It was the first stone he had found in days, and he expected to get little more than a dollar for it. It hardly seemed worth it, he said, after days spent up to his haunches in mud, digging, washing, searching the gravel for diamonds.

But farming had brought no money for clothes or schoolbooks for his two wives and five children. He could find no work as a mason.

"I don't have choice," Kamanda said, standing calf-deep in brown muddy water here at the Bondobush mine, where he works every day. "This is my only hope, really."

Diamond mining in Sierra Leone is no longer the bloody affair made infamous by the nation's decadelong civil war, in which diamonds played a starring role.

The conflict - begun by rebels who claimed to be ridding the mines of foreign control - killed 50,000 people, forced millions to flee their homes, destroyed the country's economy and shocked the world with its images of amputated limbs and drug-addled boy soldiers.

An international regulatory system created after the war has prevented diamonds from fueling conflicts and financing terrorist networks.

Even so, diamond mining in Sierra Leone remains a grim business that brings the government far too little revenue to right the devastated country, yet feeds off the desperation of some of the world's poorest people. Read more...