Focus on Sustainable Development Goals

A MEMBER of the community takes part in making green charcoal.

DESPITE the global slowdown in the international price of its premier product, Africa’s largest copper producer is continuing to invest massively and innovatively in a range of impactful corporate social responsibility initiatives focused mostly around its host communities.
Halfway into 2016, First Quantum Minerals’ Kansanshi Gold and Copper Mine had already taken its social investment spend to more than US$1.3 million on a raft of long term programmes, the bulk of it going to roads (US$767,899), public relations (US$151,519) and training and development (US$179,224).
Apart from targeting the needs of the host communities, Kansanshi’s initiatives are deliberately aligned to help the Zambian government meet the United Nations’ (UN’s) newly- adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at both local and national levels.
The 17 SDGs are aspirational goals with 169 targets adopted by UN member states in 2015 to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable agenda.
Under the multi-pronged initiatives, the company is providing seedlings to local conservation farmers, promoting a culture of saving among women under its ‘Village Banking’ initiative, supporting early grade reading, coaxing illiterate adults into class, combating gender-based violence, encouraging a switch to ‘green’ charcoal to discourage deforestation and helping local contractors to innovate and become more competitive.
Kansanshi’s corporate social investment profile stands on five pillars: corporate governance (best practice with regular reviews); economics (contributing to host communities); social (quality of family for employees and host communities); labour (safety management system focused on reducing risk and attaining zero fatalities); environment (environmentally sound operations focusing on the long term health of host communities/environment).
The firm is Zambia’s largest private sector employer with 5,178 workers on its payroll and another 3,360 engaged by a number of different contractors. It is collaborating with local institutions such as Kwasha Mukwenu Skills Training Institute, the Kapijimpanga Royal Establishment and reputable international organisations like CARE International and the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) to help deliver its projects under partnerships of mutual benefit.
In terms of SDGs, perhaps the projects with the widest impact being undertaken by Kansanshi are the ‘green’ charcoal initiative, a creative effort to divert from the destructive traditional methods of producing charcoal by cutting down swathes of forests to achieving the same product from maize waste and conservation farming.
Between them, the two projects are contributing to the attainment of 13 of the 17 SDGs, including affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production, creating job opportunities, reduced inequalities, zero hunger, promoting gender equality by economic empowerment of women, sustainable cities and communities and climate action.
As a demonstration of its concern at the rate of deforestation caused by charcoal burning in and around its operational bases, Kansanshi has engaged a community mobilisation officer to supervise and implement the ‘green’ charcoal training programme among members of the local community.
The “green” charcoal is a product of a paralysation process using dried maize cobs and cassava paste. Maize cobs are first burned black. They are then pounded into a fine powder that is mixed with a cassava paste that has been heated on a brazier. The product burns hot and clean.
The three-hour training sessions for ‘green’ charcoal burners are held at Kansanshi Foundation in Solwezi. By June, 3,018 members of the community from Kabwela, Mbonge, Kandemba, Kyapatala and Mulenga around Solwezi had already undergone training.
Training in conservation farming has also seen a spike in the number of participants looking for alternative sustainable ways of feeding their families and an extra stream of income. Participants are taught alternative ways to fertilise their crops and better ways to prepare the land for optimum yields.
By June, some 4,000 bags of maize had been collected from this year’s harvest and vegetable seedlings given out to dozens of participating farmers. This year, training was extended to participants from Kasanka National Park to help in the fight against poaching and deforestation.
Another initiative doing well is ‘Village Banking’, an enterprise being promoted by the mining firm to provide basic financial management skills among women of the households around Kansanshi with a strong emphasis on encouraging savings. In June alone, two of the 10 community banking groups reported savings of K36,170.
The results provide encouragement for the future of the initiative as the firm contemplates extending the project across communities around its other bases.
Nancy Chisanga, social officer at Sentinel Mine in Kalumbila, who attended one meeting of the Kansanshi banking group, expressed confidence that the initiative will do well if replicated around Kalumbila Mine communities.
Under education, the focus this year so far has been on both ends of the age spectrum; promoting early reading and providing computers and instructors for adult literacy classes.
Members of the Kansanshi Foundation undertook a tour of Choma’s ‘Room-to-Read’ project to learn how the initiative is helping to promote early-grade reading in the Southern Province district while 97 early childhood education teachers and head teachers received training focused on teaching and testing at higher levels.
Ten schools were registered by Kansanshi to receive scrap timber to use in the rehabilitation of broken down classroom furniture.
On the business side, Kansanshi has continued with its long term strategy of making local contractors more efficient and competitive both in terms of price and quality of service and products.
The strategy focuses on providing training for emerging contractors, business development skills for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and exploring local manufacturing opportunities for products needed by the mining company that are usually sourced from outside the country.
In June, over 300 participants from various SMEs received training in business development, banking and growing the business while a further 31 emerging contractors were instructed in planning and organising the business.
Success was recorded on the manufacturing side with the successful replacement of an imported component with a locally produced one.
At a time of intensified global and national focus and action on curbing the prevalence of gender-based violence with its various strands such as early marriage, defilement, rape and spouse battery, Kansanshi has continued to play its part.
Using its health facilities and personnel and working in conjunction with the Victim Support Unit (VSU), Social Welfare Department and the YWCA, Kansanshi continues to provide counselling, post exposure prophylaxis and emergency contraceptive for rape and defilement victims.
So far this year, 43 such cases including child-neglect and marital issues have been attended to by the mining firm, 10 of them involving child marriages that were subsequently dissolved, four of which were referred to the VSU. – SUMA SYSTEMS

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