Steve Bennett from the Colourful Life Foundation explains how the new Eco Stoves (Rocket Stoves) could help the local community.
During their journey deep into Tanzania, they made a documentary style short film. This will be in production quite soon and as soon as it has been finished by the Gems TV editors it will be posted on this Blog.
You can be assured Scott Worsfold has many stories to tell now every time he is selling a Tanzanite Ring on Gems TV!
In the meantime - why not take a look at one of the Gems TV Documentaries already available…
Today I managed to get a little chance to sleep in as our lift to some A and D block tanzanite mines was not going to collect us until 7.30am…hooray. When it did arrive it took us back down the very bumpy road to the small area where tanzanite is mined deep in the land of the Maasai tribe. I have to say our driver’s suspension was not the greatest and the road had more holes in it than a teabag.
When we arrived we were taken to a 50m x 50m plot on D block that is owned by one of the nicest men you could ever want to meet. I knew I would like him when I found out what his name was…Money. You couldn’t make it up could you? As we drive through his gated fenced security, I realise what a highly professional set up he owns. Money’s mine is the entrance to a deep shaft that went down 200metres. His drop down though, unlike Tanzanite one was a real vertical drop unlike the graduated slop that they work with. His set up included an oxygen supply that pumped fresh air down the mine for all the miners. This might sound like a basic need and you would be right but some very small scale operations in Madagascar actually just fill up bags with air and sort of throw them down for the miners to breathe in every now and again when they want some fresh air.
Later we were taken to a second mine on D block. This too was a fantastic set up but this time the set up and what they had achieved blew me away even more. Two days ago I had the pleasure of being allowed down 700 metres in Tanzanite ones largest and deepest mine. This showed me that the deeper you can go to mine Tanzanite the better quality you seem to find. This, however means that unlike money’s straight shaft mine, this mine had to move along as well as down. So for every 10ft down you had to move forward 10ft also. This creates its own problems but this mine owner had achieved it. His mine in fact went deeper than Tanzanite one. I was amazed to hear this. What this artisanal miner had achieved was fantastic. It showed me that by us at Gems TV supporting these miners by buying from them they were able to compete for the nicest rough, the same as the big companies.
One of the most amazing moments for me was to hear from Money the story of how Tanzanite was first found, and to actually know that this story happened so close to where I was actually standing some 45 years ago in 1967. As it turns out now Manual De Souza was going to spend some time in the southeast part of Arusha but as it happened, the driver he had hired had not anticipated just how bad the roads were going to be….something I can understand after my trip to Tanzania. Anyway De Souza was told to get out in a small village named Mtakuja so the driver could go back. He did, and ended up being the best thing he could ever have done. De Souza started speaking to some villagers who said they had seen some blue stones a few miles away. De Souza hired for of them for 4 shillings a day to go to this area and help him find these stones. To cut a long story short, on July 7th at around midday he did find a blue stone. At first he thought it was Sapphire but soon dismissed this idea when he ran a hardness test on it. De Souza then went back to his home where he was the owner of one gemstone book. He looked up some details and came to the conclusion that what he had actually found was a variety of Olivine. On July 25th he put in four mining claims with the government mines and geology office. It was not until much later on, on April 17th 1968 that he then changed this claims to Zoisite….and so the tale of Tanzanite began.
I had heard different tales of how it had been discovered and some other people’s names also mentioned but this for me is this is the tale I believe. It just seems funny that these other people who claim to have found it came about a little later. De Souza was killed in a car crash involving just one car two years after the discovery and so not able to defend his claim. This also fits in with the one and only interview he ever did late in 1968 where he spoke of the story I had also heard today.
This whole trip so far has been full of wonderful experiences and great stories. Some have been heart-breaking and some have been inspirational, but out of them all, this one was one of absolute destiny, and to be right there where it happened was very special indeed.
This was a day I was really looking forward to. I have been showing tanzanite jewellery on Gems TV for years and have always talked about C block owners tanzanite one, and today was my chance to visit it. My trip took me about 2 hours by land cruiser to the site. I stopped off at the first main sign for the site that said. ”Tanzanite one, 14km”… and an arrow pointing down a very long and dusty track for my first photo opportunity. Driving down this track I passed children, women and men in traditional dress as we are deep into Maasai tribe land. Some are walking with sticks balanced on their heads and some are herding goats and some are riding motor bikes since their introduction by the Japanese into the area a few years ago. I was not expecting to see that I can tell you.
My land cruiser finally stops outside some metal gates much dustier now than when I set off on this trip. This was to be the first of 5 security check points in my effort to reach the main and deepest shaft. Security is a serious thing here at tanzanite one, as lots of illegal miners from other areas are trying to take what doesn’t belong to them, a problem that can happen at many mines around the world.
Before I arrive at the shaft I am taken to a set of units outside a beautiful swimming pool and bar that is used for the employees to relax in. I am taken to a set of rooms that all have showers and rooms with beds in and asked to change into my mining outfit. This consisted of a blue all in one suit. Big belt with battery pack strapped on to it and one hard hat and light. I looked a right plonker, but if that is what they want me to wear then so be it…and I can tell you that by the time I came out I was glad I was wearing that and not my jeans and a t shirt…I was about to get very mucky indeed.
When I arrive at the shaft, the first thing I am warned about is not to touch the fence unless I wanted 2000 volts to be pumped through my body. I told you security was a serious thing. Its ok I said, I was fine as I was. I then walked up the steps, passed the armed guard and through the turn style and into the a room that had a few tables in it, a phone connected on the wall and the opening to the 700 metres deep black hole I was due to go down. At the top of this shaft was a set of metal ropes that came out of it attached to a metal box. This was going to be my mode of transport down into the abyss. As I climbed into it I started to think about what my job description had said when I first started working at gems TV and I was sure this wasn’t in it.
As the codes were fired out by the signal man to the controller below in the shaft and above me I have to admit I was a little tense and as soon as it started to drop down I felt that feeling was justified. Blimey this thing could shift… and just as I thought I was getting used to the speed…..it speeded up and continued it’s decent even quicker. By the time I reached the bottom about 4 minutes later I was already sweating. The temperature had heated up so much and the air felt very still indeed. I was standing on these slopes of rock that had been blasted with ropes going over my head that had white bags attached to it. In these bags was the rough that was being taken to the surface from further down below me at the access point. Each bag held two shovels worth of rough, about 15kg in total. It works out that only about one in every 30 or so of these bags may contain the famous tanzanite. This place was amazing. A real rabbit’s warren of tubes and tunnels that all require this rope system as a conveyer belt can only go straight and not around bends or corners. To follow the seam of tanzanite though you need to change direction quite a few times and so ropes are the way forward….and up.
Every now and then a miner would appear from what seemed like nowhere. His face would be black from the dirt and glistening with the sweat and climb up another shaft and disappear. This was another world down here and I soon began to understand just how much work goes into bringing this amazing gemstone to the surface. And all this has to happen before you can even begin to understand the sorting, cutting, polishing and setting still to take place before I would ever see it on one of my shows on Gems TV.
After a couple of hours it was time to return to the surface again. It so happened that at the time I was going to be going up some miners would also be using the same means of transport to return to the surface after now finishing their shift. As you are pulled up gravity does her thing and all of us in the cart are sliding down to the bottom. I could feel all the weight of the people behind me in the cart and I was a little crushed…but not half as crushed as the person in front of me holding us all up. As I approached the opening again, the cool air starts to hit my face and the light at the top starts to get bigger and brighter, welcoming me back to where I started. I climb out of the cart and see my face in the reflection. I look like I have been rolled in soot with my silver/ black hands and face, apart from white rings around my eyes where my glasses had been. I looked like human panda.
Back to the rooms where my clothes were I had a shower and cold drink and tried to get my thoughts together on what I had just experienced so far down below the ground. That had been a real special honour. To be in the mine where so many beautiful pieces of jewellery that had been given to someone containing a beautiful tanzanite gemstone as a symbol of love, or collected by a someone that had always had their heart set on owning one for themselves…these dreams might have all started right there below me. And as I looked across the landscape towards Mount Kilimanjaro, I started to think of all the other deep shafts below me and all the men working so hard to make those dreams come true.
This was my first day in Tanzania, In fact it was my first day in Africa. Steve and I were both looking forward to all the adventures that visiting the Tanzanite mines would bring and also our trip up Mount Kilimanjaro but we were also here to see what else we could do with regards to helping a charity in the area. We were put in touch with a lady called Jo and arranged a meeting with her for 9am on our first day. Jo arrived and we all had a coffee and sat and listened to what she and her charity did. ACE AFRICA deal mainly with people who live with HIV and AIDS. Every project they run is always fully researched and they commit to each one for a twelve year period. This allows them to make sure that they deliver exactly what is required and gives enough time for people who are being helped to learn how to stand on their own two feet through education and support. Jo invited us to go out with her and two of her team for the day and see some of the work they do, of course we jumped at the chance and so she took us to their HQ.
When I say HQ please don’t get any idea of grandeur. It is a small block with one main room with a large wooden table and a few chairs around it. This room then has 3 very small rooms leading off that. Each room has one old wooden desk and a collection of various styles of old chairs. On the walls are a few maps and a few shelves that hold some books and forms. In the small plot of land this building is on has a very small little garden where they grow a selection of vegetables.
Our first destination was a small group of ladies who suffer from HIV themselves who are working on a project where they make flour. This is a really important project for all involved and a great example of how many people can benefit from the work ACE AFRICA do. The ladies grow the ingredients or buy from the local farmers. They then grind it together to make the flour which is then sold on for a small profit and also given to the people who suffer with HIV or Aids. The flour is high in protein and is vital in helping sufferers get the goodness they need in a way that is also easy to swallow when mixed with some water. The ladies were all fantastic and made me feel so welcome. They were smiling and happy and we had a few laughs also through our interpreter. They explained all the good work that Jo and her team had been doing and seemed really proud of their own achievements within their community which was fantastic to see.
We then went on to a house where a lady called Jennifer lived in a small hut with 9 children. When I say small I mean small, it was made from thatched pointed roof and mud walls. On these walls on the inside were old newspapers that had been stuck up for decoration. Jennifer was also a HIV sufferer. While inside her hut had a chance to see the small fire that they all cooked on. I was shocked. I was in this hut for no more than a couple of minutes and was already choking with the smoke that was given off from the fire. I could easily understand why statistics say that young children of the age of about 5 or 6 years old have the lungs of a 40 to 50 year old. It was terrible. We at Gems TV already sponsor a project in Zambia where we are placing in huts a thing called a rocket stove. This uses 60% less wood and doesn’t give off the fumes either. We spoke to Jo and they are also looking to start a project like this in their area and so we knew we would be able to work together some way to really change these peoples’ lives forever. I was really beginning to understand that it only needs the smallest and simplest thing to make such a big difference out here.
Gems TV Funded Rocket Stove in Madagascar
We were then taken to meet a young 30 year old man who was suffering with HIV and TB. One of the charity workers, Georgie, had been working with him for the last 4 weeks and already had seen a massive change in this man’s health. He told us, through Georgie, that before he had met his helper he had just wanted to die and this was only four weeks ago. He was such a sweet and gentle man. He sat next to me in his chair as we spoke and again had a smile when we found something silly about the bald white man sat next to him in his home.
Through all these encounters I had witnessed today, I had never seen or understood just how poor or sick people in this part of the world could be and how little was being done to help them. I, like most of us had seen images on the TV but to witness this first hand was very emotional. The day went too quick and if I could have spent the rest of the evening or even the week following Jo and her team to see what else they need then I would have.
Later that night I sat with Steve and we were both sharing our thoughts about what we had witnessed. We were both emotional about the whole situation and I challenge anyone who seeing how these people struggled to live not to feel the same. We were both pleased to not feel too helpless though and had seen all the good work that ACE AFRICA were doing. I did feel that at least we were in a position to be able to try and help, if only in one way to start with, with the rocket stoves but at least it would be a start and a great one at that for people who it would really make a difference to like Jennifer and her children.
Onwards and upwards….Gems TV scale the heights of Tanzania.
So the alarm goes off at 4.15am and I wake up with a bit of a start. I don’t think I have been sleeping that long but maybe that was the fault of the vodkas I had the night before while Steve had a whiskey…or two. So as preparation goes for climbing up the world’s largest free standing mountain I think there has probably been better. I shower and dress and put on my best walking boots. I open the fridge door and put as many cold bottles of water I can fit into my camera bag and head down to Reception where our guide Joseph is waiting for us. He meets Steve and myself and asks if we are ready? Yes we reply. Really, in those shoes Steve? Oh yes these trainers are fine…I just finished the London marathon in these, they are great. Ok, Says Joseph lets go, with a slightly worried look.
The drive to Mount Kilimanjaro takes about 2 hours from our hotel and it is full of conversation…will we see the peak or will the cloud cover be too low again? As we get nearer we are all starting to live in hope that the sun will shine for us and if the cloud does arrive it will not be until about 9am. OK Joseph we trust you. We stop at the side of the dirt track as the sun is about to break over the highest point of this majestic image and so we roll the video camera and click away on the stills camera as I witness one of the most amazing views I have ever seen. The fact that it was so silent out in the bush at this time of the morning and you could not look at anything else as this took your whole attention, and it was deserved. Wow, the largest Hollywood film budget could not come even close to recreating this awesome sight.
We drove through the first of the sections, the forests and went on through the heather section and we still had 3 sections to cover if we had of wanted to reach the top. Once we arrived at the main gate to the park we were still on cloud nine. How many people get to see what we had just witnessed? Joseph tells us that the actual days that the peak of Kilimanjaro can actually be seen without cloud cover is only about 100 days of the year, and this being part of the rainy season we were very, very lucky indeed. During this part of the journey our senses had been treated to the wonderful smell of pine and eucalyptus trees. It was amazing, a fresh breeze that welcomed you to the day and to the trek that was still ahead of both Steve and myself.
The climb itself took us about 2 hours to reach 2nd base camp. It was a journey that would take us over clear crisp fresh water that was running down from the mountain. The temperature at the top can reach temperatures of -25 so no wonder the flowing river felt fresh. As the time went on and got nearer to 9am the clouds rolled in, just as Joseph said they would. It didn’t matter though. We witnessed tracks that had been left by Dik Dik, a form of antelope that roams the mountain range, amazing flowers and very large rocks that would have been launched like rockets from the top over 750,000 years ago when she erupted and the rocks that were on the ground from the flowing mass of magma that would have rolled down from the top. When we reached 2nd base camp we were at 3,600 metres (over 10,000ft) and I could feel the breath become shallow at times. I already had a huge respect for those that do go on to reach the top but now I had even more time for them.
We returned back to the hotel after a little sleep in the jeep. Steve showed me the amazing pictures he had taken and I tried to organise the video tapes from what we shot. After this we sat back and both had a drink. We wanted something to mark this moment so what to have? Well it just so happens that here in Tanzania they brew a beer that has a name that would be perfect…2 bottles of Kilimanjaro then please. Cheers!
This was a chance of a lifetime and has given me even more of an understanding of the beauty of this country and all the jewels she possesses. I know that I am very lucky to see the beautiful gemstone of tanzanite when I am in the studio but I know that when I see it again it will always remind me of one of the most amazing days of my life…but isn’t that one of the reasons we buy beautiful gemstones.
Well what a couple of days!
Lots of great people met yesterday with our charity work and today was a day to visit the world famous Tanzanite One mine. I found myself in a metal can being taken down 700 metres to the action point where I got to see Tanzanite rough actually being mined. It was amazing.
We have got some great footage to share with you all on Gems TV (UK) as soon as it is edited and I really hope you will like it… By the end I look like a minor myself…what a state. Everyone at the site were really kind and showed us everything we wanted to see for you all.
We also went to visit a school in Merelani and the children there were so fantastic and sung beautiful songs to us when we arrived and also when we left. I also visited an orphanage who do fantastic work and is supported by the mining industry..I have to say I might have had a little weep at some of the situations out here but the hearts of the children and the smiles on their faces don’t let you feel sad for long. So much really good work going on out here and still so much to do but to witness some of that work has been a real honor.
Anyway off to bed now as 11.15 here right now and up at 4.30am to go and climb up part of Kilimanjaro to get some more film for the show, so I will sign off for now by wishing you a good night and hope to get back on here tomorrow to see how things are going with you also. Take care and best wishes…
Scott x x x
So most of the packing done now. Feeling very excited about the trip ahead…also a little scared about my camera skills that I will need to do some of the filming but hope they will turn out ok.
Early start on Wednesday morning…about 4am so staying at Steve’s house on Tuesday night so we can both be late for the plane together. My case is full of every pill and sunscreen going. Tablets for everything just in case..in fact I have only got room for one pair of pants and a sock…still dont want to over do it so might leave the pants behind.
I hope to have internet connection from the hotel to start with so will be on here with pics and updates as much as I can but also going to send a special Tanzania Gems TV Blog through to Barry Kirley so he can also keep people up to date with the trip.