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Sunday, 14 June 2009

The beginning of a new day in Chocó, a region in the Northwest of Colombia. People are waking up and turn on their radios that you can hear in the sandy streets of the little towns. ´A call to all small miners! The green gold initiative asks you to keep our rivers and soil clean! Don´t forget not to use any chemicals when digging for gold. Let us together protect nature! And now: chirimia, music!!!! It will only take a little while when the first villagers will come back from the forest with their hands full of gold. The first green gold in the world.

Only a decade ago, these peaceful towns looked very different. After years of repression and commercial mining, the soil and the local Afro-Colombian villagers were exhausted. Since the 16th century, when they had been brought to South-America by the Spaniards, they had worked as slaves searching for gold. After Colombia´s independence, in 1819, the new elite of the country continued to exploit the African gold diggers. These practices continued when multinationals entered the country in the 20th century. They conquered the land with big dredging machines that destroyed large parts of tropical rainforest. The beautiful valleys of Chocó became ecologic disasters and traditional social structures were ruined. After the exit of the multinationals in the 1980´s, illegal gold diggers took their place. The local population once again saw the gold disappearing to foreign countries together with the tax benefits that came along with it.

A new law made the sun shine again in Chocó and inspired some young intellectuals to establish an NGO. Amichocho, friends of Chocó, found that the locals had a great expertise in small mining practices and together they started a program to restore the jungle. In alliance with strategic partners, they developed a sustainable model for community mining. The Green Gold Corporation employs gold diggers who work with their hands, pans and small machines to find the gold. Cyanide and other chemicals aren´t used at all during the process and all miners receive a fair price for their work. The price fair gold traders pay for green gold is up to 40% higher than the regular price on the world market.

Rob Hollander of Flamingo in The Netherlands was one of the first pioneers buying this gold. ´It´s great to see the miners being so proud of their work. Self-respect beamed of their faces when they told me how they manage the land and plant trees to restore the balance in their environment. Rivers are clean, kids can go to school and the villagers co-exchange knowledge with technicians to further refine their techniques. I am really happy to work with them´. And I am delighted that our wedding rings carry this story.

A big thank you to Meindert Brouwer who wrote the book Amazon Your Business and greatly inspired me with the stories in this book which has just been presented to the Dalai Lama!
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