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Cumbria boosts awareness of Fairtrade gold with miner representative from Kenya

Dan Odida
Dan Odida

[C]umbria is hosting a special guest from Kenya as part of a nationwide push tagged ‘I DO’ to stamp out practices that have tarnished the jewellery industry’s reputation.

Dan Omondi Odida, General Secretary from Micodepro Development Group (MICODEPRO), Kenya, will speak at the North of England Regional Supporter Conference, in Carlisle, on Saturday 17th September 2016.

The flagship annual gathering for Fairtrade supporters in the North of England will be attended by leading activists from Fairtrade’s passionate network of 10,000 local campaigners, including Towns, Schools, Universities and Faith Groups.

The event is designed to inspire, motivate and equip community networks in the North of England to reach out to jewellers on their high street to ask them to sell Fairtrade Gold. They will also promote the buying of Fairtrade gold jewellery in their community as a way for everyone, no matter who they are, to use the power of their purchase to make a difference to lives of miners. Faith group campaigners will attend wedding fairs and church and community events to drive home their message.

Dan will explain to activists how the tiny grains of precious gold help keep his community above the breadline. Millions of men and women in his home county mine by hand the seams of gold around Lake Victoria informally at best, illegally at worst. Many are indebted to middle men and the gold they sell often trades dramatically below the global price.

Mining is the second biggest employer in Africa after agriculture and offers a crucial livelihood to some of the most socially and economically vulnerable people who survive on less than $1 a day. People are attracted to smallscale artisanal mining whenever the price of gold rises, but it is a dangerous and dirty existence, with harsh working conditions trapping miners into a vicious cycle of exploitation within the informal economy.

Through Fairtrade, Dan’s co-operative has been trained in health and safety, how to use mercury safely, and business skills. MICODEPRO is part of a Comic Relief-funded pilot project which aims to extend Fairtrade gold to East Africa. One of the main ambitions of Dan’s co-operative, once they progress through the pilot, is to be able to amalgamate their gold without the use of mercury. Tragically, the toxic chemical has caused serious long-term health conditions and even death in so many men, women and children in the area. The group would also like to invest in primary education and healthcare and to support a large group of local orphans whose parents died following mining accidents or illness.

Kevin McCullough, Head of Campaigns at the Fairtrade Foundation said: “Fairtrade Gold stops exploitation. It can be traced from the mine through the refining process. This is backed up by documentation of all the transactions between miners and licensed jewellers. It means consumers and jewellers know that Fairtrade Gold comes from a socially and environmentally responsible source which has economic benefits for miners.

“We all remember how the issue of exploitation by the jewellery industry made news headlines two years ago when one of the largest refineries in Dubai was exposed for laundering conflict gold. It later emerged that hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of suspect gold poured into the global markets including the UK”.

From September onwards, events will be held across Scotland, England and Wales to amplify the ‘I DO’ campaign in many of Fairtrade’s network of over 600 Fairtrade Towns, 1350 Fairtrade Schools and 170 Fairtrade Universities, and 7,500 Fairtrade Places of Worship.

The Fairtrade Foundation’s ‘I DO’ gold campaign launched in 2015 and aims to generate $1 million in Fairtrade Premium for disadvantaged mining communities around the world. Fairtrade brings miners together to formalise what they do, improve working conditions and eliminate child labour. I Do’ has already seen success in UK, Germany and the Netherlands.  For more information, visit fairtrade.org.uk/gold.

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