Mine Action Mozambique - August Marusa
Minefields had cut off villagers in Nyazvitanda from clean water and access to fertile farm land.
My name is August Marusa, I am the Community Leader of Nyazvitanda District in the Macate region, Manica province in central Mozambique. The landmines caused us a lot of problems and pain. People within our community became disabled and some died through landmine accidents.
Once a farmer found a mine and took it home to show to his children. It exploded in their house. After the news of this tragedy went around, we were all terrified. The war was a terrible time for those of us that can remember it, yet it’s legacy has continued with the hidden landmines. We live close to long power lines that stretch down to South Africa. They were mined in the war to protect them from sabotage. But the mines were left there. And we had to live with them even after the war had ended.
When APOPO arrived to clear the mines, they asked us to organize a community meeting. This is so that they could discuss with us what they were going to do and how they could do it. But first they needed from us more information about the whereabouts of the mines. We didn’t know their exact position, but we knew the areas to avoid and this assisted them. Some areas where they thought there were mines were grazed by our cattle for years without any incident. So after some further investigation, they were able to say that certain areas did not need clearing and they could concentrate their work on other areas that were more important to us.
The landmines cut us off from important resources such as water and fertile land that we used to farm. We are not rich people. Our land and livestock are our assets, so if you take these away, or we become injured, our ability to provide for our families is also lost.
APOPO cleared the mines very methodically and efficiently. They used big machines and people with metal detectors. They even used rats that could smell the mines. We were impressed because we thought of rats as dirty pests. But these ones were clever and found the mines very quickly. When APOPO finished they organized a handover ceremony. They told us that the land was now free of all known landmines! We were so happy. APOPO walked on the land to show us it was safe. They believed in their people and rats, so we believed it too. Since then we are back working the land and producing to support our families.