Witness: “The Mining Company Brought Me Problems” »
Photo © 2016 Lauren Clifford-Holmes for Human Rights Watch
Nagomba E. is no longer young; her hip is giving her trouble and her back is stooped from years of bending over her corn and rice fields. Yet every morning, at the crack of dawn, the wiry 74-year-old sets out on a strenuous half-hour walk to fetch water from a nearby river so that her ailing husband can take a bath.
Before coal was discovered in Mwabulambo, a remote rural community of Karonga District in northern Malawi, water was never something Nagomba and her neighbors would have to worry about. “I never had problems,” says Nagomba, recalling a time where there was enough to eat and safe water to drink. “The mining company brought me problems.”
Over the past decade, Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, has promoted private investment in mining and resource extraction as a way to grow and diversify its largely agriculture-based economy. The government said the mines would provide jobs and improve people’s livelihoods, but hardly any of these promises ever materialized. Instead, the mines mainly caused regression, hazards, and hardship.