Francine Iragi’s PhD research at the Institute of Development Policy, University of Antwerp (defended in 2022) studies the linkages between artisanal mining and agriculture.
“The hammer and/or the hoe? Analyzing the linkages between artisanal mining and small-scale agriculture in South Kivu, Eastern DRC”.
Often seen as informal, dangerous and causing considerable environmental and health damages, artisanal mining has been the subject of a wave of criticism that has overshadowed the income opportunities it offers to rural people. By analysing the linkages between artisanal mining and agriculture, this dissertation demonstrates that despite its negative impacts, artisanal mining – like animal husbandry, wage labour and/or other rural livelihood activities – complements agricultural activities and provides rural people with additional income.
In order to understand the factors that drive farmers into artisanal mining, the impact of artisanal mining on their livelihoods, and the direction they can take should artisanal mining become unworkable, this dissertation draws on a case study of Kalehe Territory in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Theoretically, it relies on the sustainable livelihoods framework. Methodologically, it is a mixed methods study using both quantitative and qualitative methods and based on both secondary and primary data.
Findings show that, faced with endogenous and exogenous factors that negatively impact their farm income, farm households set up livelihood strategies, including diversification into artisanal mining. The latter help them not only to increase their off-farm income but also to make some investment and thus, develop other rural livelihood activities. However, for some political, technical and/or geological reasons, this livelihood already built around artisanal mining may face shocks leading artisanal miners to reorient. The five activities that might interest them are petty trade, market activities, farming, animal husbandry and motorbike taxi. The choice of farming in this case depends on artisanal miners’ capabilities rather than by their estimates of the income or standard of living of farmers.
In brief, if artisanal mining is part of rural livelihoods activities adopted by farmers because agricultural income is unable to cover their survival needs, then policy decisions to discourage and prohibit artisanal mining need to be thoroughly rethought and supportive policies to limit the negative effects of artisanal mining need to be implemented. Similarly, if artisanal mining is threatened for geological or political reasons and alternative options are to be considered, then policymakers should already be developing strategies to increase not only farm incomes but to stimulate all possible rural livelihood activities. In the conclusion, this dissertation proposes some avenues of reflection for such policies.