This year, Kagem Mining, majority owned by Gemfields – a brand that sells emeralds to the most privileged and famous women in the world – helped in the battle against Covid-19 in Zambia’s Copperbelt province.
The company behind the world’s largest emerald mine donated items including disinfectants, cleaning products, masks and public health posters to Lufwanyama District Hospital. Weeks later, Kagem continued to supply the essential items needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, donating the same items to the Nakana Clinic, as well as to the schools in Chapula, Kapila and Masasa.
The gesture is part of the mine’s goal of improving access to quality health services in the province of Copperbelt in Zambia, where, according to the non-governmental organization Habitat for Humanity UK, 64% of residents live below the poverty line. Poverty, earning less than $ 2 a day, and more than 40% of the population is in extreme poverty, with a daily income of $ 1.40.
“These materials will help prevent the spread of the virus and provide the medical team with tools to combat this disease,” said Prahalad Kumar Singh, general manager of Kagem, when he handed over the donation. “We demonstrate here that, with unity and purpose, we can fight Covid-19.”
The open pit mine supplies 25% to 30% of the world’s emerald demand in terms of value and volume, making it the leading supplier of gemstones of responsible origin. With a transparent supply chain, the company offers jobs to local residents and is dedicated to having corporate social responsibility, financing schools, clinics and agricultural cooperatives in the area. The Kagem mine employs about 789 direct employees, of which 726 are from Zambia, for a total of 1,169 employees. But, instead of simply providing work to the natives, Kagem also provides the community with access to jobs, education and health.
Kagem and Gemfields helped fund The Chapula Secondary School in Lufwanyama district, which provides education for grades 1 through 11. The school opened in 2016 with just five students, before a campaign was launched to recruit more pupils.
Kagem and Gemfields helped to finance Chapula Secondary School in Lufwanyama district, which provides education for the first grades up to the 3rd year of high school. The school opened in 2016 with just five students, before a campaign to recruit more students was launched, and now has about 389 students, but the school has a capacity for 800 students. In an area where the literacy rate is 60%, education is essential for progress. “They come from different distances and places, some up to 7 or 8 kilometers. Sometimes it takes an hour and a half, 45 minutes, ”said Mambe Hamududu, secretary of the Lufwanyama district education council. “Sometimes, service is affected because of distances, which affects performance.”
Without Kagem and Gemfields, access to education could be much more challenging. “It is very, very important because, as a government, we cannot be everywhere,” she said. “And schools need parental support, there is a need to have institutions here, so that parents have the initiative to encourage education, so it is very important to have partners like Kagem, because without them, I think this school would not be the way it is today, they are supporting the school, they are supporting teachers. ” Although education is necessary, the government does not oblige children to attend school. In addition to its work at Chapula High School, Kagem also financed the construction of new buildings at Chapula Primary School and the construction of accommodation for teachers at Kapila Community School.
Kagem also supports the livelihood of residents of Copperbelt province by financing agricultural cooperatives that grow produce, much of which is returned to Gemfields for use in its cafeteria to feed workers there. A group of women farmers dressed in bright and vibrant kitenge dresses and headscarves owe their lives to agriculture. “This is one of our members’ fields. He gets somewhere, but due to lack of water, we didn’t have good plantations last season, and we’re approaching this stream, ”said one of the women. “This is why we have few harvests. We usually have a variety of cultures. He did it here, but elsewhere we have several crops, like green pepper eggplant, green cherry, green beans, cabbage – that’s what we supply Kagem, but because of lack of water, I had to plant something that could withstand the sun or the drought. ”
The signs on the wall at Clínica Nkana said: “Be a caring father – take your child for immunization to the nearest health facility” and “Make sure your grandchild is fully immunized”. Before Kagem built the Nkana Clinic (a set of several concrete buildings equipped with all the medical supplies and hospital beds needed to treat the local community), people needed to travel for hours to receive medical care. Kagem also built houses for clinic staff to allow 24-hour care. “It was very inconvenient for the team to move out of the city to come here and see patients,” explained Joseph Chilambwe, senior director of corporate affairs at Kagem. Residents of the surrounding area can give birth, receive treatment for malaria and even receive supplies to prevent Covid-19 at the Nkana Clinic.
In total, Kagem spent more than US $ 2 million on community projects in Zambia’s Copperbelt province, with, for example, the addition of an electricity line and the rehabilitation of a 20 km road from Kandole to the village of Kafwaya , in Lufwanyama district. It is also distributing $345,000 to finance the education of 12 students studying in the geological and mining engineering departments of the University of Zambia School of Mines and Copperbelt University over an eight-year period.
For Kagem and Gemfields, it’s not just about getting the shiny green stones out of the earth; it is also about caring for the environment, local communities and the people who live in them.