Today, there are more than one thousand small miners in the Erongo region who make their living from mining and selling different types of gemstones. Most of these small miners live in poverty even though the stones they are selling are highly valued.
The small miners come from a disadvantaged background with either no education or a low level of education. They have very limited knowledge about the value of the gemstones and therefore sell the stones to anyone who could give them something to enable them to put bread on their tables. Many wealthy tourists, gemstone experts and jewellery specialists have capitalize on the ignorance of the small miners and are acquiring precious stones for unimaginable prices. Local black elites also exploit the small miners for their own gain. In recent years, the small miners have settled along the main tourist roads in search for better markets for their products. This has contributed to very poor living conditions in which the small miners are finding themselves today.
Besides all this difficulties, the local and international demand for the gemstones continue to be high but the lack of formalize market place and marketing of product negatively affects the livelihood of the small miners. Therefore, there is a great potential for the small miners to contribute to the economic growth of the country if the market conditions can improve and formalize markets are established.
The project brief required a sales market for the Ûiba-Ôas Cooperative which will be run by the Cooperative in order to generate a modest income for them.
The conceptual approach was to create a more functional and organized sales possibility for the Cooperative.
The sales market includes a small office for the Cooperative, 3 separated sales areas, male and female ablutions, a store room and a kiosk for selling cool drinks to the tourists.
The sales market provides a welcome relaxing and breaking point for the tourist. On the one hand the tourist can do a break to relax a bit and on the other hand they can contribute to the income of the Cooperative in buying some of the precious gemstones from them. It is planned that in the future the Cooperative will include an area where the tourist will be able to see how the polishing of the gemstones is correctly done.
The material usage is a robust to ensure as less as possible maintenance in the future. The building was completely erected with gabion walls constructed with rocks salvaged from the nearby Spitskoppe area.
The use of this material ensured the almost complete blending with the surrounding landscape.
The roof sheeting at the office, sales tables and kiosk was done with IBR sheets. The roof under construction was done with gumpoles and Prosopis droppers.
The three entrance gates were constructed with steel and Prosopis planks. These ensured on the one hand security for the Cooperative and on the other hand a adequate entrance for the tourist to the sales tables.
The main entrance gate was constructed with a steel frame with infill panels consisting of reused oil drum sheeting.