June 19, 2018


Emerald mines of Boyacá, Colombia

Marisol Cañon

Video in Spanish

Marisol Cañon is a 32 year old small-scale miner.  She is also a single mother with three children. Her daily work consists of searching for emeralds in a local stream. This type of work is performed in the traditional, artisanal, way, without any particular technique and with low results. Her family moved to the mine when she was only 5 years old, which is when she began to do this type of work.  In the beginning it was like a game for her.

Today, Marisol’s work day at the stream starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m.  This sort of activity is unpaid since it is her own decision to practice the “guaqueria” mining method (traditional method of emerald hunting) with the sole aim of improving the living conditions of her three children.  With no qualifications to enable her to find work elsewhere, Marisol has chosen to remain in the mining sector.

Informal miners choose this activity in the hope of finding the precious emerald that will raise them out of poverty.  There is no salary to be earned.  The only thing these people have is the hope that their lucky day might come.

Marisol explains that days and sometime months pass without finding  stones of any commercial value.  How does she feed her family in such cases, we ask her?  After a long silence she replies with sadness that there are days when they do not eat, or times when the small amount of food that she does is given to the youngest children.

Marisol has been working in the mining zone for 27 years, searching for emeralds, and up until now she has only found stones with limited commercial value.  She tells us about her three children who are aged 17, 11 and 9. She also has an 11 month old granddaughter.

After she has told us her story we talk about the possibility of bringing other projects into the community, such as chicken or cocoa farming, or other types of agricultural activities.  Talking of such possibilities sparks a ray of hope in Marisol’s eyes.


Marisol told us that she intends to follow the jewellery-making and stonecutting training that we hope to propose in the mining zone with the collaboration of the Colombian National Vocational Training Agency (SENA).

We are in the process of purchasing cutting machines for the project. We will also be purchasing raw materials for the miners and, in particular, for the single mothers, in order for them to train and find a job.  To be able to market the pieces that the miners will produce we are launching a fair trade movement.  This is why we have launched our solidarity Crowdfuning project.

We count on your precious help so that, with your donations, we can launch our Trade with Social Sense initiative, which will be the motor of our project.

Thank you in advance for your support and encouragement.

Fabio Ramírez


To make a contribution we invite you to visit the Swiss platform “We make it”, where you can find a direct link to our project:  https://wemakeit.com/projects/trade-with-social-sense-2017/pledge_steps/pledge