Mine Action Angola - Mariam and her father

Zito hits a hidden landmine with his hoe while preparing his land for crops.

The landmines have always prevented our freedom of movement. From the last house in the village, you can see the sign that shows where the landmines begin, only about 30 meters away. That is prime land for growing crops. During the war, this village was taken over as a military encampment for civil defense. The landmines were laid to protect it and many enemy fighters died in those fields. But when the war finished, the landmines were left there. The soldiers who laid them were long gone so no one knew where they were. We were stuck with them.

Avoiding that land has caused us serious hardship. We had to work land that is much further away from our homes and from water. This forces us to work longer and harder, so we need more food, and the children have to help us in the fields and not go to school. It was a vicious circle. Because of the landmines, times have been very hard. Too hard. So I decided to ignore all the warnings and start farming my land.

It went well until one day, I swung my hoe and it hit something metal. I froze because it could only be one thing. I carefully pulled away my hoe and I could see a landmine. I tiptoed away and when I got home I began shaking all over. I must have worked very close to that landmine many times. I have 6 children and 9 grandchildren. What would have become of them if I had stepped on it? We requested someone to come and help us a long time ago, but because of the war the economy and country itself were in bad shape so we have had to wait.

When APOPO and NPA arrived, we told them about the landmine and when it came to searching that area, they found it and destroyed it. There had been nothing wrong with it so I had been very lucky. My hoe must have hit the side of it and not the top. I started shaking again when they told me. In fact NPA and APOPO found quite a few landmines and other explosives across the area, and then they declared the land safe. We went straight on to the land and began planting. Our lives have finally started again.