CELEBRATE | November 20, 2019

In Tanzania, Pact Supports Some of the World’s Hardest Working Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs in Tanzania, part of Pact's Moyo Gems program
Photo Credit: Pact │Moyo Gems Program, Tanzania

Pact, which works to end poverty and marginalization, is excited to participate in Global Entrepreneurship Week to celebrate its work supporting entrepreneurs around the world. Pact’s WORTH program has empowered more than 1 million women in 16 countries to save money, access credit and start small businesses. In Cambodia, Pact’s WE Act program is helping women business owners reach their full potential and enjoy full economic rights.

One of Pact’s newest programs supporting entrepreneurs is Moyo Gems in Tanzania, which is building a first-of-its-kind ethical gemstone supply chain and market. Read on to learn more....

Asha, a 47-year-old widow who lives in Tanzania’s Umba Valley, makes her living mining green tourmaline. She’s been an artisanal gemstone miner for three years. Before, she farmed, but it wasn’t enough to make ends meet. She saw that miners in her community were earning more, so she decided to try. With a small crew that she employs to work her claim with her, she usually mines five days a week, digging tourmaline from the earth with nothing more than stakes, hammers and shovels.

She says the deeper they dig, the better the gems get. Asha knows the big stone that will change her life is waiting for her. “I just want to live a good life,” she says.

Asha may not be what typically comes to mind when you picture an entrepreneur, but she and the other women miners with whom Pact works as part of its Moyo Gems projects are among the most enterprising, ambitious and hardest working people there are. They embody the true spirit of entrepreneurship, and Pact is supporting them in groundbreaking ways.

Pact has been working with small-scale mining communities for more than a decade through its Mines to Markets program, which collaborates with governments and industry to make the small-scale mining sector safer, formal and more productive. Moyo Gems, which launched this year, is a partnership between Pact, international gem dealers ANZA Gems and Nineteen48, and women gemstone miners themselves, namely the Tanzania Women Miners Association, or TAWOMA. Pact began working with TAWOMA through a small pilot project that sought to give women gemstone miners in Umba greater knowledge about the gems they produce and their value.

The trainings were a success, but the project highlighted another big problem the miners faced: They lacked a consistent market for selling their gemstones. Often mining and living in remote areas far from paved roads, and without the means to travel into more populated areas, miners were forced by necessity to sell to local brokers for whatever price was offered – generally far less than what their gems would end up fetching further along the supply chain. Local brokers also usually withheld half the selling price until they sold the gem on; often, miners never got what they were owed.

This struck Pact as a problem related to an even bigger one: the sector’s significant lack of ethically assured gemstones. Some 80-90% of all colored gemstones are mined from ASM sources, yet there was no model that even verified these were mined legally.

Moyo Gems (Moyo means “heart” in both Swahili and Shona) seeks to solve all of these problems. A first-of-its-kind responsible gemstone market and supply chain, it works like this.

To take part, miners must be members of TAWOMA, and they must have attended a no-cost occupational health and safety training. Miners must also demonstrate a legal right to mine on the land where they work. The idea is to progressively raise standards, making their work safer and more productive, lucrative and formalized. Over time, all of Moyo’s miners will reach the CRAFT mining standard.

Once they meet Moyo’s participation criteria, miners are invited to attend regular Market Days held near their villages where they can sell to ANZA, Nineteen48 and other international buyers. Local gem brokers who have been vetted by TAWOMA and hold valid broker licenses also attend. Each miner selects a broker to represent her, and together they sell directly to the international buyers. This is a significant change in the relationship between miners and brokers from natural adversaries to partners. When the final price is fair, both the miner and the broker win, and the miner sets the broker’s fee instead of the other way around.

The buyers then export the gems in accordance with Tanzanian law with the assistance of a Tanzanian gem exporter. Miners and brokers pay a small fee to take part, some of which helps pay for the program and some of which goes to TAWOMA for reinvestment into mining communities. Moyo is working with blockchain provider Everledger to record the mine-to-market journey of Moyo gemstones, assuring those who buy them that they were ethically sourced.

Moyo held its first two Market Days this May, in the Mkinga district of Tanga, where more than 70 miners, most of them women, came to sell their gems. Many said they sold for prices two to three times higher than they’d have gotten otherwise. On average, Moyo miners make 95% of the pre-export price of their gemstones. They also get instant feedback from buyers about how the buyers evaluated their gems. This means there is a built-in learning opportunity that over time will dramatically improve miners’ market skills, gem skills and income.   

Moyo isn’t just about individual miners and creating the market access they need to be paid fairly. The Moyo team hopes to eventually expand the model across Africa and to reform how gems are bought globally, improving miners’ lives on a much grander scale. With consumer demand for ethical jewelry growing, we think this is a reachable goal.

What we are proudest of is that Moyo Gems was co-created in true partnership with TAWOMA and the entrepreneurs Moyo supports. At Moyo’s first Market Day, when we asked a miner named Prisca, a mother of three, why she came to sell her gems, she answered simply, “Because this is our market.”

Support Moyo Gems here, and learn more about the project at moyogems.com.

Watch a short video about Moyo miner Asha here, and meet other Moyo miners here.

About Pact
Pact builds systemic solutions in partnership with local organizations, businesses and governments that create sustainable and resilient communities where those we serve are heard, capable and vibrant. On the ground in nearly 40 countries, Pact’s integrated, adaptive approach is shaping the future of international development.