Making a Difference in Diamond Communities: Mercy Sithagu’s Story
A farmer in the tiny village of Nwanedi, South Africa, Mercy Sithagu once struggled to tend her small plot, less than three acres in total. Yet today, she is a successful entrepreneur and community leader. What made the difference? Forevermark, as part of The De Beers Group of Companies, helps provide enterprise-funding initiatives, such as the Zimele Fund, based in South Africa. With the assistance of Zimele (named after the Zulu word meaning “people stand on their own feet”), Mercy was able to learn skills and acquire the tools she needed to grow her farm, and become the prosperous businesswoman she is today.
Making an Impact In addition to Forevermark’s commitment to integrity, which guarantees that each and every Forevermark diamond is conflict free, untreated and completely natural, the company, as part of The De Beers Group of Companies, supports the communities from which their diamonds originate through local education, healthcare and professional training programs. The Zimele Enterprise Development Program is just one of these programs. In 2014, The De Beers Group of Companies invested in over 62 small businesses, to create more than 1,175 jobs in South Africa.
Support for Women For communities to thrive, Forevermark believes they need the full and equal participation of women, and that women have the right to participate fully and equally. Mercy Sithagu’s farm is a perfect example of what can be accomplished with the right training, investment and support.
In the Limpopo province, Mercy grows tomatoes, butternut squash, beans and watermelon. The Zimele Enterprise Program provided her with a loan and a business mentor—both of which completely transformed her farm and the role it plays in her community.
Loans Boost Land and Productivity The loan money allowed Mercy to invest in essential tools for the farm. She was able to secure fertilizers, pesticide and seedling—important items for ensuring the success of crops. Mercy was also able to invest in a tractor and irrigation system. The tractor helped boost productivity levels of her farm and other farms in the area.
In a short time, Mercy’s farmland expanded to almost 85 acres. More land meant she needed more help, creating more jobs. Originally only providing work for two, the farm grew to 10 employees—with as many as 20 needed during peak farming season.
Mentors Provide the Tools for Success Though Mercy is unable to read or write, her Zimele mentor helped her become more proficient in business. She learned people management skills, negotiation tactics, pricing strategy, bookkeeping and cash flow management. These are crucial competencies for a successful businessperson, and through the Zimele Enterprise Program, Mercy—and others—see great benefits from developing these skills.
“Zimele empowered me as a woman,” explains Mercy, who has become an inspiration to others in her village. From her, they learned farming skills, gained confidence and improved their prospects. Mercy’s knowledge is invaluable, and it will only grow from here. In the future, she hopes to expand and package her vegetables for supermarkets.
Through local programs like the Zimele Enterprise Development Program, The De Beers Group of Companies and Forevermark are making a difference in the lives of men, women and children.
Behind The Lens with Annie Griffiths
Forevermark collaborated with award-winning photojournalist Annie Griffiths to showcase the Responsible Sourcing initiatives involved in Forevermark diamonds’ journey, touring conservation and economic sites in Botswana and South Africa, capturing the people and scenes involved in the journey of a Forevermark diamond.
Annie Griffiths is the founder and Executive Director of Ripple Effects Images, a non-profit organisation highlighting programs helping to empower women. Annie says: “Following a Forevermark diamond journey was an outstanding experience. There is such a strong connection between diamonds and conservation. I could also witness how much diamonds benefit local communities, especially women.”
PROTECTING THE NATURAL WORLD Limpopo, a property on the Diamond Route
Forevermark, as part of The De Beers Group of Companies positively contributes to the protection of the natural world through the Diamond Route.
The Diamond Route is an award-winning initiative stretching across approximately 250,000 hectares and comprising of nine conservation sites, many of which are situated on De Beers’ properties.
These conservation areas host diverse wildlife, along with various research programs in partnership with international universities, welcoming students, scientists and academics with an interest in the natural world.
Piet Oosthuizen, Senior Manager, Ecology and De Beers Consolidated Mines says “Working in Ecology is a passion and it is a privilege to be entrusted with such huge conservation areas. The most rewarding aspects are successful game breeding, seeing the calves in huge herds, handling and relocation of game.”