crops fail due to a lack of rain, some villagers can no longer afford even one proper meal a day, and are surviving on wild fruits like baobab, Mutsago said.

Amid frequent drought, people in Marange had hoped the diamond industry would invest in reviving irrigation schemes. National law requires mining companies to help local communities develop.

Though prone to dry spells, the situation in Marange has been exacerbated by the current El Niño weather phenomenon, which has brought drought to large swathes of Zimbabwe.

The government has declared a state of disaster in most rural parts of the country, saying that 2.44 million people - around a quarter of the population - need food aid.

Irrigation schemes in and around Marange, most constructed decades ago, are no longer operating properly as small-scale farmers cannot pay to maintain or replace aging equipment.

"Just a few diamond stones could have helped change our lives, but no one seems to care," said Mutsago.

Her frustration is shared by many in Marange, an area home to over 80,000 people.

Malvern Mudiwa said the drought was so serious that villagers had no idea how they would survive through the year. [more]

Surrounded by diamonds, villagers go hungry in drought-hit Zimbabwe



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