Welcome to the Forest Flyer, an occasional news update from the United States Forest Service International Programs Africa and Middle East Team. To view previous issues of this newsletter, please  click here . For more information about our programs, contact Kathleen Sheridan, Assistant Director, at kathleen.sheridan@usda.gov

Advancing Responsible Mining in Zimbabwe
In Zimbabwe an estimated 500,000 people earn their living from artisanal and small-scale mining, which like the picture to the right shows, generally describes individuals or groups digging or sifting for minerals or gems using a non-mechanized process. The mining sector is hugely important for individual livelihoods and Zimbabwe's economy. Mineral exports account for over 50% of the country’s foreign exports earnings.

Mining also presents numerous challenges to the environment and to the health of miners and the public. It is strongly linked to corruption and conflict.

Unregulated mining in Zimbabwe is expanding into protected areas, including national parks, conservancies, and recreational areas. The result is environmental damage – water pollution, land degradation, and loss of biodiversity – and, often, open conflict between miners, conservationists, farmers, and tourists.

With support from the USAID/Africa Bureau, t h e U. S. Forest Service is partnering with the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) and a host of civil society organizations and government actors to advance responsible mining in Zimbabwe.


  1. Raise awareness regarding the impact of mining and share proven solutions for reducing that impact.
  2. Share best practices and approaches to mine planning and mine development techniques and skills, including opportunities to facilitate community participation and conflict management.
  3. Strengthen the network of practitioners in Zimbabwe working on mining and biodiversity conservation in protected areas.

The U.S. Forest Service is providing technical expertise for workshops and ZELA is increasing awareness through legal and policy research, advocacy, impact litigation, conflict resolution and civic education. Follow ZELA on social media to learn more.
Above, a rare Zimbabwean gold rush. Everyone grabs a shovel, regardless of past mining experience.

Photo credit: Blessing Hungwe

Below, a ZELA brochure on artisanal small-scale mining. Click to learn more.
Last year the U.S. Forest Service and Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association partnered to design and conduct a responsible metals mining workshop for 32 representatives from civil society organizations, including active miners, throughout Zimbabwe.

According to workshop participant and miner Blessing Hungwe, the workshop helped her consider the environment where she works -

" bird life, water pollution, wildlife. I did not really understand environmental impact assessments before. Mary Beth, a geologist from USFS, taught us best and responsible mining methods,"   said Ms. Hungwe.

Since the workshop, Ms. Hungwe has continued her outreach and advocacy efforts for safe mining, particularly for women miners and mining communities. Find out what she's learned and what she's doing today in the Q & A below.

Blessing Hungwe: Zimbabwean Miner and Educator
Photo on left:

Blessing Hungwe, on left in black t-shirt, demonstrates her gold panning technique.

"I always show my skills at gold panning before teaching miners, then I know they will listen."

Photo credit and quote: Blessing Hungwe.
How have you used what you learned from the workshop?

I've started WhatsApp groups to share what I've learned from the responsible mining seminar. They are small groups. I reach out to women I know are river bed mining and using mercury. I share pictures and videos so they understand the impact to the environment and harm to their health.

But it's not easy training someone to stop using chemicals without providing them an alternative. Families survive through mining. They need alternatives to do responsible mining.

What did you gain from the workshop experience and working with the U.S. Forest Service?

At the workshop I was recomme nded to take part in a U.S. Forest Service international mining seminar in Arizona. It was amazing. I was exposed to professors in artisanal small-scale mining. I feel like writing a book with what I learned, but there isn't time!

I understood better community participation, corporate social responsibility, and a more holistic approach to artisanal small-scale mining. We did a case study of Resolution Mine [a copper mine in Arizona, USA] and were surprised how large-scale mines are doing responsible mining in other countries, differently from the way they operate here in Africa.

Coming from a mining community, I feel the need for holding companies accountable to safe mining methods. We (myself, a lawyer from ZELA and a researcher from Chimanimani District) had a Skype with a World Bank executive and we wrote a proposal as students at the mining seminar. She was happy with our ideas.

What are you doing now?

I was selected by the African Mining Indaba organizers to represent communities and artisanal small-scale mining women at the largest global gathering of mining CEOs and mining ministries [the event was in mid-February 2020]. It was an opportunity to be a voice for mining communities and women. I encouraged the CEOs to engage directly with communities and to ask them about their expectations. I told them that CEOs would do well if they got a social license to operate.
Blessing Hungwe is the chair of women in mining association and Secretary General of Southern Africa Women in Mining Association. She fields calls from countless women looking for answers on how to mine safely and effectively. She is passionate about helping them and their families earn from responsible mining and avoid hazardous substances like mercury.

Study Tour Yields Stronger Relationships Between Mining Actors, Government, and Communities in the Nimba Landscape of Guinea and Liberia
In February the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) partnered with the Guinean Association Mines Sans Pauvreté (Mines Without Poverty) to organize a West African mining and environment study tour. The tour brought together 30 representatives from mining companies, government agencies, civil society organizations, academic institutions, media and communities from Guinea, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire for five days of dialogue and field visits in the Nimba landscape on the border of Guinea and Liberia (see map) .

Participants departed with a deeper understanding of the effects of mining on communities and biodiversity. They also learned from one another's experiences and shared best practices for environmentally and socially sound mining.

Study tour participants connected directly with mining communities to understand the impact mining has on their daily lives and livelihoods and to discuss solutions to the challenges they heard.
A community member in Zolowee, Liberia raised concerns about the existing grievance mechanism with the mining company operating there:

The current complaints and settlement mechanism put in place by the mining company is like asking a person to lodge his/her complaint with the person whom he/she is fighting with. How do you expect fairness?

Open dialogue is an important step to reaching “responsible mining,” a concept that both USAID and the U.S. Forest Service promote to improve transparency and accountability within the mining ecosystem. Improved dialogue and regulation can reduce conflict, corruption, and human and environmental abuse.

U.S. Forest Service, through its ongoing program in the Mt. Nimba landscape, aims to improve forest condition and management by increasing the involvement of local communities and will continue to partner with local stakeholders toward this end.
Read more about USAID’s approach to artisanal and small-scale mining here .

Read more about the West African mining and environment study tour here .

Dates TBD
Ecotourism Technical Assistance Mission
Mission providing technical assistance to improve infrastructure at key National Park, mission focused on trail building and rehabilitation. Contact: Richard Paton,  richard.a.paton@usda.gov

Public-Private Partnerships with National Parks
Republic of Congo
Evaluation of PPP processes in the Republic of the Congo. Contact : Isaac Moussa,  isaac.moussa@fs-ip.us

Forestry Training Institute Strategic Planning
USFS will support Liberia’s Forestry Training Institute to carry out a multi-stakeholder workshop to orient the development of their updated strategic plan – which will guide FTI’s restructuring and partners’ investments over the next five years. Contact: Matthew Steil,  matthew.steil@usda.gov
Sustainable Trail Capacity Building
In support of expanding nature-based tourism opportunities in NE Liberia, a team of USFS recreation, tourism and trail experts, will lead a two week series of sustainable trail design and capacity building activities in the East Nimba Nature Reserve and surrounding community forests. Contact: Matthew Steil,  matthew.steil@usda.gov
Ethiopia Disaster Management Trainings
USFS will help deliver targeted trainings on the National Incident Management System to improve preparedness, coordination and response for emergencies across different line ministries in Ethiopia.
Contact: Kristina Bell,   kristina.bell@usda.gov

Forest Restoration Technical Assistance Mission
Support to Government of Madagascar and partners to identify gaps and opportunities for collaboration related to landscape restoration to support meeting national and global goals for forest restoration as part of USAID funded efforts. Contact: Adam Welti,   adam.welti@usda.gov

Community Monitoring Training
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Follow-up community training to improve upon establishing community monitoring systems that detect, verify and record illegal logging. Contact: Vanessa Filippini,  vanessa.filippini@fs-ip.us

Developing a forest management plan 
Republic of Congo
Technical assistance will be provided to CNIAF (National Forest Inventory agency) to develop a forest management plan in the area surrounding the Kabo forest concession. 
Contact : Isaac MOUSSA,  isaac.moussa@fs-ip.us

COMIFAC institutional strengthening: upgrading COMIFAC financial system
The current COMIFAC financial system will be upgraded with a new software and the financial staff trained on the use of the new system. Contact: Olivier Sene,  olivier.sene@fs-ip.us

Ethiopia National Disaster Risk Management Commission Simulation Exercise
USFS will be offering technical and facilitation support to federal partners in Ethiopia to design and deliver a simulation exercise for their Emergency Coordination Center. Contact: Kristina Bell,   Kristina.bell@usda.gov

Umusambi Village Opening Event
Event to celebrate the opening of Umusambi Village, a wildlife refuge for Grey Crowned Cranes and other Rwandan species. Umusambi Village is operated by the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association, with whom the Forest Service has partnered on this initiative. Contact: Grace Swanson,  grace.swanson@usda.gov .
Developing an ecotourism strategy for ACFAP
Republic of Congo
Technical assistance will be provided ACFAP (National protected area agency) to develop an ecotourism strategy. 
Contact : Isaac Moussa,   isaac.moussa@fs-ip.us