Artisanal diamond co-operatives in Sierra Leone: success or failure?

Partnership Africa Canada and the Diamond Development Initiative have released a joint Policy Brief: Artisanal Diamond Cooperatives in Sierra Leone: Success or Failure? Co-operatives are often proposed as a solution to the problems faced by artisanal diamond miners. This independent study looks at one attempt to introduce co-operatives in Sierra Leone’s Kono District. From September 1999 to December 2007, Management Systems International (MSI) was contracted by USAID to manage its $6.5 million Integrated Diamond Management Program (IDMP) and its Peace Diamond Alliance (PDA) in Sierra Leone. The project aimed to formalise and rationalise the artisanal sector, and increase local beneficiation.

The report concludes that the PDA co-operative project has received an enormous amount of attention from organisations and companies interested in the concept of ‘ethical’ diamonds and jewellery. A pioneer amongst these, it was the first to attempt to change the structure of artisanal diamond mining.

“Its principal failings were that the cooperatives found very few diamonds, lost money, and suffered from corruption. The principal reasons had to do with inadequate socio-cultural preparation, design and implementation weaknesses, inadequate prospecting and exploration, donor delays, and the removal of support for the revolving
loan fund at a critical moment in the project’s development.

“The PDA experience, however, does not demonstrate that the co-operative model is unviable. Co-operatives may prove to be appropriate for artisanal diamond mining, but they must be introduced with due attention to design, pacing, ownership, training, management, budget and evaluation. It is vital that implementing agencies recognise the long-term commitment required to achieve harmonious, productive co-operatives and robust monitoring systems.
The study was undertaken as part of a series that aims to understand the dynamics and the political economy of artisanal diamond mining. The Policy Brief, which is also available in French and Portuguese, is available at and The full study is also available in English on DDI and PAC websites.