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Fair Materials

The industry is listening: Uganda Gold Partnership wins Responsible Business Award

Fair Materials

We’re very proud to announce that the Uganda Gold initiative won the Responsible Business Partnership of the Year Award.

With the combined expertise of UNICEF, the Fairtrade Foundation, Royal Philips, Hivos/Stop Child Labour and Solidaridad, we work with artisanal small-scale mines (ASM) in Uganda to establish a sustainable, traceable gold supply chain that creates a better future for the miners and their communities. This award recognizes innovative partnerships that are transforming the operations and outputs of the industry towards higher levels of environmental or social responsibility – in our case, supporting more responsible gold sourcing.

We sat down with Fairphone project lead Gersom Aliaga Ferrufino and asked him about the importance of this partnership, its progress, and this international recognition.

Congratulations on winning the award, Gersom. To start, can you give us the elevator pitch for this partnership?

This partnership is, above all, a collective effort of supply chain actors. We’ve teamed up to tackle social and environmental problems that are a part – and many times a result – of how those supply chains operate. In our Uganda gold partnership, our ultimate goal is to combat child labor. To do so, we have to address issues such as low incomes, health and safety, productivity, alternative livelihoods, school attendance, and community engagement.

 
Gersom on-site at an ASM community in Busia, Uganda.

The keyword here is «partnership,» as it really is a joint effort by all actors involved in the gold supply chain, as well as an alliance with NGOs and community structures already operating on the ground.

Can you reflect on the progress of the project so far? What are the important milestones, and what are some of the challenges?

A lot of progress has been made, in setting a solid foundation for the project’s next phase. Both the community involvement and the motivation in the mining towns in Busia, Uganda, are really high. The project has managed to bring together a group of volunteers that act as community mobilizers and the families value the activities happening at the Motivation Centers where children of all ages can attend.

«So far, more than 250 children have benefitted from the vocational training programs offered through this partnership.»

Three saving groups have already been formed, actively saving funds to finance small enterprises or fund the education of children in the community. Artisanal miners have received training to improve their mining practices, and advanced processing technology is also available for them.

We still have a long way ahead of us, though. The demand for new Motivation Centres is high, and the investment-needs at the mine sites are far from what we as a project can finance.

What are your (personal) goals for this project, and why is it so crucial for the industry?

My personal goal is to run a project which affects the most people possible and particularly the older children (age 15 -17) that are more prone to engage in mining. So far, we have seen that the project does attract many children in that age to the Motivation Centers. They come with the expectation that the project can help them build skills so that they do not need to depend on mining for a livelihood. The project has adapted to this reality, and vocational training will become a central focus in the next phase.

Photo of children playing on a dirt path

«In child labor free zones, everyone’s rights are advanced.» (Image credit: Eelco Roos)

This project is important for the industry because it will demonstrate that there are effective ways in which supply chains can operate and create positive impact in ASM communities. The defining factor in achieving this is a change in the attitude of the industry; From focusing on compliance alone, towards engaging with the problems in the supply chain.

What does winning this award mean for the program and to you personally?

For this project, being chosen as the Partnership of the Year of the Responsible Business Awards represents a significant boost in confidence that the approach we are taking is the correct one. More and more, we hear industry players valuing our efforts in the background. Still, this award makes a very public statement of the value of tackling issues such as child labor through the involvement of an entire supply chain and not merely as an isolated company effort. I personally value the recognition of the great work that our local partners are doing every day as part of this project.

As a next step, we warmly invite the entire industry to join us in our efforts and increase our impact. We want this project to be a workable example of how business can be done better – and we want the industry to be part of that change.

Thanks for your time, Gersom. 

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The materials that go into your phone have an impact on people and the planet. We want to go straight to the source to make sure we’re creating positive change. Want to learn more about our efforts to change the industry from within?
Check out our impact page >>

 

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