Mererani’s Tanzanite

Tanzanite is an impressive violet-blue gem stone that occurs is only one place; Mererani, near Mount Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania, the country after which it is named.

Increasingly popular with jewellers and shopping channels, Tanzanite has had a poor ethical reputation – with a history of exploitation, child labour, inadequate safety standards, accidents, brutalisation, poverty wages and excess profiteering by foreign companies. Hundreds of miners have died in recent years in a series of mine collapses and floods. The short film Gem Slaves documented the appalling conditions and use of child miners in 2006.

In a recent effort to improve its image and the ethical standards of the industry the Tanzanite One corporation, which owns some of the largest mines, set-up the Tanzanite Foundation, which aims to certify ethical Tanzanite stones. As a result conditions in many of the mines have undoubtedly improved, but a lack of openness makes it impossible to be sure just how ethical tanzanite mining now is.

As Greg Valerio, jeweler, ethical activist and founder of CRED Jewellery points out: “There is no way to evaluate a companies claim to be ethical without openness”.

If  you’re considering buying tanzanite, or any other gemstone jewellery, it might be a good idea to check it’s origin and ethical credentials.

Knowing it’s been produced without exploitation will probably make it look even better.


Photo via Wikicommons

RELATED ARTICLES – One of Life’s Guilty Pleasures

Life in Mathare

A series of ‘Foto Friday’ posts focusing on the lives of people living in extreme poverty around the world. Over 1 billion people across the globe live on the equivalent of less than $1 a day to meet all their needs. Being more aware of the lives of the world’s poor can help  us reevaluate the extent of our own hardships and build empathy and compassion.

The Mathare slum in Nairobi, Kenya, is home to over half a million people, many of whom live their entire lives without ever leaving its dirty, crowded and dangerous streets.

The photo above shows as typical metal shed latrine in Mathare.

In common with many slums across the world, there is no proper sewerage system and only a very limited drinking water supply. Almost non of the tiny, overcrowded homes have any form of toilets, so the common tin shed laterines, which simply empty into ditches running down the street, are the only place to go! Disease and vermin are the inevitable result.

Various charities are working with local people to provide suitable toilet facilities and basic hygiene and santitation in places like Mathare, mapping open sewers and installing new toilets.

Photo by sustainable sanitation via Flickr


Largest Refugee Camp in the World

In Eastern Kenya, about 100 miles from the Somali border lies Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in the world.

First set-up in 1991 to house up to 90,000 refugees from the Somali civil war. The camp is now Kenya’s forth largest city, home to over 380,000 people – spanning three generations, many still living in tents 20 years later, and reliant on the United Nations for food, water and sanitation.

In response to the ongoing conflict in Somalia, and the worst drought for many decades, thousands more refugees are arriving every week, with many dying making the journey. The Guardian have a harrowing audio/image slideshow of the conditions in Dadaab.

Oxfam Ambassador actress Kirsten Davis visited Dadaab recently, and breaks down on BBC TV describing the conditions there.

Explore the conditions in Dadaab further using Google Maps and Images.

Donations to support the East Africa crisis appeal can be made at DEC.

Photo by UNHCR

Gas Flares in the Niger Delta

The image shows north Africa at night from space. Most of Africa is dark, compared to lights of southern Europe. Below the Sahara only the Niger Delta is illuminated, as a result of the flaring of ‘waste’ gas, found alongside the oil in Nigeria’s oilfields, but that the oil companies have not sought to exploit, and simply burn.

The flaring of waste gas in Nigeria releases toxic chemicals into the local environment and wastes approximately the same amount of energy every year as 25% of the UK’s entire natural gas consumption – emitting carbon dioxide equivalent to 18 million cars.

Oil exploration of the Niger Delta has caused many significant environmental problems, but the oil money has been of limited benefit to the poor communities in the Delta. A powerful series of photos showing many of the issues of the Delta was recently published on The Atlantic website,

Photo NASA 2003

GROW for Food Justice

Guest post by Janine Woodward – volunteer with Oxfam Bath

This winter, I decided to grow.

Not vertically (though being 5 foot 3 I could do with it) but agriculturally, growing my own food.

As a fan of The Good Life, the thought of ‘living off the land’ has always been a bit of a dream. So, when given the opportunity to create two vegetable beds in my partners back garden I jumped at the chance!

And this year, growing food has even more significance.

I recently visited Zambia with Oxfam. Many of the people I met were subsistence farmers. Their work is their land, and they rejoice if it provides them with enough food for their family. We take it for granted that we can visit a shop, at any time of day, and for a relatively small amount, choose a variety of foods to sustain us. And we can always put a little treat in the basket too – the odd chocolate bar or fancy bottle of wine.

The farmers I met didn’t have this luxury. Quite the reverse. Although few were among the 1 billion people who will go to bed tonight hungry, many were part of the 1 billion ‘hidden hungry’. Those who can just afford the food required to live, but lack essential nutrients from their diet, making them more vulnerable to illness & changes in food availability.

What I find difficult to stomach is the fact that at the same time, nearly 1 billion people are chronically obese. There is huge disparity between food availability and consumption for rich and poor. The reasons for this are many, and complex. But it’s quite clear is that the world food system is broken.

Now, growing a tiny quantity of food in my back garden is clearly not going to either fully sustain me or fix the system. But it does make me appreciate how fortunate I am. And thankfully, there is a bigger, better solution!

Oxfam have just launched the campaign GROW.

The aim of GROW is to help us understand why the world food system is broken, and what we can do as individuals and by coming together to fix it.

So, I’m going to carry on GROWing – both my vegetables, and the movement. And I hope you’ll join me!

Visit my blog at  Oxfam Bath to follow my growing adventures.

Photos by Janine Woodward